Benefits Expert: ‘Can she claim?’

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Q I was on Widowed Parent’s Allowance, Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit until my daughter left college.

Now I am expected to live on £67.50 a week Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which is £110 a week less. Can I get any help to pay my rent and Council Tax?

Mrs. T (Sunderland).

A If your only income is ESA you will be entitled to maximum Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

If your daughter is still living with you she may be expected to make a contribution based on her income which will reduce what you get.

Q My wife and I live on my ESA but will soon receive an inheritance of £20,000. If I pay off the £15,000 outstanding on my mortgage will this affect my benefits?

A.B. (by Email).

A If someone deprives themselves of capital in order to qualify for benefit they will be treated as still having the money.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) might feel that you paid off your mortgage so you could hang on to your benefits.

They would then take all of the capital into account. However, if they accept that your reasons were reasonable and sensible they will assess your benefits based on the capital remaining.

Q I work 16 hours a week for £95 and get partial help with my rent and Council Tax.

Would I be eligible for anything else, even though I no longer have dependent children?

Margaret.

A There is Working Tax Credit (WTC) but with no children you would normally have to be working at least 30 hours a week to get it.

However, there are situations where you can claim WTC on the basis of 16 hours a week work.

One is if you have a disability that puts you at a disadvantage in getting a job and you have, or have recently had, some form of disability benefit.

The other is if you are aged 50 or over and have recently come off an out of work benefit to start work.

Q It said on BBC Ceefax that you can have your State Pension topped up to £137.35 a week with Guarantee Pension Credit.

My wife’s State Pension is only £100.50. Can she claim?

Jim (Sunderland).

A Two people living as a couple cannot be assessed as two separate individuals for Pension Credit.

Only one partner can claim and the joint assets of the pair will be taken into account. A couple would generally have to have a joint income of under £209.70 a week in order for one of the partners to qualify.