Benefits Expert: “He is severely disabled’

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Q. CAN we claim anything? My wife and I have four-weekly state pensions of £521.28 and £239.16. I also receive private pensions totalling £395.49 a month after tax. Our savings are about £4,500. We pay rent of £342.20 every four weeks, plus full council tax.

Reg (Sunderland).

A. YOUR weekly income works out at around £280, which is a little too much for you to qualify for pension credit. However, it is low enough for you to qualify for housing benefit that will reduce your basic rent to about £33.50 a week, and council tax benefit that will reduce your bill to about £536 a year.

 You have been missing out on about £50 a week. Your benefits can be backdated for three months, giving you a lump sum of at least £650.

Q. I AM a lone parent with a three year old. My monthly take home pay is only £633, and my employer cannot offer me more than 16 hours work a week. What would I receive if my partner, who earns £19,000 a year, were to move in? How many nights can he legally stay over without affecting my tax credits? G (by e-mail).

A. IF a couple ‘live together as husband and wife’ their claim for tax credits must be made jointly, and based upon their combined gross incomes. If you two did this, you would only be entitled to the family element of child tax credit which is £545 a year.

 The law does not provide a simple definition of ‘living together as husband and wife’ and there is no one single point which can decide the issue. So there is no set number of ‘nights stayed’ that leads to two individuals being treated as a couple.

 In reaching a decision, the authorities must deal with each case individually, taking all aspects of the couple’s relationship into consideration.

Q. I REQUESTED cold weather payments (CWPs) for my husband because he is severely disabled. However, the Jobcentre said he did not qualify because his employment and support allowance (ESA) was contributory and not income-related. I asked what the difference was but they did not explain. Can you? Confused (by e-mail).

A. CWPs are intended to help the neediest vulnerable people. They are only payable, therefore, to certain people who receive particular benefits which are paid because they are on a low income. One of these benefits is Income-related ESA.

 Contributory ESA depends upon a person’s National Insurance record and is largely unaffected by other income. Income-related ESA, by contrast, only goes to those who have incomes below a certain level.

With John Gordon