Benefits Expert: ‘Would my children’s income rule me out?’

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I AM a self-employed foster carer receiving Working Tax Credit (WTC) of £45 a week, but have not had a child to foster since March.

I have to pay full Council Tax of £1,050 a year and a mortgage of £410 a month on which £65,000 is outstanding.

My two adult children, who earn £17,000 and £10,000 a year respectively, live with me and they help me out.

Are there any other benefits I could claim or would my children’s income rule me out?

Confused mum

I WONDER if WTC is the right benefit for you in your current situation.

A condition for receiving WTC is that you must be working a certain number of hours, which in your case is 30 a week.

For the self-employed these hours include any time spent on activities necessary to their self-employment.

Nonetheless, I would doubt if you are now doing enough work to qualify.

Instead you may wish to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) from the Jobcentre, provided you are available for work and actively seeking it.

This would be £71 a week and would not be affected by your children’s earnings.

People on JSA may be able to claim Council Tax Benefit and, after a 13- week waiting period, a mortgage-interest allowance.

Your children’s income will affect these, however, because they will be assumed to be making a contribution depending upon their earnings.

These contributions would bring your Council Tax Benefit down to about £5 a week and would mean you would not qualify for any mortgage interest allowance.

AT present I am on maternity leave and receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) from my employer.

I really would prefer not to go back to this job and would like to look for something else.

Some people have told me I cannot do this while on maternity leave. Are they right?

New mum

IF a woman qualifies for SMP her employer must pay it to her even if she has no intention of going back to work there. She is entitled to SMP for 39 weeks, but the employer must stop paying her if she starts work for someone else during that time.

MY son, who is aged 23 and lives at home with us, is coming to the end of a short-term contract.

He has a permanent position to start in September. Will he be able to claim benefit if he is unemployed between times?

Curious mum

YES. He will be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, which for the under 25s is £56.25 a week. He can claim by ringing 0800 055 6688.