Are your clients getting the most from their benefits?

Dan Rust’s top 5 tips for helping you help your clients maximise their benefits.

The welfare benefits system is notoriously hard to navigate, with many idiosyncrasies that are difficult to understand and regularly changing legislation that’s hard to keep up with. Your clients may well be missing out on vital money they are legally entitled to. In fact recent analysis has estimated there may be as many as 7 million claims, missing out on more than £15 billion in unclaimed benefits. That’s more than £2,000 a year per case. Here I highlight the top five areas that often fall under the radar:

More claims are incorrect than you think

Most changes of any substance are undertaken by a real life benefit assessor with genuine potential to get things wrong. Problems are found every day and for every issue identified, lots more go under the radar. The DWP identifies £10 billion of error and fraud every year and of this, by far the most significant issue is error. About £1 in every £10 spent by the DWP is spent incorrectly. Problems that occur regularly include entering income or rent weekly when it should be monthly; adding a decimal point in the wrong place; or adding income or capital from the wrong date. Errors are costly and much more common than you would expect.

Capital is rarely correct

For a large number of benefit claimants, the capital rules are irrelevant. However, there are many others who have capital that makes a difference to their claim and for these people their declared amount is rarely correct. Those who have more than £6,000 in savings (£10,000 for pensioners and some others) need to report their savings as they change. This means changes of over £250 (£500 for pensioners). Now, in practice, small changes don’t require constant updating from the authorities. They are usually happy to update capital if it’s within the general area of the declared amount. But, with people spending less during the pandemic, many people now have radically different capital at hand than the authorities know about. Declaring this is essential.

Pension Credit has no capital limit

For working age claims, that is people who are 66 and younger, there is a capital limit of £16,000 for means tested benefits. This is the most that anyone can have and still claim means tested benefits. If you have more than this, you cannot claim Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance or Housing Benefit. However, Pension Credit has no such limit meaning that pensioners who have a low income can claim this benefit with any amount of capital and savings. Yes, there is some impact of savings, but it means that people with anything up to £120,000 can potentially qualify. This has a knock-on effect on Housing Benefit, meaning people who get some types of Pension Credit can also get Housing Benefit even if they have more than £16,000.

Claiming disability benefits in care homes

Understanding the relationship between disability benefits and care homes is complex and not always well understood. Crucially, people who have a need for care or who have mobility needs, can claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Attendance Allowance (AA) if they pay their own care bills without any help from the state. If they have at least part of their care home bills covered by the local authority or the NHS (for instance through Continuing Healthcare) they cannot claim AA or the Daily Living component of PIP. They can however claim the Mobility component of PIP. Finally, if they have medical care provided within their care bills, if they are resident in a nursing home for example, they cannot receive any form of disability benefit.

Contribution-based benefits are not means tested

Many people think that if they have savings or their partner has an income, they are excluded from claiming benefits. However, there are several important benefits that can be claimed by people with either of these things. Disability benefits are not means tested and can be claimed by anyone, no matter their income, as are many universal benefits like Bereavement Support Payment. Importantly, benefits for individuals to meet their costs of living such as New Style Employment and Support Allowance, are based on your National Insurance record, not your finances. Yes, there are some caveats, but a person unable to work due to illness or disability and who has a recent record of paying National Insurance is entitled to this benefit, even if they have £200,000 in the bank and a partner who is working full time. It’s just a case of claiming.

How much could your clients be missing out? Would you like to ensure they are claiming their maximum entitlement? With almost 20 years’ experience in the benefits sector, I can help you navigate the complicated world of welfare benefits. I provide high quality advice and support, a quick turnaround time, and competitive rates.

I have worked with big deputyship firms such as JMW Solicitors, housing associations like Clarion Housing, employability and skills providers like Reed in Partnership and media outlets like The Guardian.

Contact me today to find out how I can help including my welfare benefit review service.