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Thread: Confused! Need help to find out what benefits are available please.

  1. #1

    Question Confused! Need help to find out what benefits are available please.

    Hello, I am writing on behalf of my sister who needs advice.

    I have never claimed benefits so I do not really know what's what. I have looked at the Govt website and the difference between Income Support, JSA and EASA etc is mindboggling. I have looked at the on-line calculators regarding benefits and Tax Credits and I am totally confused.

    My sister has worked all her life and has Rheumatoid Arthritis. She suffers greatly - not just from the pain but from fatigue. She has no choice but to keep working as her husband has not worked for years and so there is no income there. He suffers from depression and back issues, has had an heart attack, has angina and gets very breathless. He used to get incapacity benefit (I think) but since the new changes, he does not get anything because my sister works. He helps my sister in the morning getting showered and dressed and with breakfast. She goes to work. He sleeps all day and then helps prepare the evening meal. She is so tired from work (admin role) she hobbles in and lays on the couch till bed time. Has collapsed arches and nodules on her feet. She tells husband how to cook the meal. She has problems with her hands so find's things difficult. He needs nagging to help out. He doesn't eat till she comes home. Her meds make her dizzy and sickly and sometimes she gets vertigo so they really do rely on each other.

    My sister has been awarded PIP standard care of 11 points.
    Did not get mobility, was awarded 4 points as being able to walk 50m - 200m.

    This was decided on because the HP said she would have walked 56 meters to his office. Yes she did, but stopped and rested whilst she spoke to the security man on the door, went to the loo, sat in reception. She walks with a walking stick and was hobbling quite bad and was very slow. I was with her and asked if she needed to rest but she was so concerned about not keeping the HP waiting .... and it took us an hour and half to get there because of the traffic and we were a little late .... she pushed herself as he kept saying.... not much further now..... she didn't want him to get the hump with us.

    He didn't see that we had to stop and rest when we got out of his office and had to get a drink of water before moving on. Nor does he see that when we got back home she had to soak her feet and then just lay on the couch till bed time. Nor do they see that next day the tops of her feet were also swollen. She had told him when he asked her how was the walk that it was the furthest she had walked for a long time. She is so used to putting on a brave face and not playing a victim she said that it was very painful, but that she has had the condition for years and says you just have to get on with it. There was no other question asked about her walking ability.

    She has asked for information to be sent out to her about how the decision was made.

    Once we have that, then we'll decide if the decision should be looked at again.

    In the decision letter information, it mentions passport benefits and so we now gather her husband may be able to claim Carers Allowance.

    He does not get any benefits so the fact that it is a taxable benefit will not affect him.

    However, my sister gets working tax credit. I spoke with the Working Tax credit office and they confirmed Carers Allowance is classed as household income and therefore it will affect her claim for working tax credit. However, it was explained to me that they are not allowed to say whether a client would be better off or worse in claiming Carers Allowance versus Working Tax Credit.

    This is all new to me - my sister does not have the energy to check this out for herself - I think from playing around with the on-line calculators that she should still be better off if husband can claim Carers Allowance even though the Tax Credit will be reduced.

    Could someone confirm whether this is correct?

    I think she may also be entitled to a disability element of the Working Tax credit. She awaits her Change of Circumstances form from the Tax Credit Office to fill in.

    She works at present 37.5 hours. Her gross pay before deductions is ?13,650. (?7 per hr.)
    If husband goes for Carers Allowance and is successful, that would be ?62 per week.

    ............. I am now thinking about the future. She is really struggling working full time, by the afternoon her brain is so foggy she says she cannot concentrate. She is now working for an agency. She lost her job due to making mistakes because of pain and fatigue. Ideally she needs to reduce her hours but she has a mortgage .....................

    There are 2 non-dependants still at home( both adults now!) Never there though to help out!

    My head is going round and round trying to find the best solution for them.

    I think if I have understand it correctly, that with some benefits you are allowed to work 24 hours?

    Can someone tell me, if she did drop her hours to 24, with her circumstances, would they be able to claim benefits? They are both 54yrs of age.

    There will come a point when she won't be able to work. I need to try and work out how much I need to save to help her when the time comes. I do all I can.

    I would appreciate any help and advise you can give.

    Thank you for reading.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    I urge your sister to discuss her options with an advice provider such as Citizen's Advice, who should be able to go through the many possibilities. What follows is only an outline treatment of what is a complex situation.

    Reconsideration of the PIP award is possible. I suggest you start reading the post in the sticky PIP thread covering reconsideration (from the 'Reconsideration' heading onwards) and follow all relevant links, which appear in coloured text. I also recommend reading the sticky PIP thread from the start.

    Financially, your sister is almost certainly better off continuing to work 16 hours or more a week and claim Working Tax Credit (the minimum number of hours for a disabled person to received Working Tax Credit are, in some circumstances, reduced to as low as 16 hours per week). It is possible to claim ESA and work up to 16 hours per week, but this comes with a raft of conditions.

    Your brother in law sounds as if he might be on Contributions Based ESA at the nil rate - if so, it would be worth seeing if there are any grounds to make a change of circumstances application in an attempt to be moved to the Support Group, which would restart payments.

    It might well be worth your sister and brother in law seeking independent financial advice on the mortgage situation. It would be worth getting some sort of understanding of how likely it is they will be able to pay off the mortgage, especially considering that interest rates may well not remain at this historic low level for much longer and their scope to remortgage will be limited by their employment situation.

    I appreciate a decision to downsize is never easy, and there might not be room for the adult children if they do downsize, but if downsizing is the best option it might be better to get it over and done with.

    Another option might be to stay in their current house with the children contributing more practical help and/or help towards household bills, especially considering the rent they are avoiding by living at home. If the children contribute towards the mortgage, it is possible they will acquire an equitable interest in the house - I would regard seeing a solicitor as mandatory if the children show any intention of contributing towards the mortgage costs because of the complexities of property and trust law (he says, surrounded by textbooks on land law and trust law!).

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Your sister may well be better off financially working these long hours or even reducing them to 16 hours a week, providing she's able to negotiate this with her employer in these uncertain times. However, it sounds to me that she is ill and really ought to weigh everything up; there's no point in her working herself to an early grave; if she was to carry on pushing herself too much, there must be a very real danger of this happening. Her situation sounds complex, Flymo has given you some excellent advice no doubt. However, as a layperson in these matters but with some first hand experience, one possible solution may be for your sister to give up work completely. Her husband could then claim Carer's Allowance for looking after her, they may then be able to claim Income Support as a couple including a Carer's Premium and a Disability Premium depending on any savings they may have. This would make their weekly income to be around £193 from these benefits - compare this to her current take home pay which is likely to be less than £200 there's not a massive difference, considering she will be able to have a better quality of life and be looked after accordingly, it should be considered.
    Additionally, regarding the mortgage, it is obviously a complex area for them, however, if in receipt of Income Support they could claim for an indefinite period SMI - Support for Mortgage Interest. Depending on their personal circumstances, these things combined might just be a possible solution, maybe in the interim at least. In any case your sister should consider her health and well-being and take it easy if at all possible. Good luck. Buster.

    NOTE. The Carer's Allowance wouldn't actually be paid, however, her husband would have an underlying entitlement to it entitling them to a Carer's Premium. But the crucial thing here: this would in effect be a passport benefit to Income Support. Please also bear in mind there would be no conditionality placed upon either of them in regards to taking up work. And there would be no horrible ESA assessments to endure every few years or so. In theory if they did take up this possible solution and their circumstances remained the same, they could carry on indefinitely like this. But like I said, the mortgage situation is not straightforward, but you never know, any SMI received might not be a million miles off from their monthly mortgage payments.
    Last edited by buster21; 01-12-14 at 01:00.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    If the 2 dependants living at home are adults then they should be putting some money in to the household and maybe alleviate the need to work. also helping out a bit more. working? definitely. not working? why are they not claiming JSA.
    Flymo is the god on here of legal advice but she would do well to go to CAB. Go with, cuz its a lot to remember.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    I endorse Buster's key premise entirely - it's irrelevant what is financially the best option if your body says "no" to what is being demanded of it. The most important thing is to start with a realistic assessment of what is possible now and what might be possible in the future.

    Buster mentions Income Support, but it is important to remember that is a means tested benefit, so entitlement depends on savings and other income. Support for Mortgage Interest can only be paid to someone in receipt of means tested benefit like Income Support or Income Related ESA, and gives limited support. The capital of the mortgage still has to be repaid somehow. There is much in his ideas if income and capital (other than equity in the house they live in) are low enough to permit a means tested benefit claim.

    I think it's important to take a holistic view of all debt in this situation - not just the mortgage. If there are other debts around (utilities, credit cards and so on), they need to be factored in to any plans. It's never a bad idea to seek debt advice if there are any concerns about ability to repay, as early action can make a huge difference to the situation.

    Even if there are no debts, it's worth drawing up a realistic income and expenditure budget, specifically identifying work related costs (commuting, lunch, business clothes) that would not be incurred if stopping work.

    I also endorse reddivine's comments, which mirror my own feelings. This is a situation crying out for face to face advice, which allows for calculations based on their actual position as well as the ability to ask questions in an interactive format. Citizen's Advice are always worth considering. also the lady in question is old enough that she should be able to get advice from Age UK. Whenever big decisions present themselves, it's always best to base the decision on the widest possible base of research.

    Any planning should look at the situation after retirement age as well as now. Stopping or reducing work now will affect pension entitlements. If the lady in question is paying into a workplace pension with ill health retirement benefits, it might be possible to get ill health retirement, though that is rarely straightforward and the threshold the medical evidence needs to reach is typically very high (often the pension provider's doctor has to certify permanent unfitness for all work).

    There can be no certainty about the benefits system in the future, especially if the couple live in Scotland (where the power to change certain benefits including PIP may well be devolved to the Scottish Parliament). Historically, people already on benefits were protected from most changes, but there have been a whole raft of changes in the last eight years that have affected those already on benefit as well as new claimants. Modern practice is for existing claimants to move to the new rules with limited transitional protection at most.

    It's important to be honest with the children about the situation financially and practically. Their help could make a big difference to the outcome, though the time may well come where they move on in life.

    Ultimately there will never be a perfect answer, and it is only ever possible to make the best decision based on the facts available at the time.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    In relation to buster's "note" on Income Support above, this:
    Please also bear in mind there would be no conditionality placed upon either of them in regards to taking up work
    Isn't correct, anyone and everyone in receipt of 'Income Support' is eligible to be called by JC+, the only way to avoid work and work related activity eligibility is ESA Support Group - where it's optional for the claimant.

    Hopefully, as Flymo indicates, the husband hasn't closed his ESA claim and can possibly put in for a change of circumstances with a view to Support Group.
    Get that qualified advice has Flymo say's, to look at the whole situation in the round.
    Last edited by Jard; 01-12-14 at 13:10. Reason: Adding text

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Quote Originally Posted by Jard View Post
    In relation to buster's "note" on Income Support above, this:

    Isn't correct, anyone and everyone in receipt of 'Income Support' is eligible to be called by JC+, the only way to avoid work and work related activity eligibility is ESA Support Group.

    Hopefully, as Flymo indicates, the husband hasn't closed his ESA claim and can possibly put in for a change of circumstances with a view to Support Group. Get that qualified advice has Flymo say's.
    Hello there

    I see your point Jard, however from my understanding which is linked to a few people who I know and who are in a similar situation in terms of caring for their partners and being in receipt of Carer's Allowance and joint Income Support; in practice the main claimant of Income Support is only ever asked to attend the Jobcentre once every 3 years. Everyone I have spoken to in relation to this has said the interview is just basically to check that there isn't any changes in circumstances to report and to offer advice, for example, through referrals to Carer's Groups and such like. Yes, they are sometimes asked if they are looking to get back in to the labour market. The carer's I know have answered this with a straight forward "NO", because they can't because they are carer's and are fully occupied with this.

    I am not sure about the legal criteria in terms of conditionality for carer's on Income Support (Flymo are you there?) Although, I'm going to put my neck on the block and say once again, in these circumstances neither of them will be required to take up work. Moreover, I have read threads on here where individuals on ESA - Support Group have also been asked to attend their local Jobcentres for dubious reasons by the sounds of it. So unfortunately, no one is ever really guaranteed not to be "called in". At least when getting Income Support in Helpfulsoul's sister's case, her disability would be recognised in a small way due to her PIP award by being entitled to a couples rate of Disability Premium worth about £45 in addition to the Carer's premium worth about £35 and of course the couples rate of Income support worth about £112. I would hate to make the situation more confusing for Helpfulsoul, so, I'm going to leave this thread alone now and leave if for others more qualified in a legal sense. Best of luck.


  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Hello Buster,

    Receipt of PIP has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Work or WRA, all discretion lays with JC+ advisers has to when anyone is "called in" and it applies equally to all IS claimants ('main' or secondary). The only way to 'guarantee' to avoid that is, as I've stated above and that is the 'legal' view, albeit very concise and matter of fact making it easier to understand, by contrast what you've said can lead people into a false sense of security.
    As more importantly, all it would take is a negative decision on a review of that PIP claim and they'd both be down JC+ looking to sign on, their whole benefit situation wiped out.

    I think it's wrong to 'advise' people without explaining the true extent of a situation.

    Further to what I've said above, I believe a claim based indirectly, as it is, on Income Support should only ever be considered has a matter of last resort, after everything else has failed.
    Furthermore, with the introduction of Universal Credit, which appears is going to be piecemeal has it's already started in some areas, I think there may be a cull on claims of this kind. It's clearly a very precarious position to be in.
    Last edited by Jard; 01-12-14 at 16:28.

  9. #9
    Good Afternoon all,

    Thank you so much for replying.................. you should change your names to "The Peoples Champions."

    After reading the threads suggested, I shall await the reasons for the PIP decision before advising my sister to go for the reconsideration process. As she has only 11 points for the daily living component, which by the looks of it is for Aids needed, I wouldn't want her to lose out. Even though she stated that she needs help getting in and out the bath and help dressing... she did not get that extra 1 point for enhanced.

    Downsizing.............. this is something we have discussed. They have bought their council house. It is a mid-terraced 3 bedroom. Their outstanding mortgage balance is £47,000. . It would be difficult to sell, unless undervalued. The kitchen still has the old rather tatty and broken council units. They live in the North West. Similar property with new kitchen and bathroom has just sold for £85,000.

    She doesn't pay into a company pension or anything like that. They have no savings other than the back pay awarded for the PIP.... back to February 2014 She now works for an agency...... basic wage.

    I have e-mailed her today to book an appointment with the Citizens Advice Bureau.

    I'll let you know the outcome in case someone else finds themselves in a similar situation.

    This site seems to be a god-send for people. Well done.

    Thank you. xxx

  10. #10
    Senior Member firebird's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    North Lincolnshire
    I would advise your sister not to work herself too hard. I found that working whilst you can still stand will, in the end, ruin your health for the rest of your life. It is sad that she had to leave her pensioned employment, retiring through I'll health would have been an option. What did the union say when your sister's employment was terminated. Was it done properly?

    The problem with your sister's feet may be helped with prescription bespoke insoles which can be organised through the orthotist at the hospital, after a referral from her GP.

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