Income Maximisation

With prices at record highs it is absolutely imperative that everyone is receiving the benefits to which they are entitled. Not everyone is aware that they could be eligible to receive support through the social security system. In addition, receipt of certain benefits can ‘passport’ entitlement to other financial help.

Below we outline the benefits available to certain client groups.

On a low income

Universal Credit (UC)

You can claim UC if you are working on a low income, you are unable to work due to illness or caring responsibilities, or you are looking for work. UC also covers housing costs for renters and contributes to the cost of childcare for working parents. Any income you or your partner receive will be taken into account when calculating your payments.

We are urging people on Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child or Working Tax Credit or Housing Benefit not to gamble on a claim for UC until it becomes necessary, and to seek independent advice to help make an informed choice about what is best for them. You can also read our Policy & Information Briefing about the ‘Move to UC’ process for more information.

Help with housing costs

A range of benefits provide support with housing costs for both renters and owner-occupiers, including rate rebates and reductions and loans to cover mortgage interest payments.

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

If you have recently left employment and have sufficient National Insurance contributions, you may be able to claim JSA for up to 6 months. You can claim JSA alongside Universal Credit.

Cold Weather Payment

This is an additional benefit paid to people on means-tested benefits during periods of very cold weather. It is paid automatically along with the main benefit you receive, but you can see if the weather in your area has been cold enough using the Cold Weather Payment checker.

Have a health condition or disability

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

In the event that you become ill while working, you should be entitled to some form of sick pay. Check with your employer about contractual sick pay, but they will usually be required to pay the legal minimum, SSP, for up to 28 weeks.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If your employer cannot pay SSP, or if you are not working when you become ill, you can make a claim for both ESA and Universal Credit. To begin with, you will need to provide medical evidence from your doctor or certain authorised healthcare professionals. After your claim is processed, you will be asked to provide information about your health condition and will usually need to attend a medical assessment to establish to what extent this limits your ability to work.

A wide variety of benefits provide support for people of all ages with disabilities, to help them with the extra costs of care, getting around or adapting their home. You can find more information in the Disability Benefits section of this website.

‘Special rules’

People with a terminal illness that are not expected to live more than 12 months can have their claim for benefits fast-tracked and will not usually be required to complete a medical assessment.

All of our member organisations can advise on entitlement to disability benefits and financial support, but some are specialist agencies geared towards helping people with certain health conditions or disabilities:

Caring for a disabled person

More information on the benefits available to carers, including Carer’s Allowance, can be found in the Carers Benefits section of this website.

All of our member organisations can advise on benefits and financial support for carers. You may also wish to seek specialist advice from one or other of the following carer’s charities:

Carer’s assessment

To access support from social services, carer’s will need to be assessed by their Health and Social Care Trust. A social worker will review their circumstances to determine what help may be required.

Retired

Once you reach pension age, you will be able to access specific retirement benefits, including the State Pension and Pension Credit.

Lots of people who may be eligible for Pension Credit do not make a claim, so we would strongly advise you to seek independent advice to find out if you might be eligible, as it also opens up entitlement to other forms of support.

See our page on the Cost of Living Payments for details of how the Winter Fuel Payment will be boosted this year in light of the rising cost of living.

Our member organisation, Age NI, provides a free advice service for older people. You can call them on 0808 808 7575 between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday.

Parents

At present, financial assistance for low-income families is split between Universal Credit (UC) and Tax Credits. Both benefits include support with the costs of childcare for working parents. Beginning in 2023, Tax Credits claimants will be required to move their claim to UC (see our advice on moving to UC).

You can find more information about other benefits for parents, including support for childcare costs, in the Family section of this website.

The Family Benefits Advice Service, run by our member, Employers for Childcare, provides free, impartial and confidential advice to parents on the financial support available with childcare as well as other help that may be available.

Information on a wide range of family support services and registered childcare provision in Northern Ireland is available from Family Support NI.

Students with children

Full-time higher education students with dependent children may be able to get extra financial support to help with childcare costs' and costs related to their course, while parents aged between 16 and 20 studying at a further education college could get help towards childcare costs through the Care to Learn (NI) Scheme.