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Frequently asked questions

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Where do I go for further advice on Benefits?
There are various sources of advice online, for anyone wanting to find out about benefits or eligibility. The Directgov website gives guidance on a range of benefits, and also has an online benefits checker to give individual advice based on your circumstances. The Citizens Advice Bureau can also offer advice on the full range of benefits in the UK, and claiming overseas. HM Revenue & Customs can provide advice on Tax Credits and Child Benefit and their website has the facility to apply online or amend existing applications.
What should I do if I have been turned down for benefits?
If you make a claim for benefit, or ask for your benefit claim to be looked at again, you will be notified of the decision in writing by the office dealing with that claim. The full reason for the decision may not be included but as long as you request it within a month, you should receive a reply within 14 days. If you are unhappy with the outcome you can ask for the decision to be reconsidered. You have one month from the date of the letter to ask for your claim to be reconsidered. The office which dealt with your claim must then look at it again and issue a new decision. If you are unhappy with any new decision you can then appeal. Again, you have only one month to appeal against the new decision from the date of the letter. An appeal must be made in writing. You can get a form from your local benefit office or a local Citizens Advice Bureau.
Can I claim any benefits if I move abroad?
There are arrangements in place between the UK and other countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), which enable you to claim state benefits when living abroad within the EEA. Most benefits will be dependent on the amount of National Insurance contributions you have paid within the UK. Advice on National Insurance liability can be obtained from HM Revenue & Customs. For general advice on claiming benefits abroad, visit the Directgov website. The Department of Work and Pensions website also has information, along with the list of Countries which have a social security arrangement with the UK, enabling you to claim benefits whilst living abroad.
Do I have to ask for my claim to be reconsidered before I can appeal?
No, you can appeal straight away if you prefer.
What are Tax Credits?
There are currently two types of Tax credits – Working Tax credit and Child Tax Credit. Tax credits are administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who will send out renewal forms annually to assess your income and personal circumstances, before advising your annual entitlements. It is important to keep the Tax credits helpline up to date on your personal circumstances and current income to avoid situations of over or underpayments. Please see the HMRC website for further details.
Who could help me make an appeal?
A local Citizens Advice Bureau or Welfare Rights unit should be able to help with a request to have a decision reconsidered or make an appeal.
When can I claim?
Once you know which benefits to claim, complete and send in the claim form to the appropriate office straight away. It is difficult to backdate benefits and for some benefits a payment cannot be made to cover the period before the date you made the claim. Even if you are unsure you will qualify it is often best to claim as soon as possible as you may miss out if you delay.
Am I eligible for benefits?
Each benefit has its own set of eligibility criteria. For some benefits you will need to have paid National Insurance contributions in order to receive them – these are called Contributory Benefits. Some benefits will only be paid if you and your family are on a low income and with savings of less than a certain amount – these are called Means Tested Benefits. These are just basic criteria and each benefit has additional conditions which have to be met before they can be paid. The Directgov website has an online Benefits Advisor which will ask for your current circumstances and provide details on any benefits you may be entitled to apply for.