Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Welfare Benefits Advice

Category Archives: Welfare Benefits Advice

Introduction to Community Care Grant, Budgeting Loans and Warm Front Scheme.
Previous issues of this newsletter have introduced some key forms of financial support provided by the welfare benefits system for people on low income (find Issue 2 of Community Advice Newsletter (May 15, 2010) in our Electronic Newsletter Archive).
This article will draw your attention to some alternative schemes for financial support.
Community Care Grant  
Eligibility:Already getting Income Support, income-related Employment and Support, income-based Jobseeker`s Allowance or Pension Credit or are about to start getting it within the next 6 weeks because you are moving out of care to live independently. - You are being resettled to a new home by a local council or voluntary organization following an unsettled period in your life  - you need help because you/your family face exceptional pressure, such as family breakdown or because one of you has a long-term illness. - You look after someone who is ill or disabled, or has been released from custody on temporary licence.
Amount of Support:
depending on personal circumstances.
How to Apply: download an application form  here or contact your local Jobcentre Plus to find out where to find and send your application form
This grant does not have to be paid back!  
Budgeting Loans
Eligibility:You or your partner have already been getting Income Support, income-related Employment and Support, income-based Jobseeker`s Allowance or Pension Credit for at least 26 weeks. - You need help with furniture/household equipment, clothing, advance rent or removal expenses for a new home, travelling expenses, things to help you look for work, improving, maintaining or securing your home, repaying debts you took to pay for any of the above.
Amount of Support:
between £100 and £1500 (depending on your marital status, financial situation (ability to pay the loan), your savings
How to Apply: Contact local Jobcentre Plus or Pension Service to request form SF500
This loan has to be paid back! 
Warm Front Scheme      
Eligibility:You need help with covering costs for heating or insulation improvement work in your home. - You get Working Tax Credit (with an income of less than £15 460 and which much include a disability element) and/or Child Tax Credit (with an income of less than £15 460) and/or Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Income Support (including a disability premium), Housing Benefit (including a disability premium0, Council Tax benefit (including a disability premium), War Disablement Pension (including a mobility supplement or Constant Attendance Allowance, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (including Constant Attendance Allowance). - You are not getting any benefits yet but might qualify for some. - You are aged 60 or over and get Pension Credit/Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit or Income-based Jobseeker`s Allowance. - You have a child under 16 or are pregnant and have a maternity certificate MAT B1 and get Income Support, Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit. Income-based Jobseeker`s Allowance or Pension credit.
Amount of Support: - You will be entitled to get between £3500 and £6000
How to Apply: call the Warm Front Scheme Manager on FREE phone line 0800 316 2805                          
! You can check your eligibility for different benefits by consulting the following online Benefits Adviser.
This article has been published in Issue 4 of Action for Social Integration's Community advice E-Newsletter, July 19th 2010
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What is "Jobseekers Allowance"? How is eligible and how can one apply?
Jobseeker`s Allowance is a benefit for unemployed people who are looking for work. To be entitled for this benefit you will have to be aged between 18 and Pension age, either unemployed and actively seeking work or working for less than 16 hours per week.

Your eligibility for Jobseeker`s Allowance will also depend on your immigration status. You might not be eligible to receive Jobseeker`s Allowance if you are from overseas or have recently arrived to live in the country. In case you have doubts concerning your eligibility, we would advise you to consult an experienced adviser from the Citizens Advice Bureau (you can find your nearest office of the CAB by following this link) or contact Jobcentre Plus to request an assessment of your eligibility for Jobseeker`s Allowance (please find the contacts of your nearest Jobcentre Plus office by following this link).
 There are two types of jobseekers allowance:
1.     Contribution-based jobseeker`s allowance: your eligibility for this one is assessed on the basis of the amount of National Insurance Contribution which you have paid while employed. You can only receive a Contributions-based jobseekers allowance for up to 182 days. It amounts to £50.95 (for people aged 16 – 24) and £64.30 (for people aged 25 or over).

2.     Income-based jobseeker`s allowance: your eligibility for income-based jobseeker`s allowance will depend on your income (even if you have not paid enough National Insurance Contribution). Your payment rates will depend on your personal circumstances. You will normally be paid Income-based allowance until your income increases. Support under this scheme amounts to £50.95 (for people aged 16 – 24 and £64.30 (for people aged 25 or over) .

! Remember, if you qualify for Jobseeker`s Allowance, you may also qualify for Housing Benefits without having to complete a separate means test.
What is an application procedure for Jobseeker`s Allowance?
·        Stage 1: Making a claim contact your local Jobcentre Plus using their Freephone number 0800 055 6688 to make a claim for Jobseeker`s Allowance. You can also apply online through this online application service provided by the Department of Work and Pensions: to apply for Income-based allowance click here, to apply for Contribution-based allowance, follow this link.
·        Stage 2: New jobseekers interview Schedule a "new jobseeker interview" in your local Jobcentre Plus. An adviser will help you draft a "Jobseeker`s Agreement" which will outline the steps you will need to take in order to find work. Your adviser will also inform you of the specialist help and advice services available to you to help you with CV preparation, skills training and improvement, etc.
·        Stage 3: Fortnight jobseekers reviews (Every 2 weeks) These longer reviews will take place if you have not managed to secure employment within 13 weeks of registering under the jobseekers scheme. On these reviews you will have to report on the actions you have undertaken to secure employment.
·        Stage 4: Restart Interview (after 6 months) Attend a "restart interview": in the interview, discussions with your adviser will focus on any additional help you might receive, such as access to jobs where your employer receives a £1000 subsidy to train you, help to start your own business or become self-employed, voluntary work.
To find out what actions you can take if you disagree with your benefits decision and would like to appeal against it, please follow this link.

We would also advice you to familiarize yourself with this online booklet "If you think our decision is wrong", produced by the Department for Work and Pensions.

! Remember, you only have 1 month after getting a decision to ask for it to be explained, reconsidered or appeal against it.

What is welfare benefits and who can help you to access them?
The "welfare benefits", also called social security benefits, is a form of financial support from the government for people who are (1) unemployed/looking for work (2) employed but on a low income, or (3) have specific costs to meet because of their personal situation.

The social benefits system is often found difficult to grasp and navigate around by people who approach it for a first time: indeed, your eligibility for different types of benefits and the amount of money you can receive depend on a number of factors (your savings, the number of adults and children in your family, their age and health condition, other benefits you already receive). This is why, if you struggle to understand what benefits you are entitled to receive, we would recommend that you acquire one-to-one advice which considers closely different aspects of your individual circumstances.

The agency which deals with claims for welfare benefits is Jobcentre Plus. You can also contact Jobcentre Plus to request an assessment of your eligibility for benefits. Find the contacts of your nearest office by following this link.

! You can always book a FREE one-to-one advice consultation with Action for Social Integration`s experienced legal advisers by calling 02088036161 or emailing us at advice@afsi.org.uk. If your case falls outside our area of expertise, we will do our best to refer you to the most relevant advice institution and, if you ask us to, will always agree to acquire advice on your behalf.
You might be entitled to benefits if one of the following applies to you:
- You are on a low income  (either employed or looking for work)
- You have dependent children
- You are ill or disabled
- You are caring for someone
- You are aged 60 or over
- You have been bereaved
- You are pregnant or have recently had a baby
Another important thing to know, if you consider applying for benefits, is that the financial support you receive under different schemes within the social benefits system, is designed to help you with different types of expenses. For example, the Housing Benefit is designed to allow people on a low income to pay all or parts of their home rent, while a Council Tax Benefit is meant to help you with paying your Council Tax bills. There are other benefits which are more closely related to employment: the Jobseekers Allowance scheme, for example, allows you to get financial support if you are unemployed but available and looking to work.

The Tax Credits are another form of financial aid from the government for people in a low income: if you are working but are on a low income you might be entitled to receive Working Tax Credit. If you are responsible for at least one child or a young person who normally lives with you, you might be eligible for a Child Tax Credit.

For a more detailed outline of the range of benefits you can apply for, the differences between them, application requirements and the institutions you will need to contact, please have a look at the following benefits schemes: 
Income Support
It provides money for basic living expenses to certain groups of people who are not required to be available for work. For example:
• People looking after children on their own (called single parents or lone parents)
• People looking after someone who cannot look after themselves (called carers)
• People who are not able to work because of health reasons (called incapable of work).
To claim Income Support you must be under 60 and over 18.Child BenefitYou can get Child Benefit if you are responsible for a child aged under 16, or a young person under 20 if they are still in full time education or on certain training courses. This is not affected by how much money you have or if you are working.
Jobseeker`s Allowance
It is a benefit for people who are unemployed but capable of work.
To get Jobseeker's Allowance you must show that you are looking for work. JSA provides money for basic living expensesWorking Tax Credit If you work more than 16 hours a week you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit. This depends on your circumstances and how much money you have each week.
Housing Benefit/Council Tax Benefit
If you are working but living on a low income you may be entitled to some Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit to help you with the costs of rent and council tax. You will normally be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit if you are receiving Income Support or Jobseeker`s Allowance.  You claim these benefits from your local authority, also called local council, not from a Jobcentre Plus office. If you are renting accommodation from a private landlord you may be entitled to Local Housing Allowance (LHA).
Child Tax Credit
is a payment for people who are responsible for at least one child. You do not need to have a very low income to get some help from Child Tax Credit. Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are paid by HM Revenue and Customs.
You can easily find out what benefits you are entitled to by using this online Benefits Adviser provided by the government`s digital information services. All you will have to do is answer anonymously a set of questions about your income, savings and outgoings. Similarly, to assess your eligibility for Tax Credit, fill in the following online Questionnaire.

If you struggle with filling in these questionnaires, please contact us by calling 02088036161 or emailing us at advice@afsi.org.uk and we will do it for you!

Alternatively, for an A to Z list of all available benefits click here.

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Our Vision and Services

Our vision is of a society where no one should experience discrimination on the grounds of their mental health.

Mental health problems are extremely common across society, with one in four of us experiencing them in any year. Despite being so common, people from all communities will still experience discriminatory attitudes and behaviours that can prevent people from speaking out, seeking support and playing full and active roles in our communities. The impact of mental health stigma and discrimination will vary between communities as mental health has a cultural context that affects the way communities talk about the subject and engage with people who have mental health problems. In some cultures depression, for example, doesn't exist and in others an experience of a mental health problem can be attached to a sense of shame.

For the African and Caribbean communities a key issue is the overrepresentation of young African and Caribbean men in mental health services. Misconceptions and stereotypes have led to a perception that this group is more likely to pose a risk of violent behaviour and, as a result, they are more likely to be treated as inpatients and sectioned when compared to other groups. It is well documented that this has led to a fear of talking about mental health issues more openly and a fear of using mental health services. Research by the Race Equality Foundation (2011) also highlighted fears that discrimination against Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) communities and migrant service users will increase in the austerity climate and whilst commissioning arrangements change.

Our Services

· Provide information, advice, advocacy

· Represent diversity communities in Health Care services, policies and strategies

· Organise training in health and social care in collaboration with local colleges

· Provide human resources ( including interpreters) who are suitable to the diversity communities especially to break language and cultural barriers

· Provides domiciliary care and support

· Provide services such specialised support for people with mental health needs, including people who suffer from short-term memory problems, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

· Provide visits to elderly people and help them with outings and home services

· Participate in local authority and NHS consultations , research events and programmes to voice the needs of diversity communities.

· Increase access to services and rights for disadvantaged people and the most vulnerable of our society

· Help and support unemployed people to look for work, including training and job preparation

· Provide legal advice in a range of issues from on Immigration and Asylum , welfare benefits, housing, health, education, community care, and training, employment, etc.

· Provide advice and guidance, information and practical help so that our service users can access opportunities they are entitled to

· Organise training and other community learning opportunities that provide new skills, increase confidence and motivation

· Support our service users to overcome barriers to learning, employment and training

· Provide support for young people with their education, training, confidence building, employment and social needs.

Objectives of our Diversity Living Programme:

· To promote the inclusion and participation of diversity communities* in integrated care.

· To inform policy, locally and nationally, and assisting in the formulation of effective policies, strategies and good practices in integrated care in order to contribute to improved health outcomes for the people from the diversity communities (e.g. Black and minority ethnic communities) and to ensure health services are able to meet their specific needs.

· To improve the quality of life for diversity people with disability, mental health problems and their families and carers through integrated care by providing inclusive advocacy and information.

· To provide service that enable diversity groups and individuals with disability /elderly and their carers to make the right choice for themselves and have an influence on decisions made about their future.

· To promote the rights of diversity people with disability, their families and carers and make sure their rights are safe and protected.

· To promoting access to information regarding healthcare issues and to raise awareness of the needs of diversity disabled children, young people, older people and their families.

· To promote the rights of older and disabled diversity people, helping them overcome and enable them to participate in decisions about their future

· To provide support and information to those suffering the isolation and loneliness that can be associated with disability and old age

· To fight against mental health stigma in refugee, black and minority ethnic communities and ensure no one should experience discrimination on the grounds of their mental health or disability.

*Diversity communities are older people, disabled people, Black, Asian, refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other ethnic minorities.