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Provided by Mae Stewart, Editor UNISON Retired members Newsletter, Dundee, Perth and Angus.
Please note that this is not definitive information about benefits but will provide a signpost as to where to get up to date information. Please check the sources first. UNISON Scotland can take no responsibility for information that may be outdated or inaccurate.

Issue 36 April 2011

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Members Information - 'Misinformation' Health & Social Care Bill

I would like to thank one of our members who wrote pointing out that in the last report information on the 'New health & Social Bill Means' applied only to England; and not to Scotland (as is the case in some instances); and they were concerned therefore that some information could be misleading and could cause concern to some of our membership.

The Bill only applies to England and partly to Wales although the part affecting arrangements between the NHS Commissioning Board will affect Scotland - UNISON opposes the Bill: see info here and UNISON's vision here)

Firstly, may I thank our member for highlighting this discrepancy? I always attempt to report relevant and correct information, which I feel would be of use to the membership, and apologise if this is not always the case.

Could I therefore ask all members who do read any information, at any given time; which they feel may be incorrect or be of concern to themselves; to please double check by accessing the website at: www.ageuk.org this would ensure that any inconsistencies that may have slipped through my fingers, would be picked up by the individual themselves.

Or, if you prefer, telephone Age UK Advice: 0800 169 6565 where someone there will offer any advice on which areas will be effected with any particular set of circumstances. Once again my thanks to the member who brought this to my attention. Mae Stewart

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Carers Allowance

If you are unable to work full-time because you are caring for someone with a disability or health problem‚ you might be able to claim Carer's Allowance. If you are under pension age‚ you will also get National Insurance credits each week towards your pension.

Can I claim it?

You need to be caring for someone who is receiving the higher or middle rate care component of Disability Living Allowance or any rate of Attendance Allowance. This person could be a family member (like your spouse or a parent) or a friend.

  • You must spend at least 35 hours a week caring for that person. It doesn't matter if you don't live with them.
  • You must not be in full-time education.
  • You must earn no more than £100 a week (after the deduction of allowable expenses such as Income Tax).

It may not be paid if you are receiving a State Pension or certain other benefits - however‚ it may be a good idea to apply anyway because you could get extra help with Pension Credit and/or Council Tax/Housing Benefit instead.

Carer's Allowance can sometimes continue in payment for short periods if the person you care for dies or if you have a break from caring.

Pension Credit

Up to a third of all pensioners are entitled to Pension Credit. Yet about a third of those eligible (up to 1.6 million older people) are not claiming it. If you're one of them‚ you could be missing out on hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year.

There are two parts of Pension Credit - you may be eligible to receive one or both of them.

Guarantee Credit is designed to make sure that people over the minimum state pension age (rising from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020) have a guaranteed level of income. It is worked out by comparing your income with the amount the Government thinks you need to live on. This amount is known as the standard minimum guarantee.

Savings Credit is paid to people aged 65 and over‚ who have made some retirement provision in addition to their basic State Pension.

Pension Credit is a means-tested benefit and so your income and savings are taken into account when it is worked out. Pension Credit includes help towards mortgage payments and service charges for home owners, and extra money for people who receive Carers Allowance or disability benefits. You can get a claim form by phoning the Pension Credit Line on 0800 991 234 or by visiting the direct.gov website (see 'Useful websites').

The Social Fund

The Social Fund provides financial help to people who receive certain benefits (including Pension Credit) and need help with extra expenses. If you are on a low income‚ it is difficult to save for emergency expenses such as funeral costs or furniture for a new home.

There are different types of payments you can get from the Social Fund with different qualifying conditions. There are also some variations throughout the country and so it would be a good idea to get advice before you make an application.

Budgeting loans are to help spread the cost of expensive essential items. They are between £100 and £1,500 and have to be repaid from your weekly benefits.

Crisis loans are to help you if you need help because of an emergency or a disaster, such as a fire or flood. You do not have to receive any benefits to apply, but they must be paid back.

Funeral Payments are to help with the basic costs of a funeral if you are responsible for paying for one.

Cold Weather payments are to help with extra heating costs during periods of very cold weather.

Winter Fuel payments are paid to most pensioner households to help with the cost of fuel.

Challenging Benefit Decisions

It is usually possible to challenge a benefit decision if you think it's wrong. The process may be easier than you think and many are successful. However, it's important to act quickly, because there are deadlines for submitting appeals. It often helps to get expert help or advice with an appeal.

To find out more about what happens after an application for a welfare benefit is submitted, the decisions involved, how to challenge negative decisions, Social Fund reviews and making complaints, you can download a factsheet at: www.ugeuk.org

Have You Paid the Wrong Tax?

HMRC (formerly the Inland Revenue) is currently sending out letters to nearly 6 million people who have paid the wrong amount of tax since 2008. Over the past 2 years, nearly £2bn has been underpaid, with around 1.4m taxpayers owing an average of £1,400 each.

See this ageuk link for full details

Mae Stewart