8.0 Benefits and Grants

8.1 Introduction

Major changes in the benefit regime will come into force in April 2013.  What follows is intended to give an indication of what is available at the time of writing.  Before taking any action, up-to-date information should be obtained through the websites, helplines and leaflets provided by central and local government and by voluntary agencies such as Age UK and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Whilst residents' wishes for privacy and independence should always be respected, it will often be in their interest to offer help and advice to ensure that they are receiving all the benefits to which they are entitled. Application procedures and forms can be complex and may deter residents from applying. Help with this activity is usually most welcome. Residents are not always comfortable with the prospect of revealing their personal details to trustees and staff and in such circumstances it may be appropriate to encourage the resident to seek the help of an agency such as Citizens Advice Bureau or Age UK.  Almshouse charities are advised to establish contacts with their local Housing Benefit Department in order to open a dialogue and inform them of the status of almshouse residents.  This should help both residents and the charity to understand the entitlement.

Benefit rates change frequently and the current amounts can be obtained from the local office of the Benefits Agency or from the Agency's website (www.gov.uk).

8.2 Universal Credit

Universal Credit will be launched in 2013 to replace:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit.

Universal Credit will be a new, single payment for those who are looking for work, or on a low income.  It will enable claimants and their families to become more independent and will simplify the benefits system by bringing together a range of working-age benefits into a single streamlined payment.  The new Universal Credit system aims to:

  • Improve work incentives
  • Smooth the transitions into and out of work, supporting a dynamic labour market
  • Simplify the system, making it easier for people to understand and easier and cheaper for staff to administer
  • Reduce in-work poverty
  • Cut back on fraud and error.

The main differences between Universal Credit and the current welfare system are:

  • Universal Credit will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work
  • Most people will apply online and manage their claim through an online account
  • Universal Credit will be responsive as people on low incomes move in and out of work. They will get on-going support, giving people more incentive to work for any period of time that is available
  • Most claimants on low incomes will still be paid Universal Credit when they first start a new job or increase their part-time hours
  • Claimants will receive just one monthly payment, paid into a bank account in the same way as a monthly salary
  • Support with housing costs will go direct to the claimant as part of their monthly payment.

8.2.1  What will happen to other benefits?

The following benefits are changing:

  • Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by Personal Independence Payment from 2013
  • Council Tax Benefit will be abolished in April 2013 and replaced by a system of localised support
  • Pension Credit will be amended from October 2014 to include help with eligible rent and dependent children
  • Social Fund is also being reformed to introduce new local assistance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Social Fund reform.

Other benefits will continue.

8.2.2  When doess}**sUniversal Credit start?

The Universal Credit pathfinder will launch in April 2013 in certain areas of the North West of England, along with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), delivery partners in HMRC and local authorities.  This ‘pathfinder’ stage will help ensure that Universal Credit is ready to go live across the rest of the country later in 2013.

Universal Credit will launch nationally in October 2013, with new claimants making claims for Universal Credit, while claims for existing benefits and credits will be gradually phased out.  From April 2014 all new claims will be for Universal Credit.

Existing claimants will move on to Universal Credit in line with a phased approach that is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.  DWP will continue to provide information on this.

8.3  State Pension

The State Pension is paid to people who fulfill the National Insurance contributions conditions when they reach pensionable age. Between 2010 and 2018 the pension age will be equalised at 65 for men and women by raising that for women.  Between December 2018 and September 2020 the pensionable age for both men and women will gradually increase to 66.

The pension has three main parts: the Basic Pension; Additional Pension based on contributions after April 1978; and Graduated Pension based on contributions between April 1961 and April 1975.

For further information contact the Future Pensions Centre on 0845 300 0168 (textphone 0845 300 0169) or visit www.gov.uk

8.4 Pension Credit

Nearly half of all pensioners are entitled to Pension Credit. Many people who could be getting this extra money have not yet made a claim. Pension credit provides older people with a minimum level of income and gives extra cash to people with modest incomes who have made savings for their retirement.

Pension Credit has two parts: the 'guarantee credit' and the 'savings credit'. Some people will get both the guarantee and the savings parts while others will receive either one or the other. Both parts are based on people's income and other circumstances.

8.4.1  Guarantee Credit

The guarantee credit is available to people who have reached the ‘qualifying age’ which is based upon pensionable age. Those on a limited pension get a guaranteed set level of income.  (At April 2012 this was set at £142.50 per week for a single person and £217.90 for a couple.)

The levels may be higher for a person who is severely disabled, a carer or has certain housing costs. Residents who receive the guarantee credit will be entitled to the maximum eligible amount of Housing Benefit. They will also qualify for benefits such as free dental treatment, free travel to hospital for treatment and help with glasses.

8.4.2  Savings Credit

Savings Credit is available to people who have reached the age of 65. (At April 2012 the maximum amount payable was £18.54 per week for a single person and £23.73 for a couple.)  Calculating the savings credit is complex and takes into account 'qualifying’ and 'non-qualifying' income. For more information, contact the Pension Service. (See Appendix B).

8.5  War Disablement Pensions and War Widow’s Pensions

Almshouse residents may receive a War Disablement Pension if disabled as a result of war or peacetime service in the armed forces. The War Widow's Pension is paid if the husband's death was due to, or hastened by, service in the armed forces or a war injury. Both these pensions vary in amount according to circumstances. They need periodic reassessment as the effects of a war disability usually worsen with age and the pension may be increased.

For information, ring the War Pensions Helpline on 0800 169 2277.

8.6  Housing Benefit

For residents of pensionable age, on limited income, living in rented housing, Housing Benefit will continue to be paid by the local authority. For these purposes, almshouses are considered to be 'rented' accommodation. The amount of Housing Benefit paid depends on the applicant's income, capital savings and level of 'rent', i.e. Weekly Maintenance Contribution.

The maximum amount of Housing Benefit is 100% of 'eligible rent'. Eligible rent can include certain accommodation-related service charges but doess}**snot cover water and sewerage charges or fuel charges. Some service charges will also be ineligible as they may be covered by Supporting People grant. (See paragraph 8.6 below).

There is a maximum limit for a resident's savings of £16,000 (as at April 2012) and savings of less than £10,000 will be ignored. Savings of over £10,000 but less than £16,000 will affect the amount of Housing Benefit paid. The rules and calculation of entitlement are complex and the advice of the local Housing Benefit office should be sought.

8.6.1  Bedroom Tax

With effect from April 2013, for residents of working age*, in receipt of Housing Benefit and living in social housing, their Housing Benefit will be reduced where they are deemed as under-occupying their home.

Single residents and couples are deemed to need only one bedroom, regardless of medical requirements.   Children of different sex are expected to share a room until their tenth birthday and children of the same sex are expected to share until their sixteenth birthday.

For those with one spare bedroom their benefit will be reduced by approximately £14 per week, while those with two or more spare rooms will have it reduced by £25 per week.

*The number of almshouse residents affected may rise as the age of eligibility for state pension rises – see 8.2 above.

8.7  Supporting People

Since 2003, housing-related support services (such as a scheme manager or an emergency alarm system) have not  been eligible for Housing Benefit, but funded by Supporting People, administered by the Local Authority.  This is no longer a ring-fenced grant from central government.  In some areas local authorities are responding to cuts in funding by withdrawing finance for wardens/scheme managers and/or for alarm systems.

Charities that receive Supporting People funding have to ensure that residents have individual support plans.

8.8 Council Tax Benefit/Support

This benefit operates in a similar manner to Housing Benefit and, in most Local Authories, shares a common application form.  As with Housing Benefit, it is means-tested. It is worth noting that even if a resident doess}**snot qualify for this benefit, there are other discounts available, including a 25% discount for a person living alone and discounts for those with certain disabilities.

In April 2013 this national benefit scheme is to be replaced by Council Tax Support, which will be funded by the Local Authority and therefore subject to their overall spending decisions.

8.9 Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is not means-tested or subject to tax. Applicants must be 65 or over and have satisfied the disability conditions for at least six months. These conditions must show that the disability, either physical or mental, is such that the attendance of another person is needed to avoid putting the applicant or others at risk. However, it is worth pointing out that the allowance is based on the help needed, not the help actually provided. The person receiving the allowance doess}**snot have to have a carer or even to use the allowance to buy care - the money can be spent on anything.

There are two levels of allowance dependent on the degree of disability: (Lower rate £51.85 per week, Higher rate £77.45 per week - April 2012)

A resident would get the lower rate of  allowance if they need help either during the day or during the night. They would get the higher rate of allowance if they need help both during the day and during the night.

Those people who are terminally ill qualify immediately and need not wait for six months to apply.

8.10  Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment

Disability Living Allowance is for people who become ill or disabled before the age of 65 and have normally satisfied the disability conditions for at least three months and expect to satisfy them for at least the next six months.

A resident cannot claim both the Disability Living Allowance and the Attendance Allowance - which one is claimed depends on the age of the resident. As with the Attendance Allowance, the Disability Living Allowance is neither means-tested nor taxable. It doess}**snot have to be used to buy care or transport - how it is used is up to the recipient.

There are two parts: the 'care component' and the 'mobility component'. The 'care component' is for people who require help with personal care or need supervision.  The 'mobility component' is for claimants who need help getting around.

Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to be phased in from April 2013 onwards.  At the time of writing it is not clear whether all the current levels of payment will remain, nor whether the age of eligibility will change.

For application forms for both Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance contact the Disability and Carers Benefit Advice Line on 08457 123456 (textphone 08457 224433)  or claim online at www.gov.uk/disabilities.

8.11 Carer’s Allowance

Carer's Allowance (previously known as Invalid Care Allowance) is a taxable benefit paid to people who spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a severely disabled person. It doess}**snot matter whether the carer lives with the person they care for or lives elsewhere. To qualify for the allowance, the carer must be caring for someone who gets Attendance Allowance, or Disability Living Allowance/PIP (care component paid at the middle or highest rate), or Constant Attendance Allowance paid with War Pensions or Industrial disablement benefits. There is an earnings limit for the carer after deducting Income Tax and National Insurance contributions, certain work-related expenses and half of any occupational or private pension contributions.

Carer's Allowance is an 'overlapping benefit'. This means that if the carer's state retirement pension is less than the current allowance rate, they will be entitled to a top up of Carer's Allowance to that amount,

If the carer's pension is more than the current rate, they may still qualify for the allowance because of the 'underlying entitlement' rules. This means that they will not actually get the Carer's Allowance, but may get help from other means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit or Housing Benefit.

A word of warning - it is very important that the carer checks whether the person they are caring for is getting an income-related benefit such as Pension Credit or Income Support.  If either includes an element for Severe Disability their benefit may be reduced if the carer starts to be paid a Carer's Allowance.

If a pensioner couple both qualify for the extra amount for Severe Disability and if they are looking after each other, it may be possible for them to claim Carer's Allowance and get the Carer Premium. If they cannot be paid the allowance (for example, because they have pensions above the allowance level) they will not lose the extra amount for Severe Disability.

The rules are complex and anyone thinking of applying for a Carer's Allowance is urged to seek advice from the Benefits Agency, Citizens Advice or Age UK.

8.12 Social Fund

The Social Fund is a scheme to help people with expenses that are difficult to meet from low income. The Regulated Social Fund covers winter fuel payments, cold weather payments and funeral payments. The Discretionary Social Fund provides three types of payments: community care grants, budgeting loans and crisis loans.

8.12.1  The Regulated Social Fund

8.12.1.a  Winter Fuel Payments

These annual payments are made to all households where there is someone who has reached the Pension Credit qualifying age. There are no limits on income or savings and the payments are not taxable. These payments are not made to residents of a care home. People who have already received the Winter Fuel Payment should automatically get future payments. The minimum payment of £100 rises to £300 when at least one member of the household reaches 80 years of age (April 2012).

New claimants need to complete a claim form by September to be sure of receiving the payment by Christmas. Forms and information are available from the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline on 08459 151515 or can be downloaded from www.gov.uk.

8.12.1.b   Cold Weather Payments

Residents receiving Pension Credit or Income Support may be eligible for Cold Weather Payments. These are paid automatically when the average temperature is 0°C or less over seven consecutive days and at April 2012 the rate was £25 for each week of very cold weather.  In exceptionally cold weather the charity may consider giving help with heating costs if they have concerns about vulnerable residents.

8.12.1.c   Funeral Payments

These are paid to people on low incomes who have good reason for taking the responsibility of arranging the funeral of a partner or close relative. To receive the payment, applicants must be receiving Pension Credit, Income Support, certain Tax Credits, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit.

There are restrictions on who can receive payments and how much these will be, so residents should check what they are entitled to before making any funeral arrangements for others.

The payment helps cover the cost of a basic funeral and certain fees and travel expenses. It is unlikely to meet the full cost of the funeral. Savings do not affect entitlement to a funeral payment but any money available from the deceased person's estate, insurance policies, a pre-paid funeral plan or help from charities will be taken into account.

To claim contact the Bereavement Service on 0845 606 0265 (textphone 0845 606 0285) or download the form from www.gov.uk

8.12.2 The Discretionary Social Fund

Payments from this fund are different from most social security payments because there is a limited annual budget which restricts the amount that can be awarded. Community care grants do not have to be repaid but budgeting and crisis loans do.

From April 2013 this grant from central government to Local Authorities will no longer be ‘ring-fenced’ but, as with Council Tax Support, be subject to their overall spending decisions.

8.12.2.a  Community Care Grants

Community Care Grants are available to people on Pension Credit or Income Support.  These grants do not have to be repaid. Savings of over £1,000 (£500 for people under the age of 60) will be deducted from any grant.  The minimum grant payable is £30 although there are special arrangements for travel expenses.

Examples of circumstances in which a Community Care Grant may be paid are:

  • Help with moving, e.g. for bed, cooker, removal costs
  • For minor house repairs, bedding, essential furniture
  • Help with exceptional pressures on family
  • For certain travel expenses in urgent situations.

To apply contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 032 7952 (textphone 0800 032 7958) or download the form from www.gov.uk .

8.12.2.b  Budgeting Loans

Budgeting loans are available for people who have been on Pension Credit or Income Support for at least 26 weeks and need to purchase basic items such as furniture, household equipment, clothing and footwear, removal costs or home improvements or maintenance.

The loans are from £100 to £1,500 depending on need and ability to repay the loan. The amount of loan paid will be affected where the applicant or partner has savings in excess of £2,000 (£1,000 for people under 61). The amount of any Budgeting Loan paid together with the amount owing to the Social Fund must not exceed £1,500.

To apply contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888) or download the form from www.gov.uk .

8.12.2.c  Crisis Loans

Crisis loans are available to anyone; a resident need not be receiving any benefits to apply. A resident may apply for a loan if they have emergency needs or are involved in a disaster (e.g. fire or flood affecting their personal belongings) and the loan is necessary to prevent serious damage or risk to health and safety. The Social Fund decision maker will take into consideration any income or savings the applicant has and whether help is available from other sources. Crisis loans are interest-free.

To apply contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 (textphone 0800 023 4888) or download the form from www.gov.uk.

8.13  Bereavement Benefits

There are three different bereavement benefits, depending on the NI contributions of the person who has died, unless they died as the result of an industrial accident or prescribed industrial disease. The two relevant benefits are likely to be the Bereavement Payment and the Bereavement Allowance. Residents are unlikely to qualify for the third bereavement benefit, the Widowed Parent's Allowance for people with dependent children.

8.13.1 Bereavement Payment

A Bereavement Payment of £2,000 (as at April 2012) is paid mainly to widows and widowers under state pension age. It is only payable to someone over state pension age whose husband, wife or civil partner had not reached pension age or had not started drawing their state pension at the time of their death.

8.13.2 Bereavement Allowance

The Bereavement Allowance may be paid to people between the age of 45 and pension age, up to a maximum level for up to 52 weeks. Rates of payment vary according to age and circumstances.

For more information on Bereavement Benefits call the Bereavement Service on 0845 606 0265 (textphone 0845 606 0285) Forms can be downloaded from www.gov.uk.

8.14  Disabled Facilities Grants

Every Local Authority has a legal obligation to offer Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) to people who need them. The DFG is a statutory, means-tested Local Authority grant to assist eligible persons with the cost of home adaptations, enabling those with mobility difficulties to continue living in their own home.  The type of work carried out with a Disabled Facilities Grant includes:

  • Installing a lift
  • Providing a toilet and shower downstairs
  • Installing a ramp and grab rails to the front door
  • Moving and adapting light switches and heating controls to make them easier to use
  • Widening doorways and installing ramps for wheelchair access.

Applications for Disabled Facilities Grants are processed by the Local Authority.  Contact your Local Authority and ask for an application form.

There may be two application forms;  an initial enquiry and a formal application. The initial enquiry form will ask for details of the adaptations to be carried out, and basic information about the disabled person who needs the adaptations.

If the situation is urgent, the resident may be able to go straight to the formal application stage. The formal application form is complex and help may be needed to complete it. A local Home Improvement Agency may also be able to assist.

Once the council has received the completed formal application it must make a decision within six months. Before the council will approve the grant, it must consult with the social services department to make sure the adaptations are 'necessary and appropriate'. This will usually mean that social services will arrange for an Occupational Therapist to visit to assess what adaptations are needed. To avoid delays, it is a good idea for the resident to contact social services as soon as they decide they want to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant. The resident should ask for an assessment of their needs.

If the cost of the work is above a certain limit, the Local Authority will carry out a means test to determine whether the resident should make a contribution towards the cost of the work. If the resident is receiving any means-tested benefits, or relies mainly on their State Retirement Pension and has few savings, they are likely to qualify for a full Disabled Facilities Grant.  The maximum Disabled Facilities Grant is £30,000 in England and £36,000 in Wales (at December 2012).

The means test should only take account of the income and savings of the person who needs the adaptations and their spouse or partner.   The almshouse charity will not be expected to pay anything towards the cost of the work, but the resident will need to get the trustees' permission before any work is carried out.  If the grant is approved, the work should usually be completed within one year. It may expedite grant approval if trustees supply all relevant information at the time of application.

In Scotland the system of grants is different and only brief information is given here. Grants may be available from the council housing department to almshouse residents in certain circumstances. The amount of grant depends on the resident's financial position, but in some cases a minimum grant of 50% will be available. Most grants are discretionary. Residents may get help towards the costs of housing aids and adaptations if the social services department supports the application.

8.14.1  Disabled Facilities Grants for Severely Disabled Veterans

The Department for Communities and Local Government has set aside funds to help the most severely disabled ex-service personnel with their DFG applications.  Local Authorities are given the opportunity to make a claim for reimbursement for those applications that meet the criteria.  These include:

  • War Pension Scheme for disablement of 80% or higher and a Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Capital lump sum through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
  • Guaranteed Income Payment (tariff level 1-6).

There should, therefore, be no delay in providing DFGs to veterans as the Local Authority will be able to claim funds back.

8.15  Assistance from Social Services

Social services departments provide funding for some types of adaptations.  In England, from 9th June 2003, under the new legislation The Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Act (Qualifying Services) (England) Regulation 2003, any item of community equipment which a person is assessed as needing as a community care service and for which the individual is eligible, is required to be provided free of charge. All minor adaptations costing £1,000 or less, which includes the cost of buying and fitting the adaptation, are required to be provided free of charge.

Social services departments may also be able to help with the cost of work not covered by Disabled Facilities Grants and to provide top-up funding if people are not able to find the money to meet their assessed contribution. They may also be able to provide top-up funding for works which cost over the £30,000 limit on Disabled Facilities Grants.

As a result of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (CDSP) Act 1970, a Local Authority has to provide services to meet the needs of disabled persons. This means that if a person needs adaptations and is having difficulty getting a Disabled Facilities Grant, the social services department may still have a duty to assist that person.

8.16 Free or Concessionary Television Licences

Updated 27 07 20

Residents need a television licence to use any television-receiving equipment including TV set, set-top box, video or DVD recorder, PC or mobile phone to watch or record programmes as they are being broadcast.  This includes foreign broadcasts.

From August 1st 2020, TV Licences for people over-75 are no longer free, unless they are on pension credit.

There are television concessions available to:

  • Those who are blind or severely sight impaired
  • People who are retired or disabled and live in certain types of accommodation

An Accommodation for Residential Care (ARC) concessionary licence is available to some people who live in certain types of care homes or sheltered housing.  To qualify, a resident must be retired and aged 60 or over or disabled.  An ARC licence costs £7.50 (as at September 2012). ARC licences are unaffected by recent changes to the over-75 licence.

Trustees must apply for concessionary licences on behalf of their residents.  To qualify residents must be of pensionable age or disabled and:

  • live in an almshouse established before 1st November 1949, or
  • live in an almshouse administered by a Trust constituted by an Act of Parliament or Royal Charter, or
  • live in an almshouse built after 1st November 1949 specifically for eligible people as sheltered housing comprising a group of at least 4 dwellings within a common and exclusive boundary with a caring function (such as a resident warden) or someone working there for at least 30 hours per week.

New preserved rights apply to existing residents of an almshouse charity scheme where the scheme no longer fulfils the criteria for the full ARC concession due to the inclusion of ineligible residents in the scheme or changes in its warden provision.  It applies to eligible residents who are:

  • under the age of 75 and
  • living in a scheme that has lost the full concession for the above reason after 1st June 1988 and
  • who were covered by a full ARC licence in that scheme on or after that date.

ARC licences are only granted if all the criteria are met and all the residents are eligible.  In cases where the charity’s scheme doess}**snot mention a qualifying age, or gives an age less than 60 years, trustees must certify that it is their policy to only appoint retired persons of over 60 years as occupants of the almshouses.

Further information on concessionary TV Licences can be obtained from Concessionary Licensing Centre, TV Licensing, Bristol Tel:  0300 790 6011.

8.17  Travel Concessions

8.17.1 Trains

All rail companies give reductions of one-third on most tickets to Senior Railcard holders. This costs £28 (at September 2012) and is available for people of 60 and over. A Senior Railcard can be used throughout England, Wales and Scotland.  The Disabled Persons Railcard costs £20 (at September 2012) and offers similar discount rates to the Senior Railcard, but with the option of taking a companion with you at the same reduced rate.

8.17.2 Buses

In England eligibility for an older person’s bus pass is tied to state pension age if born after 5 April 1950.  If born before 5 April 1950 eligibility remains 60 years of age.  This pass entitles the holder to free off-peak bus travel.  Eligible disabled persons are also entitled to free off-peak bus travel

8.17.3 Coaches

Residents over the age of 60 can purchase a Senior Coachcard for £10.00 with National Express.  This entitles the holder to one third off standard ticket prices and has no restrictions to off peak times.

For Further Information:

Age UK: www.ageuk.org.uk

Armed Forces Pensions: www.mod.uk/spva

Benefits Agency: www.gov.uk

Bereavement Service: www.gov.uk/funeral-payments

Citizens Advice Bureau: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Concessionary Licensing Centre: www.tvlicensing.co.uk

Crisis Loans:  www.gov.uk/crisis-loans

Department for Work and Pensions: www.dwp.gov.uk

Disability and Carers Benefits Advice: www.gov.uk/dla-disabilitiy-living-allowance and www.gov.uk/carers-allowance

Future Pensions Centre: www.gov.uk

National Express Coaches: www.nationalexpress.com

The Pension Service: www.gov.uk/thepensionservice

Winter Fuel Payment Claim Form: www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment

© 2013. This document is copyright of the Almshouse Association and no part of it may be produced or published without the Association’s written consent.