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Work focused interviews / work related activity

Sometimes carers who are in receipt of Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance (in the Work Related Activity Group) may be asked to take part in work focused interviews (WFIs) and undertake work related activity (WRA).


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.

 

There are rules around how often carers have to take part in WFIs, and whether carers have to undertake WRA. These rules are outlined below.

If you feel that you have been incorrectly asked to take part in a WFI or incorrectly asked to undertake WRA, then you can challenge this. You can amend and use one of our template letters to help you.

If you want to ask for the WFI to be deferred to a later date, waived altogether or for it to be carried out at home, then you can again use one of our template letters to help you.

Note: When we say ‘carer’ in this information we mean:

  • A person in receipt of Carer’s Allowance; or
  • A person who has an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance; or
  • A person who is claiming Income Support because they are regularly and substantially engaged in caring for a person who receives the middle or the higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance, or Armed Forces Independence Payment; or
  • A person claiming Income Support whilst the person they care for awaits the outcome of a claim for DLA, PIP, Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment and 26 weeks have not passed since the date of their claim.

There will be carers who do not come under the definitions above, and as such the normal rules that apply to each benefit around taking part in WFIs and undertaking WRA will apply. If this applies to you then you may have to take part in WFIs at the discretion of the Jobcentre Plus and engage in WRA when required.


What is a work focused interview (WFI)?

A WFI is a meeting between you and a Work Programme personal adviser or work coach, normally taking place at your local Jobcentre Plus, although it can take place over the telephone, or at your home in exceptional circumstances. It's always good to check that any proposed meeting (especially a subsequent meeting) is a WFI if it is not made clear to you at the time.

The aim of the WFI is to look at your prospects of obtaining work and to identify any activities, training or educational opportunities that may assist with this. At this meeting it is likely you will be offered further appointments and support to help prepare you for work, which you can accept if you wish.

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How often do I need to take part in a work focused interview (WFI)?

This will depend on your particular circumstances and what benefit you receive.

Note: If you are a member of a couple then the main claimant will be the one we are referring to when we mention the person 'receiving’ the benefit. If your partner is the main claimant then please see: ‘Carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance‘.

Carers receiving Income Support who are not also lone parents of children under 5 years old

The circumstances in which you will have to take part in a WFI are as follows:

  • At the start of your claim for Income Support; or
  • If Carer’s Allowance ends; or
  • When you start or end part time work; or
  • When you finish training; or
  • When you turn 18; or
  • In any other case after 3 years since the last time you attended.

If you are over the qualifying age for state pension credit and still claiming Income Support then there is no WFI requirement.

Note: State pension credit age for a woman is the age she would reach state pension age and for a man is the age he would reach state pension age if he was a woman.

Carers receiving Income Support who are also lone parents of children under 5 years old

Normally a lone parent of a child under 5 years old can be required to take part in a WFI without limit – for example the Jobcentre Plus could ask you to take part in a WFI every two weeks. However, if you are also a carer, you will only have to attend a WFI once every six months. This rule applies until your youngest child reaches the age of 5 . After this time the rules that will apply are those for 'carers receiving Income Support who are not also lone parents of children under 5 years old’ - see above.

This rule is commonly misunderstood by Jobcentre Plus staff, and carers who are lone parents of children under 5 years old are often told they have to take part in frequent WFI’s, when they do not.

Also, you do not have to take part in a WFI if you are a lone parent of a child under 5 years old and you are also under 18 and/or you have a child under the age of one.

During the WFI your adviser will then normally draw up an action plan for you, and this should list what actions and steps you would be willing to take to improve and enhance your prospects of getting a job.

Carers receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

If you are claiming ESA and are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) there is no set ruling for how often you can be asked to atake part in a WFI.

However, you do not have to take part in any WFIs in the WRAG if you are at least the qualifying age for state pension credit (see above for definition) and/or you have a child under the age of one.

If you are claiming ESA and are in the Support Group then you will not have to take part in WFIs.

Carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

When the main claimant has been continuously entitled to Income Support or ESA for at least 26 weeks or more you, as their partner, will have to take part in one WFI.

However, you do not have to take part in any WFI’s as the partner of the main claimant if:

  • You have a child under the age of one; or
  • If you are under 18 or over the qualifying age for state pension credit (see above for definition); or
  • If you receive a “specified” benefit in your own right. The “specified” benefits are Income Support, income based Jobseekers Allowance (but not a couple claim), Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Carer's Allowance. If you receive a "specified" benefit in your own right, you may have your own work focused requirements to comply with.

Note: The rules for WFIs under Jobseekers Allowance and Universal Credit are different. Contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further information.

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What do I have to do at a work focused interview (WFI)?

You have to take part in the WFI at the stated time, and participate in it by answering questions about any previous employment, training, skills and qualifications that you may have, as well as discussing any caring and/or childcare responsibilities, and any medical needs that will impact on you returning to work.

Your work coach is likely to suggest that regular meetings and support can be offered around preparing you for work. It is at this point that you need to be really clear in declining this support if you feel that now is not the right time for you to prepare for work because of the demands of your caring role.

If you accept the support you will then be asked to take part as and when directed and possibly partake in some work related activity. Your work coach should let you know that further participation is voluntary. If you decline the support then you should not be called again more often than the rules advise for your particular circumstances. 

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If I have to have a work focused interview (WFI) do I have to take part in any work related activity (WRA)?

Sometimes those who have to undertake  WFIs also have to take part in WRA. WRA can include looking for work, undertaking training, or taking part in the Work Programme. However not everyone has to take part in WRA.

Carers receiving Income Support (including those who are also lone parents of children under 5 years old) will not have to take part in any WRA unless they choose to.

Carers receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the Work Related Activity Group will not have to take part in any WRA if they also receive Carer’s Allowance or get the Carer Premium included in their ESA award, unless they choose to.

Carers receiving ESA in the Support Group will not have to take part in any WRA, unless they choose to.

Carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or ESA will not have to take part in any WRA, unless they choose to.

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I’ve been told I must attend a work focused interview (WFI) and/or that I must take part in work related activity (WRA), what should I do?

If you receive a letter or telephone call asking you to take part in a WFI or start any WRA, and you feel this is incorrect given the information above, you may want to contact the Jobcentre Plus and challenge this.

You can do this by telephone or by letter. You may want to use one of our template letters to help you.

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If I can’t attend and need to defer / waive / ask for the work focused interview (WFI) to take place in my own home, what should I do?

It is possible for you or your partner to defer or waive a WFI, or to ask for the WFI to take place in your own home.

If you want any of these things to happen then you should contact the Jobcentre Plus as soon as you can in advance of the meeting and explain your circumstances. You can do this by telephone or by letter. You may want to use one of our template letters to help you.

You must show good cause for your request. Good cause may include illness, hospital/healthcare admissions or appointments, bereavements, emergency caring responsibilities or needing more time to set up alternative care for a child or the person you care for.

You cannot appeal a refusal of your request and your benefit may be stopped or reduced if you do not attend without permission.

For a deferment or waiver

A Jobcentre Plus officer may determine that a WFI can be deferred or waived where it wouldn’t be, in their opinion, of assistance to you or appropriate in the circumstances.

For a home visit

A Jobcentre Plus officer may determine that a WFI is to take place in your own home where it would, in their opinion, be unreasonable to expect you to attend elsewhere because your personal circumstances are such that attending elsewhere would cause you undue inconvenience or endanger your health.

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What happens if I fail to attend a work focused interview (WFI) when correctly invited?

If you fail to take part in a WFI when it is correct that you do so, and you cannot show good cause, you may be sanctioned by having your Income Support/ESA  stopped for a certain period or paid at a reduced rate. For Income Support the Jobcentre might treat you as if you have not made a claim for the benefit.  For further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

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Template letters

We have produced some template letters which you can download and use. When you download the template letters they will appear in a Word document. If you have any issues downloading them contact the Carers UK Adviceline. You will need to add details of your personal circumstances and edit the letter to suit your own situation (the main sections which need editing are in red).

Draft letters regarding work focused interviews (WFIs):

For carers receiving Income Support who are not also lone parents of children under 5 years old who have been asked to attend a WFI outside of the specified circumstances

For carers receiving Income Support who are also lone parents of children under 5 years old who have been asked to attend WFIs more than every six months

For carers whose partner is receiving Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance as the main claimant who have been asked to attend a WFI outside of the specified circumstances

For carers (or partners) who want to request a deferment or waiver of a WFI, or who want to request for a WFI to be carried out in their own home

Draft letters regarding work related activity (WRA):

For carers receiving Income Support (including those who are lone parents of children under 5 years old) who have been asked to undertake WRA

For carers receiving Employment and Support Allowance in the Work Related Activity Group who have been asked to undertake WRA

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Tax Credits and Child Benefit

If you are a carer who is in work and/or who has dependent children you might be entitled to claim Tax Credits and Child Benefit.


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.


If you are a carer who is in work you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit (WTC).

If you are a carer who has dependent children you may be entitled to Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Child Benefit.

Note: In certain parts of the country working age people will have to claim Universal Credit instead of Tax Credits, however most carers are not yet affected by this. For further information see the Universal Credit section of our website. Even if you are in an area where you would normally have to claim Universal Credit, if you have three or more children, this will not yet be possible, and you will be directed back to claim the older style benefits.


Working Tax Credit (WTC)

Who can claim WTC?

You may be entitled to WTC if you work 16 hours or more per week and one of the following conditions applies:

  • You are a single parent with a dependent child.
  • You are in a couple, you have dependent children, one of you works at least 16 hours per week and you work at least 24 hours per week between you.
  • You are in a couple, you have dependent children, and the partner who is not working is in prison, receiving Carer’s Allowance, or is incapacitated.
  • You are eligible for the disability element.
  • You are aged 60 or over.

If you don’t fit into one of the above categories then you have to be over 25 and working at least 30 hours per week to be entitled to WTC.

Note: Time you spend caring on an unpaid basis (even if you are claiming benefits such as Carer’s Allowance) does not count as ‘work’ for WTC purposes.

How much is WTC?

If you (or any partner) are receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowanceincome-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit you will automatically receive the maximum amount of WTC that you are entitled to.

If you (or any partner) are not in receipt of any of these benefits, then HMRC will carry out a calculation based on your (and any partners) income and capital to work out whether you are entitled to WTC, and if so how much.

WTC are complicated to work out so for further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

How do I claim WTC and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland you can contact the Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900 to claim and to report a change in your circumstances.

What happens if I disagree with a WTC decision?

If you disagree with a WTC decision you can challenge the decision. The way you go about this is different to the process for other benefits so for further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

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Child Tax Credit (CTC)

Who can claim CTC?

You may be entitled to CTC if you are responsible for a dependent child or qualifying young person.

A dependent child is someone aged under 16. Between their 16th birthday and the following 31st August, they will be treated as a qualifying young person without the requirement to be in education or training. To continue to be treated as a qualifying young person after that date, they must be under 20 and in full-time, non-advanced education or approved, unwaged, training. If they are 19 they must have been accepted or enrolled onto the education or training course before they turned 19.

How much is CTC?

If you (or any partner) are receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit you will automatically receive the maximum amount of CTC that you are entitled to.

If you (or any partner) are not in receipt of any of these benefits, then HMRC will carry out a calculation based on your (and any partners) income and capital to work out whether you are entitled to CTC, and if so how much.


Note: If you make a new claim for Child Tax Credit on or after the 6th of April 2017, and if all of your children (even if you have more than 2) were born before 6th April 2017, you will be able to get an element for all of your children. However, you won't be able to get an element for any third or subsequent children you have who are born on or after 6th April 2017 . This is unless an exception applies.

If you are already receiving Child Tax Credit , an amount will not be included for any third or subsequent children born on or after 6 April 2017. This is unless an exception applies.

If you are already receiving Child Tax Credit and already have three (or more) children, you will not have any of your Child Tax Credit taken away. (However if you then go on to have further children on or after the 6th of April 2017 you will not receive an amount for them).


CTC are complicated to work out so for further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

Note: If your child or qualifying young person is receiving any Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment this can increase the amount of CTC that you are entitled to.

How do I claim CTC and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland you can contact the Tax Credits Helpline on 0345 300 3900 to claim and to report a change in your circumstances.

What happens if I disagree with a CTC decision?

If you disagree with a CTC decision you can challenge the decision. The way you go about this is different to the process for other benefits so for further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

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Child Benefit

You could be entitled to Child Benefit if you are responsible for a dependent child or qualifying young person (see above).

Child Benefit is paid at a set rate unless your (or any partner’s) income is over £50,000. If your (or any partner’s) income is over £50,000 contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further information.

For the eldest or only child or qualifying young person the rate is £20.70 per week. For each additional child or qualifying young person you get an extra £13.70 per week.

In England, Wales and Scotland you can claim by contacting the Child Benefit Office on 0300 200 3100 or you can download a Child Benefit claim form online.

In Northern Ireland you can claim by contacting the Child Benefit Office on 0300 200 3100 or you can claim online.

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Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is a means-tested benefit that is being gradually introduced across the UK.


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


UC is replacing Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. You receive one payment to cover all these different benefits if you’re entitled. These are referred to in this information as ‘legacy benefits’.

You apply for Universal Credit online, it is paid monthly, and the total amount you receive may be different to what you receive now.


When will Universal Credit (UC) affect me?

When UC will affect you will depend on your circumstances.

If you are not already getting a legacy benefit and are thinking of claiming benefits

Universal Credit is available across all areas of the UK and usually, you can no longer make a new claim for legacy benefits and will have to claim UC instead.   

Example: Ms Bennett resigns from her job to look after her daughter and claims Carer’s Allowance. Ms Bennett  is not on any other legacy benefit so is unable to claim Income Support as a carer and must claim UC instead.

If you are already getting a legacy benefit

If you are already getting a legacy benefit, and there are no changes in your circumstances, UC won’t affect you until you are migrated over to UC (called ‘managed migration’). At the moment, managed migration isn’t expected to happen until at least November 2020.

If you are already getting legacy benefits, and there is a change in your circumstances which would have meant you made a new claim for a legacy benefit, you may now have to claim UC. If you claim UC it will mean that all the legacy benefits you are getting will stop. It is important to seek advice if you are already getting legacy benefits and there will be a change in your circumstances, to ensure you’re aware of what will happen with your legacy benefits, how long you may have to wait for your first payment of UC and what you can do if you need money in the meantime. 

This information will be useful if you are not able to claim legacy benefits and have to claim UC, or if you are just wanting to find out more about UC for the future. If your situation is more complicated than this we would recommend you seek advice - see our Get in contact with us page for further information.

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Who can claim Universal Credit (UC)?

If you are making a new claim for benefits, and would previously have claimed a legacy benefit, you will have to claim UC instead if you  do not have 3 or more children.

As well as the above rules, to be eligible for UC you (and any partner if you are making a joint claim) also have to meet all of the following conditions:

  • you must normally be 18 or over - however there are some groups of people who can claim UC if they are aged 16 or 17, and importantly, one such group of people is those who have ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person’ – see below for definition
  • you and your partner must be under state pension credit age - see below for definition
  • you must normally not be in education, although there are some exceptions to this
  • you must not have capital (including savings) over £16,000
  • you must not have assessable income which is more than your maximum UC amount - see below section called ‘How much Universal Credit (UC) will I get?’ for more information
  • you must accept a claimant commitment - see below section called ‘What is the claimant commitment?’ for more information
  • you must meet the residence and presence conditions and you must not be subject to immigration control

Note: You have ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities’ if you satisfy the eligibility conditions for Carer’s Allowance (even if you don’t make a claim) or would do so but for the fact that your earnings are too high.

Note: A person is ‘severely disabled' if they receive the middle or the higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance, Armed Forces Independence Payment or Constant Attendance Allowance.

Note: 

Your State Pension age is the earliest age you can start receiving your State Pension. It may be different to the age you can get a workplace or personal pension. Your State Pension age is worked out based on your gender and date of birth and you can check this here

From 15th May 2019, if you are over state pension age and your partner is under, you will have to make a claim for Universal Credit. You won't be able to make a claim for Pension Credit until you are both over State Pension age.

 

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How much Universal Credit (UC) will I get?

UC is a monthly benefit, and each month is called an assessment period. At the end of each assessment period the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will work out how much UC you will get based on your circumstances during that particular assessment period. It is therefore important to tell the UC office about any changes in your circumstances as soon as they occur - see below section for 'What happens if my circumstances change'

To work out how much UC you will get the DWP will:

  • work out the maximum amount of UC for your circumstances
  • work out the amount of your household assessable income
  • deduct your household assessable income from your maximum UC amount

Your monthly UC payment is the total of your maximum UC amount minus your household assessable income.

The maximum amount of UC for your circumstances

The maximum amount of UC for your circumstances is made up of a standard allowance which depends on your age and whether you are single or in a couple, and various ‘elements’.

The standard allowance amounts are:

  • £251.77 a month if you are single and aged under 25
  • £317.82 a month if you are single and aged 25+
  • £395.20 a month if you are in a couple and both aged under 25
  • £498.89 a month if you are in a couple and one or both of you are aged 25+

The elements include:

  • child elements (plus additional amounts for disabled or severely disabled children)
  • a carer element (see below for further information)
  • a limited capability for work element (which was abolished for most new claims made after 3rd April 2017) and a limited capability for work-related activity element
  • a housing costs element
  • a childcare costs element

You can get the carer element of UC if you have ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities’ for a ‘severely disabled person’ (see above for definition). The carer element is £160.20 a month.

One important thing to note is that if the person you are looking after receives a severe disability premium (or addition) within their means-tested legacy benefits, they will lose this if your UC includes a carer element (regardless of whether or not you are also claiming Carer’s Allowance).

The amount of your household assessable income

Earnings are taken into account as income however certain claimants can deduct a work allowance. Other income taken into account includes some benefits (including Carer’s Allowance); pensions, income from capital etc.

Some income is disregarded including Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance, Child Benefit and any Child Maintenance you receive.

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What is the claimant commitment?

Universal Credit (UC) involves a ‘claimant commitment’ which is an agreement that you will meet certain work related requirements. If you claim UC as a couple you will each have your own claimant commitment. 

There are four types of work related requirements which may be included: work focused interviews, work preparation, work search and work availability.

Which work related requirements will apply to your claimant commitment will depend on which group you fit into:

  • the ‘no work related requirements group’ means you will not have to undertake any work related requirements
  • the ‘work focused interview only group’ means you will have to attend work focused interviews to prepare for work in the future - but you will not need to prepare for work, look for work or be available for work
  • the ‘work focused interview and work preparation group’ means you will have to attend work focused interviews and you will have to prepare for work, which could include writing a CV, work experience, training etc. - but you will not have to look for work or be available for work
  • the ‘all work related requirements group’ means you will likely have to attend work focused interviews and prepare for work - and you will definitely have to look for work by submitting job applications and attending interviews and be available for work

As a carer you will fit into the ‘no work related requirements group’ if:

  • you have ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person’ – see above for definition or
  • you have caring responsibilities for one or more ‘severely disabled people’ (see above for definition) for at least 35 hours a week, but do not satisfy the qualifying conditions for Carer’s Allowance – however you will need to satisfy your work coach that that it would be unreasonable for you to meet a work search and work availability requirement

Whilst this is good news for those carers that meet the above conditions, carers who fall outside of these conditions (such as those caring for less than 35 hours a week and those caring for someone who is not considered to be ‘severely disabled’) will have some work related requirements.

Such carers are likely to have both a work focused interview requirement and a work preparation requirement. They might also have a work search requirement and a work availability requirement; however for both of these your work coach can decide that there are temporary circumstances (such as caring) which would mean these would be unreasonable. You should therefore fully discuss your caring role with your work coach, and cover things such as:

  • if the person you are looking after is not considered to be ‘severely disabled’ explain why – for example have they not made a claim for DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance (and if not is there a reason why) or have they made a claim but are waiting on the outcome
  • why your caring role might impact your ability to fulfil work related requirements – for example you could describe your typical day and why you need to be available for the person you are looking after (i.e. if you need to attend school to sit with your child as and when required, if the person cannot be left alone, or if the person needs medication throughout the day and you need to help them with it etc.)
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How do I claim Universal Credit (UC)?

Claims for UC must be made online.

If you need help claiming online you can call the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 – the helpline adviser may be able to complete an online form on your behalf or may suggest you ask for help from a local advice organisation.

The date of your claim is usually the date your online claim is received by the DWP.

Backdating a UC claim

UC can only be backdated for one month, and only if one or more circumstances applied that meant you (and your partner if you are making a joint claim) could not reasonably have claimed earlier.

Advance UC claims

In theory, if you claim UC when you are not yet entitled, but the DWP thinks that you will be entitled within one month of the day you claimed, it can make an advance award. If this applies, your claim is treated as made on the first day on which you are entitled to UC.

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How is Universal Credit (UC) paid?

UC is a monthly benefit (with each month being called an assessment period) and is paid monthly in arrears.

The date of your claim is generally the start date of your first assessment period. In practice, you should get your first UC payment within seven days of the end of your first assessment period, and this date of payment will continue going forward (on a monthly basis).

In reality this means that you will have to wait for one month and one week (from the date of your claim) before you get your first UC payment. If you do not have enough money to last until your first UC payment you can apply for a ‘short term advance’ of UC. You can see further information on short term advances here.

If you live in Scotland, you have the choice of being paid UC twice a month rather than monthly. You can also have your UC housing element paid directly to your landlord.  You should be offered this option but do not have to take it up. You can read more about this here

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What happens if my circumstances change?

If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the DWP.

If you have an online account, you can report the change via your online journal. If you do not have an online account, you can report the change by calling the UC helpline on 0800 328 9344.

Generally, if a change of circumstances happens during an assessment period, it is treated as having happened on the first day of that assessment period.

However, a change of circumstances which means you get more UC is only treated as having happened on the first day of that assessment period if you report it before the end of that assessment period. If you miss this time limit the change applies from the start of the assessment period in which you reported it. This time limit can only be extended in exceptional circumstances. 

One exception to the above rules is  if you are entitled to more UC because you or your partner or a member of your household  are awarded a qualifying benefit, for example: Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance, the change takes effect from the date entitlement to the qualifying benefit began. 

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What happens if I disagree with a Universal Credit (UC) decision?

If you disagree with a UC decision, you can ask the DWP to look at the decision again. This is called a mandatory reconsideration. You must do this before you can appeal. 

If you disagree with the mandatory reconsideration decision you must lodge an appeal with the Tribunal Service and attach a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice with the appeal.

It is important to challenge a decision or get advice as quickly as possible because there are time limits that generally mean you must take action within one month.

You can see further information about challenging a benefit decision here.

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Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is a benefit that helps with the extra costs of long-term illness or disability, which can be either physical and/or mental. It is for people over their state pension age.

DOWNLOAD OUR ATTENDANCE ALLOWANCE FACTSHEET


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.


Attendance Allowance isn't means-tested. This means it can be paid regardless of your income, savings or National Insurance contribution record and is a tax free benefit. If you are a carer who has care needs, you can claim Attendance Allowance for yourself and this will not affect your Carer’s Allowance. The person who is cared for may also be eligible for this benefit.

Getting Attendance Allowance does not reduce other benefits, it may even increase them. If you have a carer then claiming Attendance Allowance may help them to qualify for certain benefits (such as Carer's Allowance). Attendance Allowance may also entitle you and/ or your carer to further help with council tax.

There are no restrictions on how you can spend your Attendance Allowance, and you do not have to spend it on paying for the care that you need. However, your council or trust can take Attendance Allowance into account when calculating how much you might need to pay for any care services you receive.


Who can claim Attendance Allowance?

To qualify for Attendance Allowance you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • be over your state pension age 
  • need help looking after yourself because you have a disability or illness
  • have had the disability or illness for at least six months (you can make your claim before the six months have passed, but you will not receive any payment until they have)
  • have no immigration conditions attached to your stay in the UK subject to some exceptions (if you have immigration restrictions on your stay in the UK claiming benefits may affect your future right to remain in the UK, so seek specialist immigration advice before claiming – you can search for immigration specialists here)
  • meet the residence and presence conditions.

Note: If you are terminally ill there are simpler rules which make it easier to apply – see here for further details.

 

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How much is Attendance Allowance worth?

There are two rates of Attendance Allowance. For 2019/20 these rates are:

Higher £87.65
Lower £58.70

 

You will be paid the higher rate of Attendance Allowance if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • you satisfy both the daytime and night-time tests
  • you are terminally ill (someone is classified as terminally ill if they are not expected to live longer than 6 months)

You will be paid the lower rate of Attendance Allowance if:

  • you satisfy the daytime or night-time tests

Specific rules apply for some kidney patients undergoing renal dialysis at least 2 times per week.

 

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Do I satisfy the tests for Attendance Allowance?

Attendance Allowance can be paid if you need help with your personal care or someone to check that you are ok. The legal term used for needing help with personal care is attention and the term used for needing someone to check on you is supervision – see below for more information.

Note: What matters is that you need either attention or supervision, not whether you are currently getting all the help that you need. So remember to think about the help you need, not just the help that you currently get.

Daytime test

To satisfy the daytime test you need to show that you reasonably need either one of the following:

  • frequent help with personal care throughout the day (ie about three times or more)
  • someone to check on you continually (ie frequently or regularly) throughout the day to make sure that you are safe

Night-time test

To satisfy the night-time test you need to show that you reasonably need either one of the following:

  • help with personal care at least twice a night, or once a night for at least 20 minutes
  • someone to check on you at least twice a night, or once a night for at least 20 minutes, to make sure that you are safe

If no-one is currently helping you with personal care you may be accepted as needing help if you have some difficulty coping.

If no-one is currently checking on you, you may still be accepted as needing supervision if you or another person may be placed in danger without it.


Attention - help with personal care

Personal care needs include help with things like:

  • getting in and out of a chair
  • bathing and washing
  • dressing and undressing
  • help with medication and treatment
  • getting in and out of bed and sleeping
  • communicating
  • eating and drinking
  • seeing (ie you need someone to see for you)
  • breathing
  • using the toilet
  • walking

The help must usually be given in your presence. Here are some examples of the help you may need:

  • you have arthritis which makes movement difficult - you need somebody to help you with daily activities such as getting in/out of bed, washing and dressing, and getting in/out of chairs
  • you are profoundly deaf and British Sign Language is your first language - you need an interpreter when communicating without sign language, to interpret spoken announcements, and perhaps also to interpret written English
  • you have a mental health problem and you need prompting to look after yourself and to do things such as taking your medication, eating, washing and dressing
  • you are visually impaired and need someone to assist in situations such as selecting clothes to wear, using cooking appliances safely and preparing food
  • you have a learning disability and need help with activities including managing money, writing letters and looking after your health and your hygiene

Supervision - needing someone to check on you

To qualify as needing supervision you must need someone to check on you regularly during the day. The checks must be to avoid a ‘substantial danger’ to yourself or others due to your disability.

For example, you may need such checks if you have memory loss, are in danger of falling, have poor awareness of potential dangers, have serious behavioural problems, lose consciousness or have seizures.

Substantial danger may include situations such as falling, leaving the gas on, self-harm, violence towards others or a serious risk to your health should you be left unsupervised. The potentially dangerous situation does not have to happen frequently, but you must need frequent checks to reduce the chance of harm.

 

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How to claim Attendance Allowance

England, Wales and Scotland

  • contact the Attendance Allowance Helpline on 0800 731 0122 (textphone 0800 731 0317)
  • click here to download a claim form

Northern Ireland

  • contact Disability and Carers Service on 0800 587 0912 (textphone: 0800 012 1574)
  • click here to download a claim form

If you ask for a claim form by phone, it should be stamped with the date of issue. This is the date from which the benefit will be paid if the claim is successful, providing you return the form within six weeks. If you are not able to complete the form by this date, please let them know and seek advice.

If you download the claim form or get one from a local advice agency, the claim will start from the date the completed form is received.

Read the form and the notes that go with it before you start to complete the form. You can attach pages to the application form if you think there is not enough space to explain the help that you need. Remember to add your name and national insurance number to the extra pages.

Completing the claim form

  • the form is long and complex so take your time to complete the form, and remember that you don’t have to complete it all in one go
  • list all of the help you need before completing the claim form
  • be honest with yourself about how long things take you and if you can do them safely
  • ask your carer, if you have one, to list all the help they give you to make sure you don’t miss anything out
  • remember that what matters is whether you need the help, not whether you are already getting it
  • think about the difficulties you have and what type of help you would need to make things easier
  • if you have equipment or adaptations that help you with your daily life explain any help that you need to use them, and any help you need from another person in addition to the equipment and adaptations
  • keep a diary for a week or so if you are unsure about how much help you need
  • you do not have to need help every day – the test is ‘most of the time’ - if your needs vary from day to day, make a list of the help you need on each day of the week or month, depending on how much the pattern varies
  • don’t just think about what happens on good days – get an overall picture of the help you need
  • explain any falls or accidents you have had
  • keep a copy of your form
  • you could ask for help to complete the claim form from a local advice agency - to find out about advice agencies in your area see the Advicelocal website

Note: The Attendance Allowance factsheet gives some examples of some questions that the claim form asks, which might be helpful when you are filling in the form.

Supporting information

You may have information about your health and the help you need from a number of different people. This might include:

  • letters from your GP or consultant
  • your care plan from your local council or trust – giving information about the help you need
  • a report from your occupational therapist – giving information about the equipment and adaptations you need
  • information from a Community Psychiatric Nurse
  • appointment letters 
  • prescriptions lists

You can send this information with your application.

If you are asked for more information

Once you have returned the form, the decision maker from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may contact you, your doctor or someone you mentioned on the form to ask for more information or to arrange for a doctor to visit you. In Northern Ireland this will be a decision maker from the Department for Communities (DfC).

If a doctor appointed by the DWP or DfC comes to visit you, your carer can be with you during the appointment. The doctor may want to examine you and ask further questions. It is a good idea to make a note beforehand of the things you want to tell the doctor about.

 

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If you have a terminal illness

Special rules allow people who are terminally ill to get help quickly. You are considered to be terminally ill if you have a progressive illness that is likely to limit your life expectancy to six months or less. It is impossible to say exactly how long someone will live and some people who receive Attendance Allowance under these rules live much longer than six months.

Under these special rules you do not have to satisfy the qualifying period (ie that you have had the disability or been in ill health for at least six months). You also do not have to have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the last 156 week before claiming – you only need to be present at the time of claiming.

If you are claiming Attendance Allowance under these rules, your claim should include a DS1500 form which is available from your GP or consultant. You (or the person making the claim on your behalf) will be given a freepost address for the DS1500 when you make the claim over the phone.

You will not have to complete the part of the claim form which asks about your personal care or supervision needs as you will automatically qualify for the higher rate of Attendance Allowance.

 

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The decision

You will receive a written decision on your claim that tells you what rates of benefit have been awarded and from what date. 

Attendance Allowance can be awarded for a fixed period or for an indefinite period. If you are awarded the benefit for a fixed period, the decision will tell you when the period ends. A new claim form will be sent to you well before the period of your award ends.

 

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Challenging the decision

If you are refused Attendance Allowance or it is awarded at a lower rate than you expected you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (England, Wales & Scotland) or the Department for Communities (DfC) (Northern Ireland) to look at the decision again. You must do this before you can appeal. This is called a mandatory reconsideration.

If you still disagree once they have done this you must lodge an appeal with the Tribunal Service (England, Wales & Scotland) or the Appeals Service (TAS) (Northern Ireland) and attach a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice with the appeal.

It is important to challenge a decision or get advice as quickly as possible because there are time limits that generally mean you must take action within one month. If you fall outside of this time limit then it may still be possible to challenge the decision. 

For more information you can see the "challenging a benefit decision" section of our website.

 

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What to do if your circumstances change

If you are paid the lower rate of Attendance Allowance and the help that you need increases, you can contact the DWP (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Disability and Carers Service (Northern Ireland) and ask for you case to be looked at again. You will be asked to complete a form giving details of how your needs have changed.

If you ask for an Attendance Allowance award to be looked at again there is always the risk that the award could be decreased rather than increased, therefore it is always best to get help from a local advice agency before you contact the DWP (or Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland). To find out about advice agencies in your area see the Advicelocal website

Going into hospital, residential care or a hospice

You or someone acting on your behalf should also tell the DWP (Disability and Carers Service in Northern Ireland) if you have been admitted to a hospital, a care home or a hospice, as this may affect your benefit.

Going into hospital

Attendance Allowance is not payable after the first 28 days in hospital.

Going into a care home

Attendance Allowance is not payable after the first 28 days in a care home, unless you are completely self-funding.

Special rules apply if your council or trust is temporarily funding your stay in a care home while you sell your former home. Seek advice if you are in this situation.

Attendance Allowance will continue to be paid if you are in a nursing home and the only help you get with your fees is an amount called the Registered Nursing Care Contribution from the NHS.

If you live in Scotland and receive free personal care towards residential care your Attendance Allowance will stop after the 28 days. To find out more about free personal care contact Care Information Scotland on 08456 001 001 or visit their website.

The linking rule

Any stays in hospital or a care home separated by 28 days or less are added together when working out when Attendance Allowance should stop.

Going into a hospice

Attendance Allowance will generally still be payable if you are terminally ill and in a hospice.

 

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Other help you might qualify for

Means-tested benefits

If you are already receiving means-tested benefits or tax credits (such as Income Support, income related Employment and Support Allowance, income based Jobseeker's Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Working Tax Credits) getting Attendance Allowance may mean that you become entitled to an increase in your benefits or tax credits.

If you or your partner already get means-tested benefits or tax credits, notify all of the offices which pay them to you that you are now getting Attendance Allowance.

An award of Attendance Allowance can also mean that you become eligible for a means-tested benefit or Tax Credits for the first time. So if you are awarded Attendance Allowance it would be a good idea to get a benefit check.

Any deductions that are being made from means-tested benefits because other adults share your household may be removed if you get Attendance Allowance.

You can find out what benefits you are entitled to and how much you should be paid by getting an online benefit check (see note below) or see our talk to us page for details of how to get further help. 


Note: You can get a benefits check online by visiting either of the following websites:

It will take about 20 minutes to complete. These online tools are not suitable for everyone. Special rules apply to some groups of people, for example students, people under 18, people in permanent residential care, UK nationals who live abroad and people who are not British or Irish citizens.


Blue Badge Scheme

The blue badge scheme allows people with severe walking disabilities to park in parking restricted areas. For example, if you have a badge, you can park free and for any length of time at on-street parking meters and on-street pay and display areas.

There are some situations where you will automatically be eligible for a blue badge, which include if you:

  • are registered blind
  • receive the war pensioners’ mobility supplement
  • have been awarded a lump sum benefit from the Armed Forces Compensation scheme (tariffs 1 to 8) - you have also been certified as having a permanent or substantial disability which means you can’t walk or find walking very difficult

If none of these apply to you, you may still be eligible for a blue badge subject to further assessment by your council or trust. This will be the case if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • you have a permanent or substantial disability which means you can’t walk or find walking very difficult
  • you have severe upper limb disabilities in both arms, drive a motor vehicle and have difficulty using parking meters
  • (Scotland only) you are unable to walk or virtually unable to walk because of a temporary but substantial disability which is likely to last for a period of at least 12 months but less than three years
  • (Sctoland only) if you have a "mental disorder or cognitive impairment". 

Public transport concessions

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland and receive Attendance Allowance you may be able to purchase a Disabled Person’s Railcard. For more information call 0345 605 0525 (textphone 0845 601 0132) or click here.

If you live in Northern Ireland and are aged 65 or over you will be eligible for a Senior Citizen SmartPass. Contact Translink for more information on 0845 600 0049.

If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and are disabled you may qualify for free local bus travel, although this is not directly linked to whether or not you receive Attendance Allowance. Contact your council or trust for further information.

If you live in Scotland and receive Attendance Allowance you will receive free bus travel. There are other circumstances where you may qualify for free bus travel – see the Transport Scotland website or contact your council for further information.

Companion entitlement (Scotland only)

If you receive Attendance Allowance, you will be eligible for a Companion Card, allowing a companion to travel with you for free. See the Transport Scotland website or contact your council for further information.

 

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Residence and presence

To satisfy the residence and presence tests you must meet both the following conditions:

  • you must have been present in Great Britain (which for this purpose also includes Northern Ireland) for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming (two out of the last three years)
  • you must be habitually resident

‘Present’ means physically present in Great Britain, although some people may be treated as being in Great Britain while abroad, eg members of the armed forces. Special rules apply to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and several others who Britain has agreements with. If you think this applies to you, you should seek advice. The AIRE Centre can provide advice on individual rights in Europe and can be contacted on 020 7831 4276 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The habitual residence test is a test to see if you normally live in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Republic of Ireland or the Isle of Man. The test will be applied if you have been living abroad. There is no precise legal definition of ‘habitual residence’. Relevant factors are where you normally live, where you expect to live in future, your reasons for coming to this country, the length of time spent abroad before you came here, and any ties you still have with the country where you have come from.

 

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