Our Benefits Expert, Lionel Roberts, gives advice on how to find out what you’re entitled to and how to make a claim.
Financial Help on Separation
The unthinkable has happened and your partner has left you and the children. Obviously one of the first things that comes to mind is “How can I afford to live”. There is help out there for you. Obviously each case will be dealt with according to your own specific circumstances (Income, Savings, Capital etc), the important thing is to see what help is available to you.
The help you get will depend mostly on whether you are working or not, as this has a huge impact on the level of financial help you may receive.
A couple of things to do regardless of whether you are working or not are:
- Ensure that the Child Benefit is in your name and is being paid to you, as you are now the main carer of the children.
- Contact the local Council and request a single person discount on your Council Tax (this at least will reduce payments until any benefit is sorted). The current single person discount is 25%. There may be further discounts available depending on your personal circumstances – details can be found by clicking the link to Council Tax Benefit below.
- You can contact the Child Benefit Helpline on: 0845 302 1444
- You can get your local Council telephone number from here:Local Council A-Z
- If you don’t know which Council you come under you can find out by entering your postcode here: Council Post Code Finder
If you are not working then your first step would be to make a claim for Income Support. The link below is to the DWP leaflet on income support which outlines the qualifying conditions and eligibility for this benefit.
You can make a claim by phoning the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 0 55 66 88. Whilst making a claim to Income Support, you should also make a claim for Council Tax Benefit. This will ensure that your Council Tax is paid and will not affect your entitlement to Income Support. Information on Council Tax Benefit can be found here: Council Tax Benefit
If your partner was paying the Rent/Mortgage and has stopped paying it – you should make a claim for Housing Benefit or Support for Mortgage Interest. This should ease the financial burden on you. Detail of what these two benefits provide can be found here:
Further information or help can be obtained from either Jobcentre Plus or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
If you are not working and your children are old enough to exempt you from a claim to Income Support, you should make a claim to Jobseeker’s Allowance. Details on qualifying criteria can be found here: Jobseeker's Allowance. You can make a claim by phoning Jobcentre Plus on 0800 0 55 66 88.
You will also be able to make a claim for Housing Benefit or Support for Mortgage Interest and Council Tax Benefit whilst making a claim to Jobseeker’s Allowance. Further information or help can be obtained from either Jobcentre Plus or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Child Tax Credit
If you are already claiming Child Tax Credit, contact the Tax Credit Helpline on 0845 300 3900 to inform them of your change of circumstances, also check that any claim is being paid direct to you. You may actually be entitled to more if your previous claim was reduced due to income. If you were exempt from Child Tax Credit due to income – contact the helpline and make a claim based on your new circumstances.
Working Tax Credit
If you work 16 hours or more you should also make a claim to Working Tax Credit in your own right, this can be done by calling the helpline number above. The amount you may receive will depend on the level of income you have.
Be warned, you may be initially told that a claim to Working Tax Credit may not payable due to household income in the previous tax year. Continue with the claim and once you receive your award notification, call the helpline and ask for an urgent change of circumstances to be done, so they can process a claim based on the current income level.
Information on Tax Credit and levels of awards can be found here: Tax Credit Information
You can use the tax credit calculator to get an idea of any entitlement, this can be found at the link below – read the information first before proceeding to the questionnaire: Tax Credit Calculator
Child Maintenance Support
One of your main concerns will obviously be the welfare of the children. It is important that the financial welfare for the children does not end when your partner has left, after all he/she does have a responsibility for the financial welfare of the children. The two main options you can choose from for arranging a child maintenance agreement are:
- making a private arrangement with the other parent
- Using the Child Support Agency (CSA) as the statutory maintenance service to calculate and collect maintenance for you
- A claim for Child Maintenance Support may have an effect on any Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, it will not affect Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit or Tax Credit entitlement. Details of how it can be affected can be found here: How child maintenance affects benefits
If your partner has moved abroad, all is not lost, you may still be able to make a claim as the UK has reciprocal maintenance arrangements with more than 100 countries and territories worldwide.
This is the full list: REMO countries.
Information on how to make a claim can be found here: Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders (REMO)
If you already have a court order for maintenance from when your ex-partner still lived in the UK, you should go to the court that made the order. Use the link to the Court Finder below to find contact details for the court. Staff at the court will be able to explain the process you will need to follow. Court Finder
If you don’t already have a court order for maintenance (if you only have a CSA assessment, for example), you should contact your local magistrates' court or family proceedings court about applying for maintenance from the ex-partner living abroad.