Benefits Expert: Employment and Support Allowance explained

Benefits issues can bring concerns.
Benefits issues can bring concerns.

Q. I was claiming Incapacity Benefit before Employment and Support Allowance came out and I was getting around £115 per week. I was told my Incapacity Benefit was more than Employment and Support Allowance, but the DWP were going to increase the amount until Employment and Support Allowance caught up. I had a benefit check and was told that my Employment and Support Allowance was lower than it should have been and that I was missing out on money. The DWP has sorted it and I received a backdated payment, but why was I told I was getting an increase when actually being underpaid?

A. When Employment and Support Allowance came out it was lower than some people’s Incapacity Benefit, but this was rectified by including an increase known as transitional protection. The aim of transitional protection was to make sure that people weren’t disadvantaged by being transferred to Employment and Support Allowance.

Employment and Support Allowance is paid in two ways; Contributions Based, which is the equivalent of Incapacity Benefit and Income Related which is similar to Income Support on the grounds of ill health. If you were originally claiming Incapacity Benefit then you would have been transferred to Contributions Based Employment and Support Allowance, which, in your case, was paid with transitional protection to make sure that you didn’t get less than you were used to; however, some people on Employment and Support Allowance are entitled to a top up from Income Related Employment and Support Allowance. This top up is a means tested amount and people with other income may not qualify for it, so if you had a private pension for example, you may not receive the full amount of the top up. In a lot of cases, claimants were not assessed for the means tested part so no decision was ever made on whether or not they were entitled to the top up, this will be the part that you have recently had backdated.

Contributions Based Employment and Support Allowance pays single people in the Support Group £109.65 per week, however, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance would top up this amount by a further £15.90 if the claimant had no other income and sufficiently low savings; this is the part that is often missing, so we would always recommend a benefit check for people in this situation.

Q. I am working part-time and I have two sons aged 13 and six. My youngest has just been awarded low rate Disability Living Allowance care for his problems with eating. Will this affect anything else that I claim? I am getting Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit and Tax Credits.

A. You should inform HMRC that your son has been awarded Disability Living Allowance as this will increase your Child Tax Credit entitlement. Your Child Tax Credit usually increases by around £60 per week. Your change in Tax Credits should be reported to your local authority so that your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction can be amended, but there is likely to be little change with those benefits.