BENEFITS EXPERT: Is it worth continuing with a claim for Universal Credit?

Q. I currently receive a monthly occupational pension, Personal Independence Payments at the standard rate for daily living and mobility, and have some savings.

I live by myself and own my home outright, I am liable for council tax. I’ve not worked for some time and as such have not paid National Insurance contributions. I currently have no engagement with The DWP other than my PIP claim. My GP recently provided me with a fit note even though I am not job seeking through the DWP so I was advised to claim Universal Credit on sickness grounds but due to a combination of my pension and savings my award was calculated to be zero. Is it actually worth continuing with this claim and also can I claim any other help?

A. Without getting details of your income and savings information it is difficult to assess if it is worth continuing with this claim. If you do continue claiming on sickness grounds then after 13 weeks the DWP will normally send you for a Work Capability Assessment. If the DWP decide you have no capability to do any type of work then the maximum Universal Credit you can be paid increases so you MAY get some money. Even if you get no actual money submitting fit notes will entitle you to have National Insurance credits which can help towards your State Retirement Pension but again if there is no gap in you NI contributions for your pension then there is no benefit in continuing with the claim. You can get a Pension forecast by calling DWP on 0800 731 0175 or via the government website, this will advise if you have a deficit in your contributions.

You may be entitled to Council Tax Reduction provided your savings are not £16,000 or over. The calculation of Council Tax Reduction differs to Universal Credit so it is worthwhile looking into this. You should always get the single person discount of 25% if you live by yourself. Finally if you have any ongoing costs for things such as prescriptions, eye tests, dental care, etc. then help is available. Again this is a means-tested assistance scheme but the calculations used differ from Universal Credit.