Benefits Expert: Why it’s always worth having a benefit check

This week's questions answered by our Benefits Expert.
This week's questions answered by our Benefits Expert.

Q. I am self-employed and have been for around seven years now. I have been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and I do not think that I will be able to continue working for much longer.

I have made an application for Personal Independence Payment which has been awarded at the standard rate for daily living and mobility.

I am single and currently live alone and I am worried about my benefit entitlement if I leave work as I have heard that self-employed people cannot claim certain benefits.

I haven’t been earning much and haven’t been paying National Insurance. Can you help? I live in Sunderland.

A. If you decide that you are unable to continue working at all then you should consider making an application for Employment and Support Allowance; this is an earnings replacement benefit for people who are out of work and you will need a sick note to make a claim.

Employment and Support Allowance can be paid as a contributions based benefit which is not means tested, however, this depends on you paying Class 1 or 2 National Insurance in the few tax years before your claim.

As you are not likely to qualify for contributions based Employment and Support Allowance, you will be assessed for Income Related Employment and Support Allowance instead; this form of the benefit takes into account any other income that you are receiving, although Personal Independence Payment is disregarded.

Employment and Support Allowance starts at £73.10 per week, however, you may be entitled to a Severe Disability Premium, which would increase this to £135.55.

To qualify for a Severe Disability Premium you must receive Personal Independence Payment for Daily Living as you are, be living alone or only with people on a similar disability benefit and not have anyone claiming Carer’s Allowance for looking after you. You may also be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction.

As you live in Sunderland, having a sick note will preclude you from claiming Universal Credit, which is why you would be applying for Employment and Support Allowance instead.

If you feel that you may be able to continue working, but that you may need to reduce your hours then you could look at claiming Working Tax Credit.

You are likely to meet the threshold for the disability element to be included in your award which means that you only have to work 16 hours per week to be entitled to Working Tax Credit.

The amount which you would receive is means tested based on your income in the current and previous tax year.

Again, you may be eligible for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction depending on your income.

As always it is worth having a benefit check completed in case there are other specific circumstances which need consideration and to get exact figures for what you should be receiving.