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Are you missing out on help you are entitled to?

(Tip 6: )
If after Christmas, finances are a little tight, it might be worth checking that you are claiming all the financial support you are entitled to. Some people believe that because they are working they are not entitled to any benefits e.g. working tax credit, housing benefit – but you might be – it all depends on your particular circumstances. There may be other benefits you are entitled to, that you are not aware of and therefore not claiming.

Shelter Scotland’s Money and Debt advisers can help you carry out an income maximisation check to see if you are receiving all the financial help you are entitled to or you can do this yourself using either of the sites below:

Turn2us – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours.

entitledto – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work.

Housing Benefit
If you rent your home and have a low income, or receive benefits, you may be entitled to housing benefit to help pay your rent. Housing benefit, or rent allowance as it is sometimes called, is paid by the council to help pay your rent. You could be entitled if you are a tenant of the council or a housing association or if you are sharing the ownership of your home with a housing association (but you can only claim for rent or occupancy payments).

If you are entitled to it, housing benefit can cover your rent and some service charges, such as upkeep of communal areas or a caretaker. It can’t cover charges for heating, hot water, lighting or cooking or payments for any food or meals provided.

It can’t be used to pay your mortgage. If you have a mortgage and are eligible to claim benefits you may be able to get help to pay the mortgage interest.

Private Tenants
If you rent from a private landlord the benefit you will get is called local housing allowance.

Can I claim?
You may be able to claim housing benefit if you have a low income, or you are receiving welfare benefits such as the guarantee credit of pension credit or you are disabled. You usually won’t be able to claim housing benefit if you have savings of over £16000 or;
• you live in the home of a close relative
• you are a full time student
• you are an asylum seeker
• you are living in the UK as an European Economic area jobseeker.

How do I claim housing benefit?
If you think that you are eligible for housing benefit you should make a housing benefit claim. You can claim in writing – using a housing benefit claim form, by phone if your council has a special phone number for benefits claims or by email or online if your council allows it. More advice about how, can be found here.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to claim other benefits or grants. It is always best to apply for a grant if you can, rather than a loan which you will have to repay.

Community care grants: Community care grants are designed to help people in receipt of benefits or on a low income who need extra financial help to live independently.

Crisis grants: Apply for a crisis grant at your local council to cover the cost of essential items, for example living expenses while you wait for benefits.

Budgeting loans: A budgeting loan can help you spread the cost of essential items over a more manageable period. You may be eligible for a loan if you are claiming an income related benefit such as: Income Support, Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee credit of Pension credit. However be aware that this will be deducted from your on-going benefit payments and you could be repaying the loan for a long time.

Short Term Benefit Advance: This could help if you have made a new claim for a benefit but will be in financial need until you receive your first payment. (You must have been awarded the benefit or the decision maker considers that it is likely that you are entitled to the benefit). This is administered by DWP.

The advisers at Shelter Scotland will always:
• Provide FREE, Independent and confidential advice
• Do an income maximisation check to ensure you are getting everything you are entitled to
• Help you claim for new benefits including any backdated benefits
• Specialists advisers can represent you at tribunals (not available at all locations)

Visit our website to search our online information about money & debt or pick up the phone to speak to us. There is always something we can do to help.

To get in touch email:
moneydebtadvice@shelter.org.uk

Or call our free national helpline:
0808 800 4444.