How to claim benefits

You can read about different parts of the process for claiming benefits below. This process can be complex so it’s a good idea to ask for extra advice if you need it.

There are different ways of getting information and advice on benefits, as well as help with filling in forms, which can be long and complicated.

Choose the approach that is most convenient for you but don’t be put off. You have a right to claim benefits that you are entitled to. You may need to be persistent to get what you need when you are applying. It may be useful to get help from:

  • a professional, such as a social worker or welfare rights adviser at the local authority, who may be able to advise or tell you where you can get a benefits check locally
  • the website, where the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provides information about benefits and claim forms
  • the Pension Service or local Jobcentre Plus office, who should have information leaflets and claim forms. They may also be able to put you in touch with the DWP local visiting service, which offers home visits for vulnerable people to help with benefit applications
  • your local Citizen’s Advice – some areas have local benefits advice services. For full details, see ‘Other resources
  • websites of other organisations – see ‘Other resources’.

Qualifying for benefits

To qualify for any benefit, you will have to meet certain conditions. These vary according to the type of benefit. Some benefits may depend on different factors, such as:

  • whether you’ve paid or been credited with National insurance contributions over a period of time
  • the amount of your weekly income and savings (known as ‘means-tested’ benefits)
  • the practical effects of a disability or a caring role.

Sometimes, getting one benefit may increase your entitlement to another benefit, or it may prevent you from claiming something else. It’s best to get advice on this – see the information above on who to contact.

As a minimum, if you have a diagnosis of dementia you can often claim either Attendance allowance, or Personal independence payment (the daily living component) or Disability living allowance (care component). No new claims can be made for Disability living allowance for people aged 16 or over, and for most people it is being replaced by Personal independence payments (unless you were already getting it and were 65 or over when PIP began in April 2013). Some carers may be entitled to Carer’s allowance – check whether you can claim this and other benefits by talking to a benefits adviser.

Where to claim

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for administering the state pension and benefits. The system is organised as follows:

Type of benefit Who organises it?

Benefits for people of working age (including Universal credit)

Jobcentre Plus

State pension and other benefits for people at state pension age

Pension Service

Disability benefits

Disability Service Centre

Carer’s allowance

Carer’s Allowance Unit

Tax credits and benefits relating to children

Her Majesty’s Revenue and

Customs (HMRC)

For contact details see ‘Other resources’.

Making a claim

You can claim benefits either by filling in the relevant forms yourself and sending them in the post, or phoning a contact centre where an adviser will complete the form and send it to you to sign and return. Some benefits can be claimed by completing an online form on the website. Universal credit is usually claimed online.

Even if you don’t have all the information you need you should not delay making a claim. Some benefits can start on the day you first make contact to say you want to claim the benefit, whether you do this in person, by letter or by phone.

You will usually need to send in your claim form as soon as possible. If you’re required to send evidence you don’t yet have, such as a letter from your doctor, explain on the form that you will send it later. Some benefits can be backdated (where you can claim for an earlier period) if you were eligible before you made the claim. However you will usually need to ask for this to happen.

Keeping records of your claim

When making a claim, it can be hard to keep track of all of the information you’ve been given and who gave it to you. It’s best to:

  • keep brief notes of the main points of conversations about benefits, who they were with, and the dates when they took place
  • keep copies of any letters or forms you have received, as well as copies of those you have completed and returned. You may need these if there are delays in sorting out your claim, or if your claim is refused and you want to challenge the decision
  • have all the relevant details with you if you want to discuss your claim over the phone or in person.
Dementia Connect support line
Our dementia advisers are here for you.

Challenging a decision

Many people receive the benefits they are entitled to with no problems. However, if you believe your claim has been incorrectly turned down, or that you have not been awarded the right amount of benefit, you have the right to challenge the decision.

To do this, call (or write if possible) the office that made the decision about your benefit and ask them for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’, explaining why you are challenging the decision. (The contact details should be on their letter.) If they do not alter their decision, you may be able to apply to an independent appeal tribunal.

You can ask for a reconsideration if any of the following conditions apply:

  • You think the office dealing with your claim has made an error or missed important evidence.
  • You disagree with the reasons for the decision.
  • You want to have the decision looked at again.

You normally need to ask for mandatory reconsideration within one month of the date of the decision. Some decisions can’t be reconsidered – if yours can’t be, your decision letter will say this.

Challenging a decision can be complex, and seeking advice as soon as possible can really help. Ask your local Citizens Advice or welfare advice centre (if you have one). Your local authority may have a welfare rights unit.

How to complain

If you have a complaint about how your claim was dealt with – whether or not you are challenging a benefit decision – tell the office you have been communicating with as soon as possible. You can contact them by phone, in person or in writing using the contact details at the top of any letters you have received.

When you contact an office, it will help if you include:

  • your National insurance number
  • your full name, address and contact numbers
  • what happened, when it happened and how it affected you
  • what you want to happen to put things right.

Managing benefits on a person’s behalf – appointeeship

If someone is not able to manage their benefits themselves, another person can be chosen to receive the benefits on their behalf. This person is known as an appointee.

For example, if you have dementia and someone else is prepared to act on your behalf, they should contact the DWP and request an appointeeship assessment. If you are the person’s carer you might do this.

The DWP must agree that the person is suitable to act as an appointee. Wherever possible, the appointee should be a close relative who either lives with the person with dementia or visits them regularly. In certain circumstances, the appointee might be a friend, neighbour, or professional, including a representative from the local authority or solicitor.

An appointee is responsible for making and maintaining benefit claims, and collecting payments on the person’s behalf. The appointee is also responsible for reporting any changes in the person’s circumstances to the DWP.

Appointeeship is only used to manage the person’s benefits. If they have other assets there are other ways that these can be managed on their behalf, such as with a Lasting power of attorney or deputyship. For more information see Lasting power of attorney and Deputyship. In Northern Ireland see Enduring power of attorney and controllership.

Contact the relevant benefit phone line to ask about becoming an appointee (see 'Other resources').

Information in other languages

If you need information about benefits in other languages, there are lots of ways to get this. You can ask for an interpreter if you’re calling to enquire about a benefit. The service will either put you in touch with a staff member who can interpret, or arrange for another interpreter or telephone interpreting service.

You can also ask the relevant office for written translated information or contact Citizens Advice for more information.

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