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Advice RE claiming UK benefits, paying NI contributions

Discussion in 'Work, Finances and Disability Insurance' started by InitialConditions, Jan 15, 2019.

  1. InitialConditions

    InitialConditions Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Hi all,

    Looking for some advice given it's possible I may have to go down the route of claiming benefits.

    First a little about me: I'm a single 31 y/o who will soon be living alone in a flat. I have savings but these fall under the limit over which you can't claim certain benefits.

    I am mild to moderately affected, and can do some work. I can get around OK - the main issue at the moment is cognitive issues; for example, I have some vision issues (trouble focusing, after-images, floaters etc), and staring at a screen really just doesn't feel right. It sort of hurts my brain. I'm sure some of you can relate.

    Full-time work is out of the question, though part-time work in the right job may be possible. I'm still in the earlyish stages of my illness, so I need to be careful. I had 7 months off in 2016, then went back to work and couldn't cope. I lasted the year-long contract, but for the last 7 months of it I was working around 10-15 hours a week, mostly from home. I have a diagnosis of 'CFS' and a decent doctor who knows how much I've struggled over the past 5/6 years. Aside from ME, I also have tinnitus and some hyperacusis, OCD (mild to moderate), IBS (generally manageable). I feel there is also some depression and anxiety going on too, which of course has got worse as the illness has progressed.

    When I was out of work I have some income from freelance work editing scientific papers for a company in New Zealand. I have restarted this recently. This work is sporadic, but can bring in a few hundred pound every month on average.

    My first question is: what should I be looking to claim? The area I like has Universal Credit, so I think I could go with the legacy system or UC?? I'm really bothered that my rent is going to just eat up all my savings over a relatively short period.

    Also, should I be using my freelance income to declare myself self-employed, and perhaps paying some NI contributions? I worry that I only have 2.5 years of pension / NI contributions given I did a PhD and also worked for a year for a European organisation who were not required to pay UK taxes.

    Thanks!
     
  2. hinterland

    hinterland Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I'd recommend joining the Benefits and Work website, and using their guides to fill in your benefits application form. I think it's the 'ESA50' form you'll need to complete if you're unable to work due to ill health or disability, regardless of what payment scheme operates in your area. You can download a PDF version of the form, save it to your computer and start drafting it in.

    You may also be able to get help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau, or telephone advice lines from the national ME charities, regarding NI contributions.

    Fill in the form a bit at a time, include up to date medical evidence. You may need to appeal if you're intially turned down, keep a copy of everything you send in. Stick with it, follow the process, keep repeating your symptoms over and over again, why you can't do things, what happens to you if you try to sustain a level of activity beyond your activity limits. Don't put a positive spin on it and say you can manage. If you can't do something reliably, repeatedly and safely, including how it affects you afterwards, that counts as not being able to do it. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019
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  3. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi @InitialConditions, I wish you well with your new situation. I hope you can find a way to balance work you can manage with getting the benefits you need.

    That's very good advice from hinterland. Use all the help and advice you can get from the experts.

    It's certainly worth finding out what the National Insurance situation is. You may need to pay self employed NI contributions to make you eligible for things like a state pension later in life, and contributions based benefits.
    If you are completely unable to work and get ESA your NI contributions are paid for you, I think.

    Living alone in a flat is expensive. Would you consider a flat share with someone quiet, or even lodging in someone's house? Hard, I know, when coping with ME, but considerably cheaper.
     
  4. Sly Saint

    Sly Saint Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    If you go down the ESA route and are successful (ie put into the support group) you will not be allowed to do any work (it proves you are capable of working), unless they declare you fit for work,then you would be expected to claim JSA (or Universal Credit) or grant you ESA but put you in the 'Work related Activity group'.
    re help with housing costs see:
    https://www.gov.uk/housing-and-universal-credit

    re national insurance credits
    https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-credits/eligibility

    If you have a local Citizens Advice bureau I found them very helpful when I first had to start claiming.
     
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  5. InitialConditions

    InitialConditions Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Thanks for the replies. Main confusion is whether I just look to start a Universal Credit claim, or whether I first have to go to the old system - ESA? Can anyone here advise on this? @Sly Saint youre reply makes me think the two systems are not independent...

    Can I rule out looking into PIP given that I don't really have mobility issues (except sore muslces and related problems with PEM) and can care for myself?

    PS I will definitely go to local Citizen's Advice at some point.
     
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  6. NelliePledge

    NelliePledge Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    If you’re successful in claiming ESA you should get National Insurance Credits so you wouldn’t need to get yourself set up as self employed for that reason https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-credits
    Seems likely that when you started working for the European organisation you would have been asked how you wanted social security contributions dealt with. Depending on what you decided you may be covered for that period https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tax-and...yees-and-volunteer-development-workers-abroad

    You could check your NI contributions record https://www.gov.uk/check-national-insurance-record


    Don’t want to complicate things further for you but as you’ve received that income from freelancing it still needs to be taken into account for tax. Depending on what you’ve earned including the freelance income and for your main job over the tax year (or years depending on the period you’re talking about) you may have paid too much or too little tax for each year. You should get advice- ask CItizens Advice for help with this too.

    All the best
     
  7. Sly Saint

    Sly Saint Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    "
    Universal Credit
    Universal Credit is being rolled out across the UK in stages.

    If you live in certain parts of the UK, you’ll have to claim Universal Credit instead of income-related ESA. In the rest of the UK, you can still make a new claim for income-related ESA.

    Universal Credit will eventually replace income-related ESA everywhere - you'll still be able to claim contribution-based ESA.

    If you’re in an area where Universal Credit has replaced income-related ESA already, the contribution-based ESA you could get is called ‘new style ESA’.

    Check if you live in an area where you’ll have to claim Universal Credit "

    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/b...efore-you-apply-for-esa/eligiblility-for-esa/
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019
  8. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    This from CAB tells you the points you get on PIP for different activities you can and can't do. You have to be able to do them repeatedly, reliably and in a timely manner.

    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/G...able-of-activities-descriptors-and-points.pdf

    https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/b...nd-carers/pip/appeals/how-decisions-are-made/

    You need at least 8 points separately in daily living and mobility to get each component at standard rate and 12 points for enhanced rate.

    If you do think you'd be eligible for PIP, get help filling in the forum or use the Benefits at Work guide and do it a bit at a time.

    Edited for clarity.
     
  9. InitialConditions

    InitialConditions Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Ok, it seems like as I live in an area where UC is available, and because I have some income (although very low), I will have to make a claim for UC.

    As for the freelance income, I should probably declare myself self-employed, even if I end up paying no tax...
     
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  10. InitialConditions

    InitialConditions Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It's also possible that I could pay some voluntary money now towards my NI/tax record so that I could claim for contribution-based ESA and not just income-related ESA (Universal Credit). Is this worth looking into?
     
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  11. NelliePledge

    NelliePledge Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    You get the same amount whether it is income or contributions based you also still have to do the work Capability Assessment as well so it’s not worth paying the NI purely for that reason.
     
  12. InitialConditions

    InitialConditions Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    If that is the case, how come you can claim contribution-based in addition to income-based? How would that work...?
     
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  13. NelliePledge

    NelliePledge Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    No it’s either or. You can claim contributions based if you have enough contributions irrespective of any savings you have. You can only claim income based if any savings is less than the limit and don’t need to have made any contributions
     
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  14. InitialConditions

    InitialConditions Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    This page (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/b...efore-you-apply-for-esa/eligiblility-for-esa/) states:
    There are 2 types of ESA - called ‘contribution-based’ and ‘income-related’. You can be eligible for either, or both at the same time.

    And also:

    If your income is low and you get contribution-based ESA, you may also get income-related ESA. Make sure you fill in both parts of the ESA claim form giving your details and those of your partner if you have one so that you can be considered for both parts of ESA.
     
  15. NelliePledge

    NelliePledge Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Yes just seen that I didn’t realise sorry for incorrect info - definitely go for both if relevant to you
     
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  16. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    You can claim both but it's not one added to the other, I think. If one is bigger than the other, you get the bigger one. Someone I know was on the income related one, but when they inherited a bit of money they were no longer eligible for that because their savings went over the limit, so reverted automatically to the contributions based one. (I think)

    And if you don't pay NI, or have it paid for you, you don't get the contributions to your state pension.
     
  17. Londinium

    Londinium Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Definitely. If you earn more than £1,000 in a year then you must fill out a self-assessment and can be fined for not doing so (even if you had no tax to pay). At that point you can choose to pay voluntary Class 2 NICs at £2.95/week - or if you earn more than £6,200 this would be mandatory anyway.
     
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  18. SallyC

    SallyC Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Hi, I can't give you exact advice on your situation but can offer my own experience. In the last 12 months I have claimed contributions ESA and UC. Neither has been straight-forward, prepare yourself to enter a world that makes no sense!

    If UC exists in your area I think you will have to claim that as opposed to income based ESA. I would seek advice re the self-employed issue; obviously you need to address any tax you might owe but if you register for UC as self-employed then they assume a very high minimum income which would leave you with very little allowance. I think you will need sicknotes from your doctor because otherwise they will put you in the seeking work category and expect massive effort from you which you may not be capable of.

    Contribution ESA is hard to apply for, it almost feels like they don't want people to know it exists. I have been flat out lied to whilst making my claim. You have to have had a years worth of minimum NI contributions paid in the last 2 years to be eligible. You can check your exact NI contributions on the You Gov website.

    It is essential to find out from CAB etc about the rules/system when you are claiming because I have had many occasions in the past year where I have had to correct mistakes and stand my ground on the phone to people who don't know how their own system works!

    Contributions ESA will get you money quicker if you are entitled but UC will ultimately possibly pay you more. You can claim for both even though they may try to dissuade you. Any ESA money will be deducted from your UC. Be prepared for it to take a while, I applied for UC 12 months ago, was put in the support group 2 months ago and still am not receiving my full entitlement.

    With regards to PIP from what you say I don't think you will be entitled; my severe ME technically makes me entitled to the lowest mobility element (approx £10/wk) but I haven't claimed because it is not worth the risks to my health. I was refused home visits for my ESA/UC despite doctors letters and dont want to risk causing a crash by having the assessment when there is a high chance they will refuse me. The extra £10/wk would be very helpful but it's not a risk I'm currently willing to take which is so awful in a system that supposedly helps people.

    Hope this helps x
     
  19. Agapanthus

    Agapanthus Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    My son gets both in that he qualified for contribution related ESA but his income and savings are so low that he ALSO has an underlying qualification for income related ESA. In his case because he gets PIP too, this means that he gets extra payments known as 'premiums' which are only given for those on income related benefits (eg severe disability premium).

    The problem is that these are being done away with under UC so there are different rules on some of these things and new claimants for UC don't get them. However it does mean that even if you get Contributions related ESA, presumably income is taken into account on other things even on UC (housing benefit presumably for example).
     
  20. hellytheelephant

    hellytheelephant Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    It is something of a minefield. I would personally go to Citizens Advice before doing anything else- they have been extremely helpful for us for both PIP and UC. Both have a fiendishly complicated list of rules.
     

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