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What Government Support is Available for Workers?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 29 Jan 2015 | comments*Discuss
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There are various forms of state support for those without jobs in addition to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and Income Support (IS). Depending on their circumstances people can apply for housing benefit, help with childcare, illness and disability, for example. In fact, many of these benefits are available to people who are in work too – some to all workers, and some only to those on low incomes.

Where to Go First

Most benefits are managed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and dealt with through Jobcentre Plus offices, which are located in major towns and offer telephone and internet services. There are some agencies that also get involved, such as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that deal with Working Tax Credits, Guardian's Allowance and Child Benefit, and the Child Support Agency (CSA).

The concept of giving out benefits in the form of tax credits is relatively new and in theory ought to save on administrative costs. Rather than everyone paying tax and then some people getting money back in the form of benefits, the benefit is simply deducted from the tax that the receiver of the benefit pays. So that portion of tax is never collected, and the net effect to the claimant is the same as taking the money away in tax, then giving it back in benefit. In practice, because the computer systems to administer it were not ready on time, it has been a farce and wasted a lot of time and money.

Specific Benefits

JSA and IS aside, most of the benefits are very specific and divided by the category in which they are applied: carers, parents, disabled people and those over the age of over 50. A benefit will only be given to those who qualify, so for example, people claiming benefit for caring for an elderly or disabled relative would actually need to provide proof of that care.

Most people on JSA will be able to claim Housing Benefit towards rent or mortgage payments. But the system that used to pay the whole of a mortgage, regardless of how large it was, was dismantled after the recession of the early 1990s, when newspapers were full of stories about redundant fat cats having their huge mortgages on their expensive houses being paid by the taxpayer.

People on JSA also ought be able to claim the maximum Council Tax Benefit. There are a number of other individual benefits such as help with the expense of a funeral, free schools meals and prescriptions and help with newborn children. Then there is the Social Fund, which can give amounts of money to people on low incomes to help with specific one-off expenses when there is no money coming into the household at all, although the amount in the Social Fund is strictly limited.

Non-Financial Support

There is, of course, lots of support other than financial support available to people looking for work. Jobcentres will help people look for work, deal with living on a low income, or start a business, and will also help with illness or accidents caused by work. After a certain length of time without success in finding work, people may be put on the New Deal programme, where an advisor will look at their situation and perhaps recommend re-training and other help in order to get them back to work.

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@Karen - I think if he is fit and able, he would be expected to go and look for another job through the winter season, or budget through the summer when business is booming and you can work long hours in order to save up for the rainy winter. But, I don't think he would be entitled to Jobseekers, although he might be entitled to Income-based JSA, so it's worth getting in touch with the Jobcentre. I know a gardener who goes to India every winter where it is cheap to travel and to live, and has a great holiday at the same time!
Michelle - 29-Jan-15 @ 2:59 PM
Hi My brother in law is a self employedGardner, during the winter months he hasvery little or no work at all. Is there any financial help for him during the times when he has no or little work? Thank you Karen
Karen - 28-Jan-15 @ 6:31 PM
Can you tell me what happened to unemployment benefit and why you are no longer entitled to six months payments when you become unemployed despite paying NI for 37 years?
sooty - 24-Mar-13 @ 9:35 AM
I have been employed as a care assistant in a nursing home for the last 4 years.I have developed pain in my shoulder and despite physiotherapy and medication, the pain is getting worse. I think I may have to stop work soon because of the pain.What help is available from the. I am single and live alone.
geete - 14-Nov-12 @ 12:08 PM
I found a part time job and my income will be 830 pounds per month. My accomondation fee is 725 pounds. Could I have some financial support? What should I do? Thank you.
VASIA - 23-Sep-12 @ 2:03 AM
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