Benefits calculator: from universal credit to council tax rebate, here’s what you’re entitled to

Take control of your finances and maximise your income.

The cost of living has risen steeply over the last year — faster than at any time in the last 40 years — as energy bills, the pandemic, Brexit, staff shortages and supply chain issues push prices up. But there is help available.

Every year people miss out on billions of pounds of free money they are entitled to but unaware of, including benefits, grants and help for bills and debts, according to financial specialists IncomeMax.

“There is an endemic issue of unclaimed benefits in the UK,” says Sonya Ruparel, at charity Turn2us. “The confusing, sometimes hostile, and often stigmatising world of social security has led to millions of people not claiming their entitlements.” 

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It’s a common misconception that benefits are there for people who are out of work, but tens of thousands of people who are working in low paid jobs have their incomes topped up by universal credit.  

The Big Issue asked the experts for the best tools to find out what you might qualify for and how much more money you could get.


What types of benefits are available from the UK government?

Universal credit is paid to people on low incomes, both in and out of work. Instead of a patchwork of means-tested benefits like housing benefit and income-based job seeker’s allowance, universal credit wraps them up into one single monthly payment. 

People aged 18 or over who are on a low income or are out of work can apply for universal credit.There is no limit on the number of hours people can work if they are employed and claiming universal credit, however payments will reduce depending on how much is earned. It can be applied for online.

You may be entitled to a discount on your Council Tax Bill, also called a Council tax Reduction. You can apply whether you are renting or own your own home, and whether you are working or not. A discount on your bill may be offered depending on where you live, how many adults and children live in the house, and the household income. .

Child Benefit is available to anyone who is responsible for bringing up a child under the age of 16, or under the age of 20 if they are still in education or training. Only one person can claim the benefit for one child. There are also benefits available for people with disabilities and people with long-term health conditions, as well as Carers Allowance for people who undertake at least 35 hours of unpaid care work per week.

Check whether you are eligible for a council tax rebate

The government has come up with the council tax rebate scheme in response to the cost-of-living crisis that will see millions of people across the UK face a steep decline in living standards and real-terms income – something that is now being exacerbated by the economic fallout of war in Ukraine

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will offer council tax rebates of between £150 and £200 to England’s households in bands A to D, with larger rebates for the most disadvantaged families. The devolved governments will receive funding to implement the same policy.

Sunak also announced a £200 loan for all households, which the government will cover upfront before customers repay energy companies in £40 instalments over the next five years. The loan – dubbed a “discount” by Sunak – will be handed out in October, when the energy price cap is scheduled to change again.

The Government has urged people to set up direct debits with their local council to receive the rebate, which will be paid directly into their bank accounts from April. If you do not pay council tax by direct debit, your local council should contact you with an invitation to make a claim. 

Cost of living support: make sure to claim your second payment

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced a £1,200 support package this year, paid to low-income households who need the most support. This also includes a £400 energy bills discount and a £150 council tax rebate paid to every household. 

More than eight million low-income families will receive a second cost of living payment, of £324 from the DWP by the end of November, following on from the first payment of £326 made in July. 

You do not need to apply for the payment, as it’ll be paid automatically in the same way as any benefit payments or tax credits you receive. 

There is also winter fuel payment available for eligible pensioners.

Use a benefits calculator to see what benefits you are entitled to

There are a number of different charities and social enterprises designed to help people get the loans, grants and benefits they have a right to access but might not know about.

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Turn2us benefits calculator

Turn2us has a free benefits calculator where you can check what benefits you’re entitled to. According to the charity, more than two million people have used the calculator to find information they deserve and need.

According to the charity’s recent research, more than seven million people are still missing out on an unclaimed £15.1bn of benefits, with 45 per cent of people having never checked what benefits they are eligible for.

Those “who goes on to claim the benefits our calculator tells them they are entitled to, receive an average of £5,320 a year. It is so important for people to check. We urge everyone to do a benefit calculation every six months as part of a regular financial health check,”  said Sonya Ruparel, director of programmes and partnerships at Turn2us.

Policy in Practice benefits calculator

Policy In Practice is another service which provides a free budgeting and benefits calculator.

Deven Ghelani, director of the social policy software and analytics company, claimed benefits himself and found the system so complex and confusing he missed  out on support he was entitled to. 

“Many people have suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic and have needed the support of the welfare system, perhaps for the first time,” he said.

“That’s why I started Policy in Practice, and built a free benefits calculator to help people understand what support you can claim to get back on your feet.”

Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert benefits calculator, created by Entitledto

This is the preferred calculator of money saving expert Martin Lewis, who says the tool takes just ten minutes to find out what you could be due. 

The free benefits  calculator available from Entitledto gives a step-by-step guide through things like tax credits depending on people’s individual circumstances.

Entitledto says: “We believe that everyone living in the UK should be able to understand what their legitimate entitlements are and honestly claim that amount from the government – social security is a key aspect of our society and a vital part of our modern communities.

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Every copy counts this Winter

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

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