Ask Anna: Benefits

Take a look at the questions we’ve been asked about benefits during the pandemic. Click the question to read Anna’s response.
Got a question you’d like Anna to answer? Send it to us using the form below.
How do I claim Employment and Support Allowance?
First, check if you are eligible. You can find that info here: If you are eligible, you can call jobcentre plus to make a claim: Telephone: 0800 169 0350. It may be that you can claim for Universal Credit instead, in which case, check you’re eligible here: And apply online here:
I’ve been told to claim Universal Credit. Where do I even start?

Start by checking to see if you are eligible here:

If so, complete the online application here:

The system is currently dealing with a heavy backlog, so get the claim in as soon as possible. One tip: The DWP have said the UC application website is least busy after 9pm (with the absolute quietest time at 4am). If possible, complete your claim after 9pm for the smoothest process.

The digital skills people at LearnMyWay have lots of information about UC and how to manage a claim in the form of a short course here

And, of course, Quids in! has a guide to the whole system available here

I live alone in a 2-bedroom house, and usually pay the under-occupancy charge (bedroom tax). My son has had to come and live with me and we don’t know how long it will be for. It’s costing me extra on food and utility bills – do I still have to pay the bedroom tax while he’s here?

You will need to inform housing that he has come to live with you, that may either be housing benefit if you receive that, or Universal Credit where you can report a change on your journal. Both agencies will recalculate your entitlement.

There may a be a reduction in benefits if they expect him to make a claim and contribute to the household.

If you are struggling to cover the cost of essentials because of issues with your housing benefit/element, contact your local council to see if you are eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

I don’t have much in savings but does my house (or my car) count as an asset that will affect whether I am eligible to claim?

Assets are not taken into account when claiming Universal Credit, but savings of £6,000 and over are. Owning your own home and car will not stop you claiming UC.
Infact there may be some extra benefits you can apply for as a part of the Universal Credit Claim.

This info is from the government in relation to UC:
“Owner-occupiers who are leaseholders can get help with service charges paid as a housing element within Universal Credit. Although you normally have to serve a waiting period of approximately nine months from the date of your Universal Credit claim before you can receive this help”.

“Help with mortgage interest payments is available in the form of a loan on which you will be charged interest. This is separate from your claim for Universal Credit. Please read our Support for Mortgage Interest Loan guide for more detailed information about this loan”. See the Turn2Us website for more info.

I’m self-employed and have lost my income. I’m now applying for UC, but am worried that the money I’ve put aside to pay my tax will now be calculated as savings and reduce the amount I can claim. Is this the case?

The DWP have suggested any savings put aside to pay tax will not be counted as ‘capital’ and so won’t impact the amount we are eligible for when claiming UC. Ideally, the money should be in a business account, but even if it’s in our personal account, if we can prove it’s for tax purposes, we should be able to have it discounted.

Martin Lewis has said: ‘If you’ve got savings to pay tax, put a note of this in your online UC journal, and tell them when they call, and it should be discounted from the calculations.’