Benefits you're entitled to: Employment and Support Allowance
However, many families do not get the help that they need, either because they do not understand the system, or because they think that they are not entitled to anything.
Here's the Moneywise guide to claiming Employment and Support Allowance.
What is it?
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is paid to those who have limited capability for work because of their sickness or disability but do not get Statutory Sick Pay.
How much might you get?
ESA comes in two types, just like JSA. Income-related ESA is means tested, but contributory ESA is non-means tested. Both types of ESA usually require you to have assessments to see if you are capable of working.
Contributory ESA is available for a year if you have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions. Income-related ESA is available to those on low incomes and with savings under £16,000. There are special rules for those diagnosed with a terminal illness.
The amount you will receive depends on whether you are in the assessment period of a claim (first 13 weeks), what level of support you are assessed as needing, your age and whether you live with a partner.
How can I work out what other benefits I'm eligible for?
The amount of money families receive from benefits varies wildly depending on circumstances. The government website gov.uk has details of how to contact different departments, while the tax credits helpline is available on 0345 300 3900.
The charity website Turn2us.org.uk includes a calculator that allows you to input all of your circumstances and work out your entitlements, while the charity also has a free helpline on 0808 802 2000.
Another benefits calculator is available at entitledto.co.uk.
A scheme originally established in 1944 to provide protection against sickness and unemployment as well as helping fund the National Health Service (NHS) and state benefits. NI contributions are compulsory and based on a person’s earnings above a certain threshold. There are several classes of NI, but which one an individual pays depends on whether they are employed, self-employed, unemployed or an employer. Payment of Class 1 contributions by employees gives them entitlement to the basic state pension, the additional state pension, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, maternity allowance and bereavement benefits. From April 2016, to qualify for the full state pension, individuals will need 35 years’ of NI contributions.
Child tax credit
A scheme started in 2003 that sought to replace a raft of other tax credits and benefits, the payout depends on the number of dependant children in a family, and its level of income. The amount of credit is reduced as income increases. It is payable to the main carer of a child, usually the mother, and is available whether or not the recipient is working.