The UK is a welfare state, meaning the government plays a key role in the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens. Based on the principles of equal opportunity and equitable distribution of wealth, the state takes public responsibility for those unable to afford the minimal provisions needed for basic living.
People can apply for state benefit for a number of different reasons. The most common claimants are those who are unemployed and struggling to find work. There is also help for parents who need to support children, but are unable to afford the costs of this care. Help is also given to those who cannot afford to rent or buy a property, thanks to housing benefit. Sick or disabled people can also receive money and support to help them deal with their health problems.
You cannot receive more than £500 a week if you are in a couple or single parent household. If you live in a single adult household without children, this total amount is reduced to £350. This cap on benefits applies to the following benefits:
You should contact your local benefits office, who will ask you to fill in an application form.
The most important piece of information you will need is your National Insurance (NI) number, without it you cannot receive any benefits. You can find your NI number on your payslip, P60, P45 or any letter from the tax office. Alternatively, you can call the National Insurance Registration Helpline on 0300 200 3502.
Sometimes, you may find that you have been overpaid or underpaid in benefits you are entitled to. You should inform the benefits office or relevant organisation as soon as possible. If you have been overpaid, you may be asked to pay back the extra amount.
If you intentionally withhold or provide wrong information so that you can receive more benefits, you are at risk of committing benefit fraud. This is a criminal offence. To make sure you do not commit benefit fraud, you must report any changes in your circumstances to HMRC.
Should the authorities suspect that you are committing benefit fraud, you will be visited by either the Department for Work and Pensions, HMRC or your local authority. You may have to attend an interview or be visited by fraud investigation officers. If you find yourself in this position, you should seek legal advice.
If you are caught, you could lose all or part of your benefits. You could also be prosecuted, and end up with a criminal record and possibly a prison sentence. You may also have to pay back any overpayment or a penalty.
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