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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Understanding the benefits system

The benefits system provides practical help and financial support if you are unemployed and looking for work. It also provides you with additional income when your earnings are low, if you are bringing up children, are retired, care for someone, are ill or have a disability.

Who pays benefits

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) manages most benefits through Jobcentre Plus offices. Benefits and entitlements for pensioners are dealt with through a network of pension centres which provide a face-to-face service for those who need additional help and support. You'll also often deal with other agencies or government departments, such as your local council or HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

DWP Customer Charter

DWP aims to provide a high quality and efficient service to its customers. The DWP Customer Charter sets out the standards customers can expect and what their responsibilities are in return.

People of working age

Benefits and services for people of working age, for example Jobseeker's Allowance, are managed by Jobcentre Plus offices around the country.

Jobcentre Plus will help you with:

  • finding work
  • starting your own business
  • managing on a low income
  • illness or accidents caused by work

Pensioners and people planning for their retirement

The Pension Service, which is part of the DWP, provides services to:

  • anyone planning for their retirement
  • people approaching retirement
  • people who've already retired
  • employers
  • pensions providers and advisers

The Pension Service looks after benefits and entitlements such as the State Pension, Pension Credit and Winter Fuel Payments.

Families and children

Jobcentre Plus looks after benefits and services for families, including those:

  • bringing up children, including children with special needs
  • managing on a low income, including help with health costs

The Child Support Agency (CSA) is part of the DWP and is responsible for running the child support system. It assesses, collects and pays child maintenance.

HM Revenue & Customs deals with Child Benefit, Guardian's Allowance and tax credits.

Disabled people and carers

The Disability and Carers Service, which is part of the DWP, is responsible for benefits and services for people who are sick or have a disability, for example, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance.

Your local Jobcentre Plus office is your first point of contact for finding out more about these benefits and services.

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit

Your local council looks after Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

Who can claim benefits

To qualify for a particular benefit you must meet the conditions that the government specifies. For example, to claim Child Benefit you must be responsible for bringing up a child.

To apply for a benefit you'll normally have to fill in an application form and provide supporting information.

How benefits are paid

Direct Payment is the normal way benefits are paid. It is a safe, convenient and efficient method of payment that gives customers access to a wide range of financial services.

Benefit Integrity Centres (BIC)

DWP uses Benefit Integrity Centres to make sure you've been paid the right amount of money. You may be contacted by a BIC if you're claiming any of the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance

Where to get advice

Jobcentre Plus

If you're of working age, Jobcentre Plus offers advice on the various benefits you can claim.

The Pension Service

If you're a pensioner or planning for retirement, contact The Pension Service for information on pensions and related benefits.

The Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB)

For free, independent benefits advice, contact your local CAB.

Additional links

Benefits advice online

Get benefits advice by using this online tool to answer questions about your situation

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