Two merging households, each with a claimant, have
complex entitlements, says Gary Vaux.
Families are complicated things. Especially if you are trying to
advise a family that includes both a disabled adult and a disabled
child. Even social workers who have knowledge of the benefits that
apply to “their” client group find it hard to give advice across a
broader range of problems. The case below shows how holistic
assessments are often required.
I have been told of a client who is in receipt of disability
living allowance (DLA) -Êmiddle rate care and low rate
mobility – in addition to long-term incapacity benefit and income
support. His girlfriend is now expecting his baby and she has asked
him to move in with her. She has three other children. One of these
is disabled and is also receiving DLA (high rate care and
mobility). The mother receives invalid care allowance (ICA), income
support and housing and council tax benefit.
How would their entitlement to benefit change if they claim as a
couple once he joins his girlfriend’s household?
This case is possibly even more complex than it looks. But the
family’s income can be maximised if we are methodical.
Once they move in together, they will have to claim as a couple,
not as single people. Then the girlfriend could give up claiming
ICA for her child and claim it for looking after her boyfriend
instead. He then claims ICA himself for looking after the child,
assuming they meet the rules concerning the amount of care
provided. ICA won’t be paid to him, as he gets incapacity benefit,
but he then gets underlying entitlement to ICA. This in turn gives
them double the carer’s premium within their income support, as
well as the disability premium (at the couple’s rate). It may seem
odd for one person to be both disabled and a carer, but it is
perfectly acceptable within the benefit system. If they don’t do
this, and keep the present arrangement of the woman claiming ICA
for her son, then they will only get one carer’s premium.
They can’t get the severe disability premium though, which he
should have been getting within his income support when single and
living alone. The disabled child premium and enhanced disability
premium are also both payable within their joint claim, as they
were within her claim initially.
Putting it all together, their income support entitlement
Couple – £83.25.
Three (and eventually four) children – £36.45 x 3 (4).
Disabled child – £30.
Enhanced disability – £11.05.
Family premium – £14.50.
Carers premium – £24.40 x 2.
Disability premium – £32.25.
From the grand total of £329.20 (£365.65 once the
fourth child is born), deduct three (or four) lots of child
benefit, his incapacity benefit and her invalid care allowance and
any child support she gets. The result is their income support.
The rejigging of the invalid care allowance shows the difference
between giving a claimant advice as opposed to information. It also
illustrates the difference between using a welfare rights service
instead of the Benefits Agency. The BA would not offer that kind of
advice, designed to organise the client’s claiming to maximum
Gary Vaux is head of money advice, Hertfordshire Council. He
regrets that he is unable to answer queries in person, either by
post or by telephone. If you have a question to be answered in
Welfare Rights please write to him c/o Community Care.