A is for asylum seekers, who are still mainly outside the benefit system, despite what the national press might say.
B is for benefits agency. It has ceased to exist. It is deceased. It is an ex-agency. It is no more. So stop putting it in your leaflets.
C is for carers allowance. Carers who are 65 or over can claim it but are often told that they won’t actually get any money because it is less than their retirement pension. What they are not told is that their “underlying entitlement” to CA is worth extra housing and council tax benefit and pension credit.
D is for disability living allowance. Some councils unlawfully take DLA (mobility) into account when deciding whether to help with transport costs, for example, to day centres.
E is for earnings disregards. How realistic is the £5 limit for the unemployed?
F is for fairer charging. It should be working well in your area by now.
G is for guarantee credit. A lot like minimum income guarantee, so we generally understand this part of pension credit.
H is for housing benefit. Don’t be surprised to see it eventually replaced by local housing allowances.
I is for independent advice, which must be protected if your council sets up a joint team. Talking of which…
J is for joint teams. The Pension Service is very excited about this idea, merging its outreach staff with fairer charging teams.
K is for kidney dialysis, the only entry under K in the excellent Child Poverty Action Group benefits handbook.
L is for Leeds, one of the pilot areas for local housing allowances. Hasn’t that city been suffering enough lately?
M is for minimum income guarantee. May it rest in peace.
N is for new claim forms for attendance allowance. Are you using them yet?
O is for old claim forms for attendance allowance – must I remind you again?
P is for pension credit. The Pension Service is patting itself on the back over the launch of PC, but doubts remain about the quality of service and advice being provided.
Q is for not having to queue in the Post Office behind people cashing benefit books; or so the government hopes, when payments are made through bank accounts.
R is for refugees. Not an interchangeable term with asylum seeker (Daily Mail, please note).
S is for savings credit – the part of pensions credit that seems to fool most of the people most of the time.
T is for tax credit. If we thought it was badly administered last year, just wait until April 2004 when all cases have to be reassessed, income support claimants are included and around 1 million recipients get letters about their “overpayment”.
U is for unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors. Councils can’t avoid their aftercare duties by using section 17 Children Act 1989 powers to provide accommodation.
V is for verification – a means of combating fraud. It has slowed down benefit processing enormously.
W is for who is Andrew Smith? (Social security secretary, since you ask).
X is for confidentiality. I can’t say any more than that.
Y is for young people. The Treasury is conducting a review of their benefit entitlement. We hope for good news in 2004.
Z is for zzzzzz – the noise often heard by welfare rights training staff. The fact that benefits can be boring is not our fault, OK?
Gary Vaux is head of money advice at Hertfordshire Council. He is unable to answer queries by phone or fax. If you have a question to be answered please write to him c/o Community Care.