Lee Healey
Benefits Advice Expert

Lee Healey is a welfare benefits and tax credits expert. He is the managing director of IncomeMAX, a Community Interest Company that helps people to understand their benefit and tax credit entitlement. Lee appears regularly on a range of BBC television and radio programmes commenting on the benefits and tax credits system and writes a 'Benefits Doctor' column for national and regional publications.

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Q.

If i cancel my JSA, is the DWP obliged to inform the Council and what action will they take. Are they obliged to cancel my Housing and Council benefit?

A.

Effectively if you are receiving 'maximum housing benefit' due to receipt of Income-based JSA, and your IB JSA claim is stopped for whatever reason, then you should re-claim HB and help with council tax based on a low income. Seek some further advice and find out exactly how to inform the DWP and your local council if you have had a change in circumstances. Your local CAB should be able to help.

Lee Healey

IncomeMAX

Q. I have been estranged from my husband for years. He claims tax credits for our 2 children that live with him. I live elsewhere and claim esa as a single disabled person. Long story but due to financial reasons to house the kids 14 and 16 we have to buy a property together after selling our empty house which is 100 miles away which is empty. I am worried tax credits/benefits will say we have always been together and want overpayments back and prosecute for fraud, i have heard all sorts of horror stories that these depts are saying people are couples when they are not. Help!!!!
A. I'd seek some urgent advice on this from the DWP before going ahead.

The issue of living together as a couple is subject to a DWP decision maker 'decision' and takes into account a range of factors.

It sounds from your email that you will now be co-habiting again. If this is the case, and you are buying the house together, living together, pooling finances, socialising together etc, then it's likely you will be deemed a couple and you should therefore claim your benefits entitlement together as a couple. This means adjusting both of your current entitlements to take into account you are a co-habiting couple.
If you are adamant you are not a couple and you want to be treated as single people when living together, then you need to talk to the DWP about this!

It is again difficult to say whether moving in together will trigger the DWP to look at your current circumstances. The DWP have quite a wide-ranging investigation remit. Again, the key is to be honest with the DWP about your intentions, and to be clear in your mind why you have not been a couple and have been claiming separately previously.

So before moving forward, get some good advice but be prepared for the need to be clear on your current and future circumstances.

To put your mind at rest, the DWP do understand people split up and live separately, before making a decision to move back in together again at a later stage. Just make sure you are up-front and honest with the DWP and make sure any future claims are adjusted if indeed you progress to being a co-habiting couple again.

If you run into any problems, seek independent advice from your local CAB or Law Centre.

Q. Hello, I am wondering if I can call on your professional expertise to find out what kind of support I can get as a Mum with a disability. I am struggling with my health, but want to ensure I'm providing a happy and healthy home for my children. I still work full time, but am seeing that it is now affecting my health and abilities at home. My kids are 13 and 11 and already are classed as young carers. However, it's now got to the point where I am struggling to get the weekly shopping sorted and provide meals for them as well as prepare school lunches and make sure the uniforms are done. I have paid privately for cleaners and have no family and friends who are in a position to help out on a regular basis. I used to get support from Social Services to help with meal time and work around the house, but of course with budget cuts that is no longer available. The cleaners will do lots of jobs for me, but I cannot afford to pay them more than I do already and they can't come in at 5pm ready to make meals. I have considered the meals on wheels current equivalent, but may struggle to pay for such provision. I am feeling very close to going to the GP and saying I can't cope with working full time and keeping a happy home - but I'm just about to buy my own home after struggling for the last 8 years after divorce with renting. If I take less hours, I lose the house. I feel like I'm in a very difficult predicament. Thank you for taking the time to read through my message.
A. It seems quite unfair help from Social Services has stopped, especially as Joy is juggling her disability, work and managing her young family.


Two things come to mind:


1) Returning to Social Services to request a new community care assessment, with a mind to putting across a really accurate requirement of her needs and to look into the possibly of Direct Payments, or self-directed care. You do have to fight for your rights with local authorities so get some advice from an expert disability advice service such as Disability Law Service.


2) Get a full benefit check completed to make sure benefits like Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, DLA, Council Tax Benefit etc are present and correct. There's also the access to work scheme, low income health costs scheme etc. There may or may not be help available but best to get it checked out.


Lee Healey
Q. I have filed to claim child benefit and child tax credits. my wife and I are seperated and currently going through the divorce process. We have been to court regarding our 7yo child and a court order is now in place in respect of residency of our child. we decided for shared care of
our child, I have our child 145 days of the year and my wife has our child 111 days of the year. I earn 17000 before deductions, she has 2 jobs earning approx 5000 before deductions. as I am the main carer and have our
child 3 school nights every week plus 1-2 nights every weekend, am I entitled to the benefits? just that she says she is entitled to them not me. I know I earn more than her but I have larger outgoings as am left in the family home with all the bills and mortgage(although its joint names)
she stayes with her parents and lives there free of charge. she has up till now been claiming the benefits but spends the money on herself instead of using it to support our child. So my main question is....should I be the one to get the benefit?
A. You can claim Child Tax Credit if you are responsible for at least one child or young person. You do not have to be working to claim. The key issue is being 'responsible' for the child.

To be responsible, the child or young person must normally live with you. Two people cannot claim Child Tax Credit for the same child. If there's a dispute over who is the main carer, HMRC will decide between the claimants. Usually, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit are paid to the same person.

If you're not sure whether you count as being responsible for a child you can call the Tax Credit Helpline for advice. Call them on 0845 300 3900.


Hope this helps!

Lee H


Lee Healey
Managing Director
IncomeMAX CIC