Benefits you're entitled to: Housing Benefit
However, many families do not get the help that they need, either because they do not understand the system, or because they think that they are not entitled to anything.
Here's the Moneywise guide to claiming Housing Benefit.
What is it?
Housing Benefit is paid by your local council to help with housing costs if you are on a low income. You can't use it to pay a mortgage, but you can pay it to any type of landlord – so it doesn't matter if you are renting privately or from a council or housing association.
How much might you get?
In some cases, if you are in receipt of other benefits, Housing Benefit could cover all of your rent. However, there are restrictions on how much you get. If you are renting privately, the amount you receive is capped by the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). This is based on rental prices in your area and the size of property that you are entitled to.
If you are under 35 and don't have any dependent children, you are only entitled to an amount based on renting one room in shared accommodation. You can find out what your LHA is on the Housing Benefit update website (hbupdate.com).
For social tenants, the amount you might receive is reduced if you have more bedrooms than the government deems appropriate for your family. If you are renting socially the money will be paid directly to the provider, while if you rent privately the money will go into your bank account.
How can I work out what other benefits I'm eligible for?
The amount of money families receive from benefits varies wildly depending on circumstances. The government website gov.uk has details of how to contact different departments, while the tax credits helpline is available on 0345 300 3900.
The charity website Turn2us.org.uk includes a calculator that allows you to input all of your circumstances and work out your entitlements, while the charity also has a free helpline on 0808 802 2000.
Another benefits calculator is available at entitledto.co.uk.
Child tax credit
A scheme started in 2003 that sought to replace a raft of other tax credits and benefits, the payout depends on the number of dependant children in a family, and its level of income. The amount of credit is reduced as income increases. It is payable to the main carer of a child, usually the mother, and is available whether or not the recipient is working.