Benefits you're entitled to: unemployed and disabled people
There's one thing we all know about benefits: they're about to be cut to the bone. In future, only the most needy will be entitled to government assistance, and even they may well receive less support than before.
These changes are on the near horizon - but at the moment, many generous benefits still remain in place. Yet a huge chunk of this cash goes unclaimed: the most recent estimates at the beginning of this year put the amount at £16.8 million.
So it's worth getting to grips with what's available now and what will be around in the future - and what you may be entitled to.
If you are of working age, working fewer than 16 hours a week and actively seeking work, you may be entitled to JSA.
How it works...
When you start claiming, you'll need to visit the Jobcentre to draw up a 'jobseeker's agreement' outlining what you will do to seek work.
JSA is paid fortnightly, at a maximum weekly rate of £71.00 for those aged 25 and over, £56.25 for younger people and £111.45 for couples. This amount may differ depending on your circumstances.
There are two variations: 'contribution based' (if you've paid enough NI contributions in the past), which pays out for six months, and 'income based', where income and savings are taken into account.
A community care grant is a one-off payment for short-term needs that you'll have to pay back.
Employment and Support Allowance
In 2008, employment and support allowance replaced incapacity benefit for new claimants.
How it works...
In order to claim, you'll be required to have a medical assessment. If your disability prevents you working, you'll be placed in the support group; otherwise you'll be placed in the work-related activity group, where you will be required to take steps to help you prepare for work.
There are two types of allowance: contribution based and income based. The former is for those who have a sufficient history of NI contributions and the latter for those who don't, or who are able to do some work. To qualify for the latter group, you must also have savings amounting to less than £16,000 and, if you have a partner, they must work fewer than 24 hours a week.
After the medical assessment, those in the support group will receive up to £99.85 a week, and those in the work-related activity group, £94.25.
Disability living allowance is for those under the age of 65 and is intended to help with daily costs.
You'll be eligible for the assistance if you need help with eating, dressing yourself and going to the toilet, for example. The level of need will dictate the size of payment you'll receive.
Carer's allowance is for those aged over 16 who care for someone entitled to a disability benefit for at least 35 hours a week. It's only available if you earn less than £100 a week. The weekly rate is £58.45, but will be reduced by the amount of certain other benefits you get.
At some point in our lives most of us will need a little extra assistance, whether it's because we are ill, getting older, or facing unaffordable childcare costs. The state is there to help - it's up to you to navigate the system and apply.