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Claiming benefits

In this section, you can discover more about how to claim benefits, how long it will take and how you will be paid.

How do I make a claim?

To claim a benefit, you will usually have to fill in a form, either on paper or online, or make a telephone call. Each benefit has its own claiming process.

See 'Information on who to contact to make a claim' which includes links to claim forms where available.

Do I need to provide evidence to support my claim?

In many cases, yes. For example, you will usually have to give your National Insurance number and may be asked to show evidence of your identity, income and savings.

If you have to send off original documents make sure you keep copies and send them recorded delivery to make sure they arrive safely.

How long will it take to process my claim?

The time can vary depending on the benefit. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agencies and Local Authorities have targets but HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) does not.

You can help by completing the claim form thoroughly and providing evidence promptly. See 'Further information about how long it takes to process a claim' including target times for processing claims.

What can I do if my claim is delayed?

There are many reasons why a claim might be delayed. For example:

  • You may be unable to provide a national insurance number straight away
  • There could be an error by you or the benefit agency
  • Further information or evidence may be required to support a claim
  • There could be delays in processing claims at the benefit agency
  • There could be a problem with the payment method

If you have provided all the information requested to support your claim, and it has been longer than the set target time for processing claims, you may want to contact the relevant benefit agency to find out why there is a delay.

If your claim is delayed and you are experiencing financial difficulties you may be able to get a Short Term Benefit Advance.

How will I receive the benefit payment?

Most benefits are paid directly to your post office, bank or building society account but there are exceptions. 

Council Tax Support will usually go straight to your Council Tax account and will be taken off your Council Tax liability on your bill.

Housing Benefit is sometimes paid to you but it may be paid directly to your landlord in some circumstances.

If you have difficulties opening or managing an account, you used to be able to ask to be paid by cheque instead (which could be cashed at a post office). However, in October 2012 a new Simple Payments card scheme was launched to replace benefits, pensions and child maintenance cheque payments.

For more information, see Simple Payments system.

You can also nominate a person to receive the payment on your behalf if needed.

When will I receive the benefit payment?

When you are paid will depend on the benefit you have claimed. Some benefits are paid weekly, some every four weeks.

Some are paid in advance and some in arrears.

What do I do if I think they've made the wrong decision?

If you are unhappy with a benefit or tax credit decision there are several steps you can take:

  • Get more information about the decision.
  • Get the decision looked at again.
  • Appeal against the decision.

Further information about challenging benefit decisions.

I'm not happy with the way my claim has been handled what can I do?

You have the right to expect a reasonable standard of service from the people dealing with your benefit claim.

Most offices that deal with benefits, including your Local Authority, will have a charter or statement of standards of service that sets out what you can expect. You will be able to get this from their offices or websites.

If you are not happy with the level of service you have received then you can make a complaint. You can complain whether or not you have made a claim for benefit.

Further information on how to make a complaint.

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Use our simple Benefits Calculator to find out how much you could claim.

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