This is the 2nd of Linzi's blogs about finances. The first was about Claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Did you know?
There are many schemes that can help you maximise your income. Living with kidney disease can often come with its own financial implications but there are a number of schemes and benefits you can sign up for to make sure you get the most out of your money.
Council Tax: If you live alone (or are the only adult in your household) you are entitled to a Council Tax discount. If you claim Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Income support you are eligible for support through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. If you have made adaptations to your home such as an additional bathroom for a disabled person, you’ll be eligible to get your Council Tax bill reduced. You can also have your council tax reduced if you’re on home dialysis. If you think you may be eligible for a Council Tax discount or reduction you should contact your Local Authority Council Tax department as each council runs its own scheme. There is a slightly different scheme in Northern Ireland but you can apply for a reduction of your Housing Rates through Land & Property Services.
Priority Services Register: This is available to those of pensionable age, living with a disability, chronic illness or visual/hearing impairment and provides you with free extra services along with protection from disconnection if you struggle to pay your energy bills. Services include advanced warning of planned power cuts, priority in an emergency and annual gas appliance safety checks for homeowners. Each energy provider holds their own register which you can sign up to by contacting your gas and electricity suppliers.
Utilities and financial hardship: Most of the big energy companies have funds to support customers who are facing financial hardship. This can come in the form of grants and debt advice. Contact your energy provider to find out more. Fuel Bank also operates out of many Trussel Trust food banks and can provide those that are struggling to top up their pre-payment metre a one-time use voucher.
Warm Home Discount Scheme: You could get £140 off your electricity bill for the winter under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. The money is not paid to you - it’s a one-off discount on your electricity bill (or gas if you are a duel fuel customer), between September and March. To qualify you must either get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, or be on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme.
To apply you will need to contact your electricity supplier. Applications for the 2019 – 2020 scheme have already closed, but applications for the 2020 – 2021 will open on 12 October 2020.
WaterSure: Water suppliers in England and Wales offer a scheme that caps your annual metered bill amount so you won’t pay over a certain amount for the year, no matter what your actual consumption is. You are eligible for this scheme if you are a home therapies patient or have three or more children under 19 years old living in your home. To qualify you must also be in receipt of one or more benefit such as Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance or Child Benefit.
Travel passes: Each of the four nations has its own scheme for issuing travel cards.
Wales – Disabled Person’s Concessionary Travel Card: You are eligible for free bus journeys and free/discounted journeys on Transport for Wales trains if you receive one of the following benefits
- DLA mobility component at higher rate
- PIP award with 8 or more points under Descriptor 7 “Communicating Verbally”; or 12 points under Descriptor 11 “Planning and Following a Journey”; or 8 or more points under Descriptor 12 “Moving Around”
You may also be eligible to apply for a Disabled Person with Companion Travel Card if you are unable to travel independently. To apply visit the Transport for Wales website or call your local council.
England – English National Concessionary Travel Scheme: Card holders are entitled to travel free of charge on any off-peak local bus service, some regions allow the card to be used on all bus services. Eligibility criteria differs slightly between each Local Authority but as a general rule you are eligible if any of the following apply to you:
- Your ability to walk is severely impaired
- You have a Blue Badge
- You’re unable to drive due to a medical condition
- You’re registered blind or severely sight impaired
Please contact your local council to find full eligibility criteria and how to apply.
Scotland – National Entitlement Card: The scheme provides free travel on registered local and long-distance bus services throughout Scotland, at any time of day for any number of journeys, for those aged 60 and over, as well as for eligible disabled people who live in Scotland. You are eligible for the card if you:
- Get the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance
- Get the higher/middle rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance
- Receive Attendance Allowance
- Receive any rate of the mobility or daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
- Have a Blue Badge
You can apply for a National Entitlement Card with your local council.
Northern Ireland – Half Fare SmartPass: This card entitles the holder to half fare bus travel on participating services along with concessionary ferry services. You will be eligible for a Half Fare SmartPass if you:
- Get the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance
- Get the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment
- Have had a driving licence refused or revoked on medical grounds
- Are partially sighted
Free travel is available to people in Northern Ireland for everyone aged 60 and over or registered blind. You can apply for a SmartPass by contacting Translink or collecting an application form from your local Translink bus or rail station.
Vehicle Tax: You can get a 50% reduction in vehicle tax if you get the PIP standard rate mobility component. The vehicle should be registered in the disabled person’s name or their nominated driver’s name. You can apply for exemption from paying vehicle tax if you get the higher rate mobility component of DLA or enhanced rate mobility component of PIP. Contact the DVLA to claim.
Severe Disability Premium: If you are on an income related benefit such as ESA, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit and also in receipt of one of the following benefits
- Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance care component at middle or highest rate
- Personal Independence Payment care component
You may be eligible for a Severe Disability Premium (SDP). This is an additional £66.95 a week if you’re a single person or £133.90 a week for a couple. If you are receiving a SDP the DWP will not migrate your existing benefit to Universal Credit. SDP can be backdated to when you became entitled to it. In some cases, this can be for a long time and can mean you get a big back payment. You will need to contact the office for the benefit you get and tell them that you think you should be entitled to a Severe Disability Premium.
Discretionary Housing Payment: Discretionary Housing Payment is a payment you may receive at the discretion of your local authority which can help towards housing costs. You can only get it if you are entitled to Housing Benefit or the Housing Costs element of Universal Credit. Contact your local council to claim.
Patient grants: Last but not least, we have our patient grants here at Kidney Care UK. If you’re struggling to make ends meet we can help you by providing a personal grant to help cover:
- Domestic costs such as utilities and bills
- Household items like white goods and furniture
- Travel expenses
- Education and training
Your Renal Social Worker, or a member of your kidney care team, will help you complete the application form but one of our Advocacy Officers can help if no one is available at your unit. I’ve seen grants help in a range of ways, from replacing broken household appliances to funding a dog grooming course that has kick-started a new vocation. The possibilities are endless!
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