So, does anyone actually understand the UK\’s benefit system?

My stepdaughter\’s going through a fairly torrid time of it.

Two kids, divorce, ex-hubbie is pissing around with the CSA of course. She\’s also doing a part-time degree to be a teacher.

Now, what I\’m looking for is someone who actually understands the benefits system. So that whoever it is can walk through that system with her and check that what she\’s being told is what is in fact correct.

We\’ve certainly found out that some of the things she has been told at times have not been correct.


23 thoughts on “So, does anyone actually understand the UK\’s benefit system?”

  1. Simples:
    If you’re a scrote or a ‘cultural enricher’ you will get all sorts of aid and freebies like housing and free dental and prescriptions. If you are a regular honest person on hard times through no fault of your own you will get cock-all and no one in the social will be even marginally interested in helping you.
    Bitter? Moi?

  2. No, not at all. But there’s a new government website in beta that is aimed at massively simplifying various existing websites. From what I’ve looked at (not a great deal, I’l admit) they’re making a fair fist of it. If they’ve gotten around to benefits then that might be more useful than whatever the traditional source of information has. It’s at

  3. Suggest that she visits the local CAB or looks for a local community organisation with a welfare rights worker of some sort. Without knowing where she is I can’t go any further

  4. I assume that it is all set up so that only those living in a milieu of being on benefits have much chance of knowing how to proceed. Someone who stumbles in from workaday world hasn’t much chance, I’d guess.

  5. CAB and loads of charities, as others have said. Local council for housing and council tax.

    I found most everybody to be very helpful and generally on my side when I needed benefits – they can be slow due to the all the hoops they need to jump through.

    One tip – which might well be obvious – courtesy and very clear appreciation for the help that’s given gets you a long long way. I would guess hardly anyone thanks the people at the front end properly. Plus they expect applicants to be stressed and vulnerable – so if things get fraught apologies work wonders.

  6. I’ll second what Doug Young said. The people at the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau were brilliantly helpful. And he’s right about the courtesy working wonders, too.

  7. Part of the problem is that Brown changed the system so often and so much that quite a lot of the unfortunate civil servants tasked with managing it don’t understand it themselves. There were half-a-dozen different definitions of income for Carer’s Allowance, Income Tax, VAT, and Tax Credits (yes, that’s four things but I once had to keep SIX different versions of the spreadsheet to satisfy *** Brown).
    So firstly, as most people have said, talk to CAB who are sympathetic and helpful; secondly don’t assume the civil servants are right or being deliberately difficult – most of them are in way over their heads; thirdly, if she’s not naturally good at sums find a friend who is either good at sums or at computer spreadsheets to sort out all the numbers; fourthly (important) ask CSA to put an order on her ex-husband’s salary and, if he walks out of work, on his benefit. That’s not as difficult as they make out if they’ve got his NI number.

  8. Many ways of messing with the CSA. Easier for directors of limited companies and self employed than most employees. Or some simply leave a job and take on another one every few weeks.
    Harder for CSA to track down.

  9. Perhaps her family could help? Or she could sell her body?

    Tim adds: Her family do help, of course. Quite substantially too.

  10. My vote is the CAB. I’ve used them in the past: they have always been ultra-helpful and they carry a lot of cachet when it comes to dealing with Govt depts, local authorities, banks etc you as an individual may be apprehensive to approach. Plus they can provide legal help for things like CSA.

  11. 1. Is your step daughter claiming
    Housing allowance? I seem to remember some trenchant posts from your good self on that subject.

    2. How many of your concerned commenters actually pay UK taxes,the benefits of which which they are so generously advising should be claimed.

    3. Theophrastus at 14 sounds like a cunt.

  12. the person in question is claiming the housing and council benefit they are intitled too, also has an ex whos self employed so is able to cook the book so to speak. Works part time and studies part time but is being told a) the amount of hours is not enough 9 hrs 15 mins at the mo plus 15 hours a week study. Also has to atend uni eery 3 months for 3 days, and has 7 week placements every yr. Now please who is going to employ this person full time when she will be need time of regulary and for long periods of time and then will leave in 2 yrs time????????

  13. Housing allowance? I seem to remember some trenchant posts from your good self on that subject.

    Housing allowances distort the market. And, at the top end, some of the (very few) claimants were not getting “adequate housing”, or supported to remain in their current property, they were being put up in mansions. But, if everybody else in your position is on housing allowances, it is daft to refuse to take it. Tim’s economic principles shouldn’t be taken as being mandatory for his step-daughter, especially with 2 sprogs in tow. In fact, principles of that sort rarely survive contact with reality intact. (Unless you’re in the SWP or Respect. In which case that’s because you have so little contact with reality.)

    How many of your concerned commenters actually pay UK taxes

    More than you’d think. And, frankly, “not currently resident in the UK” does not mean “does not pay UK tax”. #4, 6 & 7 are all regular commentators on the economics threads and are all UK residents. As is JuliaM, although she’s not turned up here yet.

  14. Cheesed off – not every self employed cooks the books. Simply claiming what MUST be claimed reduces income on paper considerably.
    Unless working a similar self employed job its difficult to figure someone is cooking the books.

  15. The CAB can advise her within limits. The Free Representation Unit will provide free representation (as the name suggests) in the social security appeal tribunals. But she will have to be referred thence by a solicitor or the CAB.

    FRU volunteers are typically mustard keen. Goes on their CVS, see?

    Good luck.

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