"Their advice was the best I've ever had"

In this blog, our Family Finances Helpline adviser Marian talks about advising parent Kathryn.

Kathryn is a lone parent with two children aged 14 and 6. Her six year old son has Autism and is in receipt of the highest rate care and lower rate mobility components of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Kathryn phoned us in May desperate for advice as she struggled to balance the increasingly challenging care needs of her son with working 16 hours per week. Her son wasn't coping at school and Kathryn often had to collect him before the end of the school day.

This was causing problems with her employer as she frequently had to leave work early. Her son was also not sleeping well and Kathryn was up most nights. As she had no other family support she decided she would have to change her working hours in order to reduce the considerable stress she was under and to better support her son.

Kathryn had approached a local advice service before calling us to ask about her benefit entitlements if she reduced her hours or gave up work completely. She was told she couldn't just give up work  as she would not get any jobseeker's allowance and would have to meet the 'work conditionality' for Universal Credit.

However, we were able to let Kathryn know that this was incorrect. As a carer she wouldn't have to meet any work conditionality relating to a claim for Universal Credit and she could reduce her working hours or give up work without being subject to any sanctions.

We advised Kathryn that if she gave up work and made a new claim for benefits then she would have to claim Universal Credit instead of income support and her current child tax credit and she could claim Carer's Allowance.

We calculated the amount of benefit that she would receive if she reduced her working hours to 10 per week or if she gave up work completely. In both scenarios she would be entitled to a reduction on her council tax bill and free school meals.

As she was paying a mortgage she would not get any help with housing costs initially but would have access to a government loan after nine months of being entitled to Universal Credit. We also gave Kathryn some general information on employment rights.

Kathryn spoke to us afterwards and shared her experience of calling our Family Finances Helpline:

"I was relieved to find out that I had options regarding work and wouldn't be penalised for giving up work. After the detailed advice Contact gave me about my benefits entitlement I was able to make a decision about whether I could afford to reduce my hours or give up work.

"Although the decision to give up work was not an easy one, it is one less thing to worry about. It felt like a big weight had lifted off my shoulders and now I can concentrate on my son.

"When the other advice organisation incorrectly told me that I couldn't give up work, I felt desperate. I am really glad I found Contact, their advice was the best I'd ever had and they really understood my situation'.

Written by Contact at 11:53