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Find out how the benefits system works in the UK and who to turn to for guidance and information. You could also enrol in the free Benefits awareness course, available on the Learn Zone|.
This video explains how we can help you to understand the benefits system.
The information in this video was correct as of 1 December 2010.
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In England, Scotland and Wales, benefits are administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) delivers benefits through Jobcentre Plus, the Disability and Carers Service and the Pension Service.
The Northern Ireland Social Security Agency
The Social Security Agency (SSA)| is responsible for benefits in Northern Ireland. It has different offices that handle these benefits, including Social Security or Jobs and Benefits offices, the Disability and Carers Service, and the Pension Service.
Benefits available from the DWP can be contributory or non-contributory, and means-tested or non means-tested.
These are based on the level of national insurance contributions you’ve made.
You can claim these even if you haven’t paid national insurance contributions.
These depend on your income and savings, and those of your partner if you have one. These are always non-contributory.
Non means-tested benefits can be either contributory or non-contributory, and do not depend on your income or savings.
These abbreviations are used throughout this section to help you understand the type of benefits being described. You will also come across the term ‘claimant’ throughout this section. This means a person who is applying for benefits.
A lot of information about benefits and employment services is available at gov.uk| You can also contact the DWP| for help with other enquiries. The DWP produces leaflets that give more detail about specific benefits mentioned in this guide. It also has a variety of basic information leaflets about the support services available to you. These include a guide on going into hospital, which gives information about what happens to your benefits and pension. You can ask for copies of these leaflets at your local Jobcentre.
Help is also available from other organisations. These include your local council| and HM Revenue & Customs| (HMRC). HMRC helps people with targeted financial support, such as tax credits. Your local council is responsible for certain financial help, such as Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.
You can get more information through your local Social Security or Jobs and Benefits office, or from the nidirect website|.
You can also get help from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive| and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)|. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is responsible for certain financial help, such as Housing Benefit. HMRC helps people with targeted financial support, such as tax credits.
The Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill is currently still under consideration. There will therefore be no amendments to the current benefit system in Northern Ireland until after the Welfare Reform Bill has been granted Royal Assent (expected to be June 2013). Our updated information about benefits in Northern Ireland will be available in summer 2013.
For benefits information and support in Northern Ireland please visit nidirect.gov.uk| or call 0800 232 1271.
You can also contact the Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 220 674 (or textphone 0800 243 787 if you are deaf or hard of hearing).
In Northern Ireland, Macmillan Cancer Support, in partnership with Citizens Advice provides a dedicated Welfare Rights Service to cancer patients, their families and carers. For information and support or to arrange an appointment please telephone 0300 1 233 233 (lines are open 9am - 12.30pm and 1pm - 4pm Monday to Friday).
You can also call the Macmillan Support Line| on 0808 808 00 00.
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Content last reviewed: 1 April 2013
Next planned review: 2015
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
To speak to a financial guide, call free (Monday to Thursday 9am-5pm, Friday 9am-4.30pm).
Order a range of financial information publications in other formats from our Be.Macmillan site.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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