It’s important from the start to consider how to make money if you suddenly become disabled.
Thinking about money might be the last thing you want to do, but you will need to quickly consider and work out how long-term sickness and disability will affect your finances and what help you may be eligible for.
Small costs such as car parking charges add up, plus there’s the big issue of potentially not being fit to return to your job.
- Get everything in order
- Support groups
- Sick pay
- When sick pay runs out
- Other benefits
- Power of attorney
Start by asking a partner or trusted friend to gather essential documents together for you such as your employment details and national insurance number.
If you have private health insurance and are using it for your treatment you’ll need proof of your membership. Don’t forget to agree costs and treatment with your insurer before starting treatment or you could end up with a large bill.
If you have income protection and/or critical illness insurance now is the time to inform your insurer of your circumstances.
Most illnesses and conditions have support groups which can advise on emotional and financial matters, including support available for both the ill person and their loved ones.
Hospitals should have a reduced price-parking scheme for visitors of gravely ill people and those who regularly have to attend as an outpatient. Each NHS trust must publish their parking policy and principles.
The hospital will not discharge you until they are satisfied you have a safe and accessible environment to return to. If necessary you and your home will be assessed by an Occupational Therapist. He or she will advise on any adjustments or equipment needed for you to live at home safely. The NHS can provide some equipment and your local council may give you a grant to make substantial and permanent changes to your home such as widening doors and installing ramps.
Regularly inform your employer of your condition and progress. If you’re off work for more than seven days your employer will need a ‘fit note’ from the hospital or your GP.
If you’re unable to return to work for longer than a month you are considered to be long-term sick. In this case you are still entitled to accrue annual leave.
As part of your job’s terms and conditions you may be entitled to full sick pay for a set amount of time. If not then claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Workers, including agency staff, are paid this by their employer and are entitled to receive it if they have been sick for more than four days in a row (including non-working days), earn at least more than £112 (as of Nov 2015) before tax a week, and have informed their employer that they are sick.
Statutory sick pay lasts for up to 28 weeks.
It’s in both your and your employer’s interests to see what adjustments can be made to get you back to work. Your union, if you are in one, should be able to advise you on this.
If, however, you are still considered unfit to work after your sick pay has run out then you can choose to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), formerly known as Incapacity Benefit. You can apply if you are under state pension age, are no longer in receipt of statutory sick pay and are not claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance.
Applications for ESA are done over the phone. You’ll then be asked to attend a work capability assessment where a healthcare professional will assess your capacity to work. Take with you relevant evidence from your doctor or hospital consultant. You will be informed of the decision by writing. There are three possible outcomes:
- You are pronounced fit for work and not eligible for ESA, although you can still apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- You are placed in the work-related activity group and must attend regular interviews with an advisor.
- You are placed in the support group and are not required to attend interviews with an advisor although you can choose to do so if you wish. The support group pays a higher weekly amount than the work-related activity group.
You are entitled to appeal the decision if you do not agree with it.
There are two types of ESA depending on your past income and national insurance contributions:
- Contribution-based, payable for a year if you are placed in the work-related activity group and have paid enough national insurance contributions. There is currently no time limit for claiming contribution-based ESA if you are in the support group.
- Income-related, for those on a low income irrespective of their national insurance contributions.
Find out which other benefits you may be entitled to if your income is cut due to sickness or disability. Citizen’s Advice, a free service, can help you work out what, if any, to apply for.
Possible benefits include Housing Benefit; council tax reduction if you are responsible for paying the tax and are on a low income; and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a benefit to help with the extra costs of physical disability, learning disability and mental health conditions.
If your partner or relative has had to give up their job to look after you, is over 16 and cares for you more than 35 hours a week they may be eligible to claim Carer’s Allowance.
If you’re struggling to pay bills such as rent, mortgage or utilities then let the relevant companies know as soon as possible. They may be able to help with a repayment plan or put you on a reduced tariff. Don’t leave it until the red bills start arriving.
Finally, disabled or not, it’s in everyone’s interest to consider talking to a lawyer about setting up power of attorney. This will enable a named representative to take control of your finances on a temporary or permanent basis if you are unable to do so yourself. Non-disabled friends and family may also wish to take out income protection insurance themselves in case they become sick or disabled in the future.
Gov.uk – UK Government website
www.citizensadvice.org.uk – Citizens Advice