Welfare benefits are there to help people maintain a minimum standard of living during difficult times in their lives. Separation is one of the times of change where benefit entitlement can open up possibilities for one or both of you – especially where there are children involved. Welfare benefits are a complicated area. There are large impending changes in the benefits system and a new single benefit called Universal Credit, which will replace all the different ones, is being introduced over the next few years across England and Wales.
In the past many parents with care of children have gone onto a benefit called Income Support. Recent changes have meant that entitlement to this benefit on separation has been reduced, depending on the age of the youngest child and separating parents of children at school are now often put on Job Seekers Allowance. These benefits are often called passporting benefits because they automatically entitle those receiving them to mortgage interest help, housing benefit, council tax support and a range of other help such as free school meals. Parents with care of children who are receiving benefits are usually also entitled to Tax Credits.
If you are already on benefits when you are separating you will need to contact the benefits providers to let them know how your life is changing so that they can be adjusted. If you need to find out more about whether you would be entitled to benefits and how to apply.
Mediation can help you both to think about how to maximise your incomes from all sources. Your mediator will also help you think through how you will manage the transition from benefits to earnings as the children grow to independence and as you each move on with your separate lives over time.
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
NFM services charge £25-£100 for a MIAM, depending on geographical locality, which may include the fee for the completed FM1 form. Meetings usually last for 45 minutes – 1 hour. This includes the means assessment to check whether you will be eligible for Legal Aid, determining whether your mediation will be free or not. Mediation sessions which follow the initial MIAM are charged at a sliding scale according to income, but start at around £80 per session, and usually last up to 1½ hours.
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.