Q: I am a freelance BHSAI, and am also employed on a short-term contract at a land research centre. I was seriously injured after a bad fall from a horse last November and needed to stay in hospital for a week, along with five weeks bed rest at home. I applied for income support when I was well enough to go to the job centre, six weeks after my accident. However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would not backdate my income support. Is there anything I can do? GG
A: Your case highlights the problems associated with claiming benefit as a freelance worker within the equestrian industry.
If you do not have enough national insurance credits to claim incapacity benefit (which is a contributions-based payment), after an accident you are entitled to income support. This is non-contribution based and available to claimants aged 16 to 59 who do not receive statutory sick pay, such as the self-employed or employees on short-term contracts.
Many people do not realise that it is possible to claim income support over the phone or that a family member can, in some cases, claim on your behalf. The payment can be paid directly into a claimants account.
The Citizens Advice Bureau tells us you have a right to appeal against this decision, as the DWP states that income support may be backdated if the claimant has a legitimate reason for claiming late. Claimants have one month after the negative decision letter is sent out to ask for the claim to be reconsidered by a DWP decision-maker.
If your original claim is upheld for a second time, you can then ask for your appeal to be heard by an independent tribunal, when the case is heard by a special panel. You can request a paper hearing, when the case is decided based on written evidence, or an oral hearing, whereby you or your representative attend.
How to make a claim
You can make a benefit claim by contacting your local Jobcentre Plus in person or by phone, or by downloading a form from the DWP at www.dwp.gov.uk
As soon as you are incapacitated, get in touch with your local Jobcentre Plus, or visit the governments services website www.direct.gov.uk for further benefit information.
If you disagree with any decisions made by the DWP and want advice on your situation, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) for free, independent and confidential advice. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or look in your local telephone directory to find your nearest office.
Ask your local Jobcentre Plus offices about obtaining National Insurance Credits while you are off work and incapacitated.
This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (12 April, ’07)