Separation, which for benefits purposes is a far more important situation than divorce, can often happen with little or no warning, throwing one or both parties into unexpected financial waters. This chapter attempts to guide the reader to the most important benefits which are likely to be relevant to recently separated people.
For the purpose of benefits, separation may occur when two people are still living together in the same house but no longer share their lives. If two people who were previously a couple, whether married or not, cease to maintain a joint household they become separate claimants for benefits.
The benefits system in the UK is complex and administered by different central and local government agencies.
Department of Social Security: Through the Benefits Agency this is the central government department which administers and pays most benefits.
The Employment Service: This department administers the unemployment benefits system and operates the Job Centres network which provides employment and benefits advice.
Local authorities: The district councils and metropolitan authorities administer the housing benefits schemes. These consist of rent rebates and allowances for those paying rent for their homes and council tax benefit for council tax payers.
There are three main types of benefits.