AFF is often asked what benefits you may be able to claim or continue to claim overseas as a non-serving partner, if you’re trying to find work for example, or if you’re a single serving parent who needs help with childcare costs or to supplement your income.
UNIVERSAL CREDIT (UC)
UC is based on household income and other factors – you can check your eligibility via benefits calculators online. It can be claimed overseas despite many army families struggling to find guidance or being told it can’t be.
Emma is an army spouse and her family were claiming UC but she was told their claim would be stopped when moving on an overseas assignment.
She says: “I tried to find information but everything I read on government sites told me it could only be claimed in the UK. I didn’t feel this was fair and that we would be penalised by being overseas. “AFF helped me with the process and guidance needed so my claim continued but it is frustrating that I cannot access it easily myself and my husband did not know a DIN existed.”
AFF highlighted the issues faced with UC overseas and the fact that BFPO postcodes could not be accepted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) system.
Interim guidance is available which helps army families understand the process and the specific postcode they need to use. However, this is only accessible via a DIN on MODNet.
A longer-term solution is planned which we hope will enable families to access this information more easily.
Difficulties can still arise with UC overseas if you separate from your partner. As it can only be claimed jointly, if you separate while overseas, it could mean that the non-serving person cannot put in an individual claim until they’re back in the UK.
NEW-STYLE JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE (JSA)
This may support you if you’re out of work and need support in between jobs for up to six months. It’s not based on household income or savings but on your previous contribution history.
In the UK, you can claim if eligible and prior to Brexit it could be claimed in certain EEA countries or countries that had agreements, but only if claiming in the UK four weeks before moving.
However, following Brexit, changes were made. We asked DWP how these affect army families and they told us that there are no exemptions for spouses accompanying their soldier on postings overseas in respect of new-style JSA. In certain situations, individuals can continue to receive new-style JSA for up to three months while looking for work in the EU. We would advise you to seek benefits advice well in advance of going overseas if you want to investigate this.
Money & Allowances Specialist Claire Hallam says: “Often going overseas can mean your dual income may come to an end, so it’s important to look at what benefits can be claimed before going, as there may be differences in what can be claimed between overseas and in the UK, or the process. If you’re having difficulties, you can seek advice from a DWP Armed Forces champion at your local job centre.”
CLAIM NI CREDITS
Before returning to the UK, remember that you can claim Class 1 National Insurance Credits for periods spent overseas. These can help towards your state pension or benefits when returning. They do have timelines and the earliest you can apply is four months before the end of an assignment.
Families have reported to AFF they have experienced long delays in getting their NI credits applied. We have raised this and are waiting for a response. In the meantime we would advise you to apply sooner rather than later. If they have not been applied and will impact a benefit claim when returning to the UK, let us know.
If you feel that you have been disadvantaged due to not being able to access a benefit which you could in the UK or are having problems, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Universal Credit DIN 2022DIN01-050 can be accessed on MODnet and has information on points of contact at DWP for UC overseas.
The International Pension Centre can advise jobseekers overseas, see gov.uk/international-pension-centre
Information on National Insurance credits for partners of armed forces personnel overseas is at gov.uk/guidance/national-insurance-credits-for-partners-of-armed-forces-personnel-overseas