Online Archive  
Issue 4 - April 1972
Sickness Benefits
If you are ill, and can get a medical certificate from your doctor, you can claim Sickness Benefit. This is a guide to getting it as quickly and easily as possible.

1) Your basic claim is made on the certificate itself. A private certificate is not a claim. It is medical evidence of your inability to work. Ask your doctor for a national health certificate. This is free - he may ask you to pay for a private one: if he insists on this you should change your doctor.

If you are in hospital, you can still get a certificate - if you are too ill, a friend or relative can get it for you.

2) The front of the certificate has two sides; one must be filled in by the doctor. This can cause delay if it is not filled in properly. It must be in ink; must have the name of your illness, and must be signed and dated by the doctor, and have his address stamp at the bottom. He must also say how long he expects you to be ill. This can be days or weeks; the first certificate cannot be for longer than 28 days. (You won't be able to claim if you are staying off work to take care of a relative - e.g. a wife - it would be a good idea to get a bad cold at the same time.)

3) You must fill in the front and back. This is easy enough if you take the questions one by one. Just a few points - when you put the date you fell ill, put e.g. Mon 6.3.72 - that is, the day and the date - and make sure you get the right date for the day, or more delays. Use ink (biro is OK) throughout. At the bottom, sign and date it. This makes it valid. Give your National Insurance number if you can.

4) Send it to a National Insurance Office as soon as possible. You can get the address at the nearest Post Office. You have now claimed benefit.

The man who does most work on your claim is called a Rater. I did this job for three months in Hackney. If you phone the office this is who you talk to.

He or she is responsible for the progress of your claim. He thinks in jargon, and he goes by the book - which he has on his desk. Just keep trying until you get some plain English.

Your claim should not take more than a week to process. Here are some things that can delay it:

The 'X' you put on the certificate to claim for dependants is not a claim, it is a request for a claim form. You should get this by return of post. Send it back the same way for best results (don't forget, signed and dated, and in ink). Some raters don't touch the basic claim until this form reaches them.

You must have "at least 26 class 1 or 2 NI contributions since entry into insurance" before you can get benefit at all; and there are other conditions too complicated to go into. In other words, if your cards have not been fully stamped up there may also be delays.

Wrongly filled in forms can cause delays. Also there are God knows how many ways THEY can make mistakes.

After 12 days (not including Sundays) you can claim Earnings Related Benefit (ERS). A form should be sent to you (Form BF 161).

When you get well, tell THEM or they will pester you. It's in your own interests - you could be due a few more days benefit. The best way is a 'signing off note', which is a final certificate from your doctor.

The rate of benefit varies. A single person can get £6.00 per week, and up to £7.00 ERS as well after 2 weeks. It could be less, depending on the number or type of stamps on the card they are looking at at the time (your "contribution record"). Married women get less (up to £4.20) and people under 18 get less. Married women who have elected not to pay stamps get nothing.

Notice how long your certificate will last, and keep a note of it. (If it is for more than 1 or 2 weeks you should get a reminder on form BF 60B.) When it runs out, get another from your doctor, who must examine you. Fill in the front only, sign and date it, send it in.

The first three days of your illness are not payable.

This normally replaces sickness benefit after 28 weeks of sickness and has a similar basic rate of £6 per week for single people. On top of this Invalidity Allowance is paid to people who become chronically sick while they still have a large part of their working life ahead of them. ERS is not payable with invalidity benefit.

If your illness is due to an accident at work, or a "prescribed industrial cause" (e.g. dermatitis) you can claim II benefit, which is more than sickness benefit. There is a section of your first certificate to fill in, in this case, and your claim may take longer to process as a form has to be sent to your employer. This often causes delay when employers do not return the form. However, you can often get sickness benefit while your claim for II benefit is being considered.

If after two weeks you have not had any money, you can help them to move. (A Claimant's Union will be able to help you here.)

You should phone THEM after a week to see what is happening. After two weeks you should go in personally; preferably in the morning. Take a friend or Claimant's Union official with you. Insist on seeing someone about your case.

The first person to come will be the Rater who deals with your claim. If what he or she says is unsatisfactory, demand to see their supervisor. The supervisor has more power to speed things up and make exceptions than the rater.

If you are still not satisfied, ask to see the manager. Insist on it. If you have been badly treated threaten to write to your MP and the press. This sometimes works like magic as higher authorities than THEM investigate all such complaints, and they don't want this to happen.

If you still get no results go with all speed to your local Supplementary Benefits office ('Area Office' in the jargon), which is sometimes in another part of the same building but may not be. They will be able to pay you assistance while your claim is delayed. In fact you can go there after a few days if you are really hard up, and you should demand an exceptional or urgent needs payment under section 7 or 13 or the Social Security Act. This you can claim at any time.

Don't forget to actually write to your MP and the press.

Yourself, by not allowing yourself to be browbeaten; and your local Claimant's Union, which they dread. (The CU will be glad to help you fill in your forms, for instance, and will fight your claims if needed.)

If you have a good case, the Assistance people will add to your sickness benefit. (It still won't be enough to live on though. It never is.) This is commonly done when a reduced rate of benefit is paid for some reason, or when benefit is disallowed entirely.

While you are ill you will usually have stamps 'credited' to you. If benefit is not being paid, but you have been told you can have these 'credits', it is to your advantage to send in certificates, as these credits are just as good as paid stamps for most purposes, and you will certainly find them useful later.

Sickness benefit is not often heard of, or written about, among people who are concerned with outwitting THEM (Claimant's Unions, for instance, and the underground press), but many thousands of people run foul of it every week. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing for THEM.

You are paid by Giro Order, by post. This is sent on the same day every week. If this day is not convenient, write to them asking for it to be changed.

Any questions?