Benefits Officer

Some people, whose income is below a certain level, receive financial assistance in the form of housing benefit - a sum that they use towards payment of rent.  People on a similar income level may be exempt for paying all or part of their council tax. Councils are responsible for calculating and paying the benefits. They employ benefits officers and assistants (sometimes known as benefits assessment officers) to do so.

Work Environment
Benefits officers work in offices which may be in councils' headquarters o rin other buildings where the Benefits Department is situated.  They work at computers for much of the working day.  They are mainly office-based but may be required to visit claimants in their homes.

Daily Activities
Benefits officers provide information and advice to residents in the council's area on all aspects of housing and council tax benefits. They may do so in person, by letter or by phone. Their first job is often to explain to people the rules regarding eligibility for receipt of benefit.  They also process claims for benefits. People who wish to claim either or both benefits have to fill in forms, giving details of their financial circumstances. Some claimants (known as customers in many councils) find the forms straightforward. Others may need some help. Benefits officers' duties range from checking forms to make sure that all questions have been answered to assisting customers to complete the forms.  They answer queries at a counter but might take people to an interview room for more privacy when they have to ask questions. Some benefits officers also visit people in their homes. (Many councils employ visiting officers to visits claimants if further information is required.)

When they process application forms, benefits officers have to contact certain external agencies to find out whether information claimants have given is correct. These could be employers (to confirm level of pay) the Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) if they are unemployed and claiming benefits or landlords to confirm the amount of rent being paid. They use standard forms and letters when making enquiries.  In respect of accessing records held by DWP staff use a Customer Information System for the majority of their queries.  When they have all the information, they calculate the level of benefits due and put all the information into a computer system. Finally they notify claimants how much their benefit will be.

Benefits officers keep claimants' records up to date on the computer system and check them regularly. If they find that someone is no longer entitled to benefit but is still being paid, they either make a home visit to explain how repayments must be made or inform the visiting officer.  If they detect fraud at any point in a claim, they refer the matter to the Investigation Team.

Skills & Interests
Benefits officers need to be:

  • numerate
  • good communicators
  • teamworkers
  • knowledgeable and up to date on benefits legislation
  • able to analyse information that comes from several different sources
  • able to deal with sensitive issues in confidence (customers may be embarrassed by needing to claim benefit or reluctant to reveal personal information. Some may be hostile)
  • methodical and well organised
  • able to work quickly and accurately, paying attention to detail
  • able to work under pressure.
  • adapt to change quickly

Entry Requirements
These vary but councils often ask for a minimum of four GCSEs grades at C or above, including English and Maths. Equivalent qualifications such as S/NVQs or Intermediate GNVQ/GSVQ Level II in Business or relevant experience, are usually acceptable alternatives.

Some councils ask for previous experience of working in a team in an administrative or financial job or in a customer service environment in the public or voluntary sectors.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Most councils employ a number of benefits officers. There are opportunities to specialise in visiting or fraud assessment work.  There are prospects of promotion to supervisor/team leader and to benefits manager.

Further Information & Services
You can get information on the work of a benefits officer from relevant departments at your local council.

UK Government

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library. 

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