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Benefit changes

Benefit changes

Each of these links will provide you with information about the different changes taking place to welfare benefits.  For more information about any of them please Contact us.

Universal Credit

Underoccupation

Benefit cap

Non dependent deductions

Personal independence payments

Council tax benefit

Pension Credit

Social Fund

 

 

Underoccupation

 

The amount of Housing Benefit you are entitled to will be reduced if you are assessed as underoccupying your home.

This will affect those with a 'spare' bedroom as defined by the list below and so is also known as the bedroom tax.

This change came into affect on 1st April 2013.  If you claim Housing Benefit and are considered to be underoccupying you will now have to pay a top up to ensure your rent is paid in full.  You can find information about how to make this payment on our Payment methods page.  Alternatively talk to your Housing Officer.

 

Who will be affected?

Anyone who claims any Housing Benefit - or has a housing element to their Universal Credit once it is introduced.  It doesn't matter if you claim full or partial Housing Benefit you could still be affected.

You will still be affected if you are sick or disabled.

You won’t be affected if:

You live in a one bed roomed flat or bedsit, or if you and your partner are old enough to receive pension credits.

 

Have I got a 'spare' bedroom?

The new rules mean that you are allocated one bedroom for:

  • Each Couple
  • Any other person aged 16 or over
  • Two children the same sex under the age of 16
  • Two children under the age of 10 regardless of sex
  • Any other child
  • A carer who does not normally live with you, or if you or your partner need an overnight care.

This means that although someone sleeps in every bedroom in your home you might still be considered to be underoccupying.

For example:

  • A parent living in a 2 bed property who has access to 2 children for 3 days every week will be considered to be underoccupying by 1 room.
  • A 2 parent family with 2 girls age 5 and 7 in a 3 bedroom house will be considered to be underoccupying by 1 room.
  • A working age couple in a 2 bedroom home who sleep in separate bedrooms due to medical needs will be underoccupying by 1 room.

 

You can use this online bedroom limit calculator to help find out if your household is affected and how much you may have to pay.

If you think you are affected or aren't sure Contact us to discuss this.

 

How much benefit will I lose?

If you have 1 'spare' bedroom you will only be able to claim 86% of the rent you have to pay each week.

This means if your rent is £100 per week, and you have 1 spare room, Housing Benefit will only allow you claim for a maximum of £86.00.

This would mean, if you were otherwise entitled to full housing benefit, you could have to pay £14.00 every week to make sure your rent is covered in full.

If you have 2 'spare' bedrooms you will only be able to claim 75% of the rent you have to pay each week.

Your rent and other charges will not be reduced so you have to pay the difference between the rent charged and your housing benefit entitlement or move to smaller accommodation.

If you think you might be affected and want to know how much benefit you might lose or want further information about this please Contact us.

 

What does this mean to me?

If you are considered to have 1 or more spare bedrooms, and you are not in receipt of pension credits, your Housing Benefit will be affected and you will need to top up payments to make sure your rent is paid in full.  This is in addition to any other shortfall or payment you make at present. If you do not make the payments you are risking losing your home.

If your circumstances change, such as an adult child leaving home, this rule may apply to you.  You should always inform the benefit department of any changes to your circumstances to make sure you are receiving the correct amount of benefit.

You need to consider how are you going to pay this shortfall.   You may wish to look at your household budget to see if you can afford this. 

 

What if I can't afford to pay the shortfall?

If you can't afford to pay the shortfall every week you should consider the following options:

Are you eligible for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)?

Discretionary Housing Payments can be paid by the Local Authority if they consider a claimant needs further help with housing costs.  As they are discretionary you will not automatically be awarded these payments if you apply and they are usually only awarded for a fixed amount of time.  They are intended to be a 'stop gap' whilst you find a new home or other way to pay.  If you have been awarded DHP you will need to reapply at the end of your award period or if your circumstances have not changed.  Contact your Housing Benefit team and ask how you can apply for DHP.

Does everyone in your home contribute to household costs?

If you have adult children, or other adults, living in your home you should consider whether they should be contributing towards household costs such as rent.

Can you reduce your household costs so you have more money to pay this?

You may find a few small changes to how you manage your money mean you can afford to make the payments. 

Could you move into smaller accommodation?

Is it possible you could move to a smaller property so you no longer have spare rooms? If you can this will mean you don't have to pay this top up.  You can find information about options available on our Moving home page.

Could you take in a lodger?

You would need consent from us to take in a lodger but you may wish to consider this as a way to cover the shortfall.

You can find more information in our checklist Thinking about taking in a lodger [pdf] 125KB .

If you are considering this please Contact us to discuss it further.

 

What should I do now?

You should have already been notified by the benefit department of changes to your housing benefit. 

If your circumstances change you should contact the beenfit department to inform them.  You should also make sure that you respond to all letters from benefit agencies quickly to reduce the risk of problems or overpayments.

We are also contacting residents who we think will be affected to offer more detailed advise but we may not be able to identify everyone, especially if your circumstances have changed recently.  We recommend that you Contact us to discuss whether or not you will be affected by this.

If you contact us we can provide advise and information on this and the options available to you.

You can also get  advise from your local Housing Benefit department. 

Find contact information for your local Housing Benefit department [pdf] 18KB

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Benefit cap

 

The Government has put a limit on the overall amount of benefits that working age claimants can receive.

This cap was introduced in April 2013 and now affects all Local Authority areas.

 

How much is the cap?

For couples or lone parents the most amount of benefit they can receive will be £500.00 per week.

For single people the most of amount of benefit they can receive will be £350.00 per week.

The DWP says the average reduction will be £83.00 a week per household affected.

 

Which benefit will be reduced if I get more than the weekly allowance?

Housing Benefit will be reduced to bring the total amount of benefit under the cap.  You will still need to pay your full rent.  When Universal Credit is introduced, the cap will apply to all the benefits and affect the overall payment you receive.

 

Will I be affected?

The DWP wrote to households affected to notify them.   If you are not sure you should ask.

You can check how you might be affected using this Benefit cap calculator.

You are most likely to be affected if there are 4 or more children in your household.

Your household will be exempt from the cap if it includes someone who is receiving:

  • Working tax credit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payments
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits
  • Employment Support Allowance if paid with the support component
  • Armed Forces Compensation scheme payments
  • War Pension scheme payments (including War Widow’s/Widower’s Pension and War disablement Pension).

The cap doesn't consider things like free school meals.

 

Want to know more?

If you have questions about this or need further advice you can:

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Non dependant deductions

 

Non dependant deductions are taken from your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit awards for people who are living with you but are not dependant on you.

If you have a non-dependant living in your household, their income will be considered when your Housing Benefit claim is assessed. This income could be benefits or earned income (i.e. wages). This means your Housing Benefit could be reduced.

You are responsible for paying the shortfall between the rent charged on your property and your entitlement to Housing Benefit.

 

Who might be considered a non-dependant?

A non-dependant is a person aged over 18 who lives in your home but who is not dependant on you.  This could be an adult child, a parent or friend who lives with you.

Deductions will not usually be made for:

  • Your partner
  • Anyone under the age of 18
  • Anyone who is a full time student
  • Anyone in receipt of Pension Credit
  • Anyone under 25 who is getting income based Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support or Income related Employment and Support Allowance.

However, you still need to provide all information requested about these members of your household.  If you do not provide the information the highest level of deduction is usually applied to your claim.

 

What is changing?

The amount which can be deducted for non-dependants is reviewed on 1st April each year.  However, the rates have been frozen for the past few years.

The government has decided to increase the non-dependant deductions rates so that they are at the level they would have been, if they had not been frozen.  These changes have already started. It means the amount deducted may increase faster than in previous years.

These are the non-dependant deduction rates for this financial year (until the end of March 2014).

Non dependant deduction rates 2013-14 [pdf] 64KB 

 

Want to know more?

If you need more information or advice on non-dependant deductions you can:

  • Speak to your Housing Officer or Support Worker (if you have one)
  • Speak to a Benefit Advisor
  • Find information online from:
    • Citizens Advice Bureau

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Personal independence payments

 

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced by a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment or PIP.

The Government aims to reduce the amount they currently spend on DLA by 20% each year by replacing it with PIP.

Introduced in April 2013, PIP will be separated into two parts; ‘mobility’ and ‘daily living’ which takes account of a persons ability to live independently as opposed to the condition they have been diagnosed with.

PIP is not means tested, subject to tax or the Benefit cap and is for people in work and out of work.

 

How do I claim PIP?

You will need to phone 0800 917 2222 or  textphone: 0800 917 7777 to complete an application and attend a face-to-face assessment.

If you currently claim DLA then the Department for Work and pensions (DWP) will contact you directly and tell you what to do next.

You will need to complete the application and carry out a face-to-face assessment. The first people to be contacted after October 2013 will be those who report a change in their care or mobility needs, those who are approaching the age of 16 (unless they are terminally ill) and those who reach the end of an existing DLA award.

 

How can I make this process easier?

  • Make sure you keep all forms, certificates and letters together in a safe place.
  • Keep a record of when letters were received.
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you complete the forms if you have any problem with this.  Contact the help teams listed below if you would prefer help over the phone or online.
  • Make sure you attend your face to face assessment when you are requested to. Ask a friend or family member to attend with you if it helps.
  • Don’t understate the impact of your impairment.
  • If you want to appeal a decision, start the process immediately as there is a 1 month time limit.

 

Want to know more?

If you have questions about this or need further advice you can:

  • Speak to your Housing Officer or Support Worker (if you have one)
  • Speak to a Benefits Advisor
  • Call:
    • Your Benefits are Changing: 0300 303 1073 or text 80018 for a call back
    • Benefit enquiry helpline: 0800 882 200 freephone or 0800 243 355 textphone
    • Disability Benefits helpline:  08457 123 456 or 08457 224 433 textphone
    • Turn 2 us: 0808 802 2000
  • Get more information online at:

 

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Council Tax Benefit

Council tax support replaced council tax benefit, council tax discounts, exemptions and reductions.   Some pensioners will be protected but many working age people on benefits will be affected.

Local councils will set their own rules to suit the needs of their local area, and will decide which groups of people to help. There will still be some rules set by the UK Government, including help for pensioners.

You can find out more about these changes by speaking to your Support Worker, a Benefits Advisor or your Local Councils benefit department.

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Pension Credit

Pension Credit is changing.  These changes are expected to start in October 2014.

In future Pension Credit will include an amount towards Housing costs and if you have dependant children, it will also include a new amount which replaces Child Tax Credit.  The carers element will also be easier to claim in future.

A savings limit might be introduced. There is no limit at present and any limit introduced would be £16,000 or higher.

You can get more information about the changes by speaking to a Support Worker or Benefit Advisor.  You can also find further information online from Age UK

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Social Fund

The Social Fund used to include Community Care Grants, Crisis Loans and Budgeting Loans.

Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for living expenses, including rent in advance, were abolished in 2013 and replaced by a local provision administered by Local Authorities in England and devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

Crisis Loans paid due to issues with benefit have been replaced by  a new national scheme of Short Term Advances. This will be administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Budgeting Loans will continue to be available until Universal Credit is fully rolled out.  As claimants move to Universal Credit they will be able to access the new system of Budgeting Advances.

You can find out more information on this by speaking to your Support Worker or a Benefits Advisor.

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