In April 2013 the government started to roll out changes to the welfare benefits system. With millions of people of working age affected; many have seen a drop in their benefits and the money they have to live on. The changes are continuing to be rolled out and we want to ensure you are prepared and getting the help you need if you have been affected or will be in the future.
What are the changes?
There are many changes, but three affect housing benefit directly:
- The Bedroom Tax – introduced in April 2013
- Benefit cap – introduced in April 2013
- Universal credit – rolling out from 2013 - 2019
What is the ‘Bedroom Tax'?
If you have one ‘spare’ bedroom and you claim housing benefit, it will be reduced by 14% of the rent and any eligible service charges. If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%.
According to the criteria, you will be allocated one bedroom for:
- Each adult couple
- Any other person aged 16 or over
- Two children of the same sex under the age of 16.
- Two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex.
- Any other child
- A carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care.
It does not matter how the “spare‟ bedroom is used, or how large it is, the new rules will apply even if:
- You and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition.
- The main residence of your children is another address but you have a spare room for when they stay with you.
What is the Benefit Cap?
If you’re out of work, the overall amount of benefit you can receive will be capped. The overall amount of benefit you can receive (including housing) is capped at £500 per week for single parents and couples with or without children. For single people without children the cap is £350 per week, but there are some exceptions.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a means tested benefit for people of working age. It is designed to simplify the current system and make it easier for people to move into employment. You can claim Universal Credit whether you are in or out of work.
What benefits are affected by Universal Credit?
Universal Credit will replace many of the existing benefits, which includes:
- Income support
- Income based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income related employment support allowance
- Housing benefit
- Working tax credit
- Child tax credit
How often will Universal Credit payments be made?
Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears to the person making the claim. If you have previously relied on housing benefit being paid to us you will now need to ensure that you make that payment yourself, in advance.
Will I be affected?
To start with, it will only be new claims that will be affected. So for example, if you are in employment and don’t claim any benefits but your circumstances change and you need some help, you will have to claim Universal Credit.
However, if you currently receive any of the benefits that Universal Credit replaces you will continue to receive those benefits until you are notified that you need to change over. This is likely to be a long process which will take until December 2019. The Department of Work and Pensions will write to you to let you know when you need to claim
Please let us know if you start to claim Universal Credit as we’d really like to understand the impact on our residents and to help you whenever possible.
When is Universal Credit being introduced?
The introduction of Universal Credit also began in 2013 and will continue to be rolled out until 2019.
What shall I do if I have been affected by the Welfare Reforms?
Contact us! We will help by providing information and advice or by signposting you to local or national services who can:
- Help you to move home
- Help you manage your finances
- Provide advice on taking a lodger (please contact us first)
- Help you apply for discretionary payments through the local authority
- Help you set up a bank account
- Advise you if you are entitled to additional benefits
- Help you to find employment
For further advice or information or if you are struggling to pay your rent please speak to your Neighbourhood/Scheme Manager or contact us.
T: 01372 379 555
Who else could I contact for advice?
You can also contact the Money Advice Service on 0300 500 5000 or visit www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk where you will find lots of useful hints, tips and advice.