Since 2013 the government has introduced a number of changes to the benefit system. For many people claiming benefits, this has resulted in changes to how much and how the benefits are paid.
The Government‘s reform of the benefit system continues. So if you have been unaffected so far, this doesn’t mean that future changes won’t have an effect on your benefits.
What do you need to know?
Below we have provided some summaries of the recent and forthcoming changes. Click on the headings to reveal more information. There is also more detailed information on all these – follow the links or use the side menu on the left, with some Frequently Asked Questions. If you can’t find the answer to your question, please contact us on 0161 331 2200
Do you receive any of the benefits that Universal Credit is replacing?
Or are you someone who can claim Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new benefit that is being introduced in stages between 2013 and 2022. It is for people of working age, in or out of work, designed to top up their income to a minimum level. Universal Credit will eventually replace Housing Benefit and certain other benefits for people who are out of work as well as tax credits for people in work.
Universal Credit is gradually replacing these benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
If you are Pension Credit age, you will not be affected by this change, unless you have a partner who is under Pension Credit age and you are not receiving Pension Credit. See the Frequently Asked Questions if this applies to you.
Universal Credit is being introduced gradually across the country and in stages. The government aims to have it fully rolled out by 2022.
Universal Credit will be paid in one lump sum and on a monthly basis and will include any entitlement to help you pay your rent. This is very different to the current system so it is worth finding out about these changes so you can start thinking about what you might need to do to prepare for it.
Go to the Universal Credit page to find out more.
Do you or your partner suffer from any disabilities or illnesses?
Personal Independence Payment is a benefit to help people with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or disability. It is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance for adults aged 16 or over and who were aged under 65 on 8th April 2013.
An award of Personal Independence Payment can dramatically increase your income – so if you or your partner or a child aged 16 or over have an illness or disability, do contact an experienced adviser to see if it is worth making a claim.
Personal Independence Payment can be paid to people regardless of whether they are in work or not working and regardless of their income or savings.
Go to the ‘Personal Independence Payments’ page to find out more and if you are currently on Disability Living Allowance how you might be affected by this change.
Does the government think you have too many bedrooms?
The “Bedroom Tax” is the name given to benefit changes introduced on 1st April 2013 for social housing tenants, which mean that the amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you get might be reduced if, according to the government, you have more bedrooms than they think you need.
If you (or you and your partner) are Pension Credit age and getting Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent then you will not be affected by the Bedroom Tax. NOTE: Pension Credit Age is gradually increasing – to check, go to https://www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension
If you are affected it is worth checking to see if the rules have been applied correctly and what else, if anything, you can do.
Go to the ‘Bedroom Tax’ page to find out more.
Does someone age 18 or over live with you?
Non-dependants are normally classed as anyone living with you aged 18 or over (if you are getting Universal Credit, it’s 21 or over). The government assumes that these adults will contribute towards household costs, including your rent and Council Tax. They can therefore deduct a sum of money from your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support entitlement, and this is called a non-dependant deduction. If you are receiving Universal Credit, they can take a sum of money from it - and its official title is a ‘housing cost contribution’ but we’ll refer to it here as a non-dependant deduction.
These rules are complicated and the wrong deduction can sometimes be made – making a big difference to your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and Council Tax Support award, and so to how much rent and council tax you have to pay.
Go to the ‘Non Dependant Deductions’ page to find out more and check that the right non-dependant deduction is being taken.
Are you on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and struggling to pay your rent? Or perhaps you need to move due to the Welfare Reform changes but don’t have the money for a deposit for privately rented housing, or for removal costs?
Every year the Government gives local councils a pot of money to make Discretionary Housing Payments to help people who qualify for Housing Benefit (or the housing costs element of Universal Credit) who are having trouble with:
paying their rent, or
- finding enough money to pay for the start-up costs of a tenancy, such as rent deposits and removal costs.
Go to the ‘Discretionary Housing Payments’ page to find out more.
Finding it difficult to pay your council tax bill? Someone on a low income can get their council tax bill reduced through the Council Tax Support scheme if they meet all the claiming conditions.
Council Tax Support replaced Council Tax Benefit in April 2013. One of the main differences between this system and the old one is that it’s now up to individual councils to decide who gets a reduction in their council tax bill. Each council sets its own rules, and has the power to change these rules from each April.
Council Tax Support helps people on low incomes and/or certain welfare benefits to pay their council tax bill. If you think you may be entitled you’ll need to apply to your local council for a reduction.
Note that if you claim Universal Credit you MUST claim Council Tax Support separately, from your local Council. This is unlike claiming Housing Benefit where it’s all on one form. Some English councils made changes to their Council Tax Support rules from April 2016 due to budget cuts. Go to the ‘Council Tax’page to find out more.
Are you a large family or live in a property with a high rent?
The Government introduced rules in 2013 which limit the overall amount of welfare benefits a ‘working age’ household can receive. It does not affect you if you and your partner are Pension Credit age.
This mainly affects large families (4 or more children – 3 or more in higher rented areas). When the Cap is reduced further (some time from the Autumn 2016 onwards), more families will be affected.
If you (or you and your partner) are affected it is worth checking to see if you can claim one of the benefits that will exclude you from the Cap.
Go to the ‘Benefit Cap’page to find out more, and discover if there is anything else you can do if you are affected by the Cap.
From April 2016 if you ask for a Housing Benefit payment to be “backdated” this can only be allowed for up to one calendar month from the date you ask for it. A backdate is when you haven’t claimed in time, or haven’t provided information or evidence for your claim in time, and you want the Housing Benefit office to pay your Housing benefit from an earlier date. If you are under “Pension Credit age” you have to show that you had a very good reason for not claiming/ providing the information earlier.
Another change – which came into play from 28th July 2016 - will affect you if go abroad for longer than 4 weeks; you won’t get any Housing Benefit while you are away. There are exceptions – there is a 26-week limit for certain people who are abroad due to their type of work (eg armed forces, mariners), some people fleeing domestic violence or if you are in hospital or undergoing medical treatment abroad. The time limit of 4 weeks can be extended by up to a further 4 weeks if you are abroad due to the death of a close relative and the Housing Benefit Office considers it unreasonable to expect you to return within 4 weeks. If you go to Northern Ireland, this counts as abroad under the new rules; they affect anyone away from Great Britain. When you go abroad you must intend to return within the 4 (or 8 or 26) weeks and actually be back home within that time period to be able to receive Housing Benefit for the period you are away.
If someone who normally lives with you is going to be staying in the property they might be able to claim Housing Benefit instead – contact us for advice.
The Government has announced another change to Housing Benefit and help with rent through Universal Credit which will take effect from April 2018.
You may be affected by this change if your tenancy is dated from 1st April 2016 or after (or from 1st April 2017 or after if you are in supported housing).
The amount of help you get towards your rent will be capped at the Local Housing Allowance rate that applies to you. If the amount you are entitled to under the Local Housing Allowance rules is less than the amount you would get under the ‘Bedroom Tax’ rules, the help you get will be based on the lower amount. So if the Local Housing Allowance rates in your area are lower than the amount of help you are entitled to at the moment, you may see a reduction in the help you can get from April 2018. You can check The Local Housing Allowance rates for your area can be found at http://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/Search.aspx
Please contact us if you are concerned about this change.
From April 2017. There will be no automatic entitlement to help with rent for new claims to Universal Credit for 18-21 year olds who are out of work.
However, the government has said it will ensure that vulnerable young people who are in need of support for their housing needs continue to receive it.
Even if they are claiming Universal Credit, 18-21 year olds who are in certain types of supported accommodation will get help with their rent through Housing Benefit rather than through Universal Credit. This change will not affect Housing Benefit claims.
Most of the Welfare Reform changes affect working age people, but there are changes that affect older people too.
Did you know about the new State Pension?
Anyone who reaches State Pension age on or after 6th April 2016 will fall under the new rules for State Retirement Pensions. People who reach State Pension age before this date will get their State Pension based on the current rules.
There are some key differences between the old and the new schemes.
Go to the page about State Retirement Pensions for more details.
Could Pension Credit give you extra income?
There are two types of Pension Credit: Guarantee Pension Credit and Savings Pension Credit. Some people get one or the other and some people can get both.
Guarantee Pension Credit is a benefit which people of Pension Credit Age can claim; it tops up their income to a minimum level. It is much more generous than the working age means-tested benefits. Even if you are only entitled to a small amount, the good news is that you automatically qualify for maximum help with your rent too! So it is well worth making a claim even if you’re not sure whether you will qualify - you’ve nothing to lose.
Savings Pension Credit is for people aged 65 and over. It provides extra money to some people who have made some additional provision for their retirement, eg. private or works pensions.
Changes from April 2016 mean that if you reach State Pension age on or after 6th April 2016 you will not be able to make a new claim for Savings Pension Credit.
For more information go to our Pension Credit page page.
© 2016 Housing Systems Ltd