Changes to your benefits (welfare reform)

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Coronavirus FAQs

I’ve been told that if I’m self-isolating then I may be able to claim benefits. But what exactly does selfisolating mean?

People self-isolate for different reasons. In the world of benefits special rules apply to someone who is
self-isolating so it is important to understand what exactly it means.

The problem we have is that there is no useful definition.

In the amending ESA and UC Regulations they define isolation in relation to a person, as ‘the separation
of that person from any other person in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with
Coronavirus disease.’

And in the amending SSP Regulations, to be treated as incapable for work the claimant has to be
‘…isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with
coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National
Services Scotland or Public Health Wales.’

At the moment, the government is advising ‘social distancing’ for those with certain health conditions –
but this not the same as ‘self-isolation’.
So those who would be classed as ‘self-isolating’ will be those who:
• Are infected or contaminated with Coronavirus
• Are showing symptoms of the Coronavirus
• Are in the same household as someone infected with or showing symptoms of the Coronavirus

I’m self-isolating and I’ve been told to claim Universal Credit – is this my best option?

That depends on whether or not you are currently getting any of the benefits Universal Credit replaces
in particular Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit.

If you are, then:

• If you make a claim for Universal Credit any Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit you are currently
receiving will stop.
• You will then have to wait around 5 weeks before you receive any Universal Credit.
• If you make a claim for Universal Credit you can receive an Advance Payment, but this is a loan
that needs to be repaid.
• For some people Universal Credit pays less than the Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit they
have been getting and so you could find that in the long run you end up worse off.
• More deductions for debts can be taken from a Universal Credit payment than from a Tax Credit
or Housing Benefit payment – these reduce how much you receive every month.

My pay from work has dropped and I’m really struggling. I don’t know how I’m going to pay this
week’s rent – I’ve been told that if I make a claim for Universal Credit I can get an interest free loan
within days, and that would really help. Is this true?

Someone who makes a new claim for Universal Credit can receive an Advance Payment. How much they
receive depends on their income and personal circumstances.

An Advance Payment is an interest free loan and you pay it back over 12 months – the repayments are
taken out of your Universal Credit award before you receive the payment.

If you are not are currently getting any of the benefits Universal Credit replaces in particular Tax Credits
and/or Housing Benefit, then you may have nothing to lose.

However, if you are getting them, then as soon as you make a claim for Universal Credit these benefits
will stop and you will not be able to get back on them. Some people are worse off on Universal Credit.
So before you make the claim for Universal Credit you need to ensure that this is – in the long run – the
best option for you, and it could be that delaying your date of claim could be beneficial to you. So
please seek advice from a Benefits Adviser.

And contact us to let us know your current situation.

As my hours and therefore my income will drop for a couple of weeks, meaning I’m going to struggle
to pay my rent this month, I’ve been told I should claim Universal Credit – is this a good idea?

That depends on whether or not you are currently getting any of the benefits Universal Credit replaces
in particular Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit.

If you are not currently getting any of the means-tested benefits, then you may have nothing to lose by
making a claim for Universal Credit. Whether you are entitled – and how much you will receive if you are
– will depend of your income, savings and personal circumstances.

If you are currently getting Tax Credits and /or Housing Benefit, then you may be better off staying on
these in the long run. Seek advice from a Benefits Adviser.

And contact us to let us know your current situation.

I’m self-isolating and work has said they will pay me Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), but this is all. I’m going
to struggle to manage – is there anything else I can claim?

That depends on whether or not you are currently getting any of the benefits Universal Credit replaces
in particular Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit.

If you are not currently getting any of the means-tested benefits, then you may have nothing to lose by
making a claim for Universal Credit. Whether you are entitled and how much you will receive if you are
will depend on your income, savings and personal circumstances.

If you are currently getting Tax Credits and /or Housing Benefit, then you may be better off staying on
these in the long run. If you do decide to claim Universal Credit, then it could be that delaying your date
of claim could be beneficial to you. So please seek advice from a Benefits Adviser.

And contact us to let us know your current situation.

I’m getting Universal Credit to top up my wages. But I’ve had to self-isolate – is there anything I should
do?

Contact your Work Coach – let them know that you are self-isolating and that you should be treated as
having a ‘Limited Capability for Work’, and, if your award does not already include a work allowance,
you may now be entitled so request that this is included. Keep looking at your UC account / texts and
watch out for any ‘to-do’s’ – make sure you do complete any given to you. Keep your Work Coach
informed of your situation. If you are likely to be off work for more than 7 days, get an ‘isolation note’
from NHS111 online and for your employer – the DWP should not ask you for this.

I’m off work at the moment due to self-isolating, but I still need to pay for my child care. Universal
Credit usually pay 85% of the cost – will they still do so when I’m not actually going into work?

If you’re receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), the UC rules still class you as working, so you will continue to
qualify for the Childcare Costs Element of UC. But you will still need to report the childcare costs and
notify UC once they are paid.

If you don’t qualify for SSP then it will depend on how quickly you go back to work. If you are back
within a couple of weeks you should see no difference, but if you are off more than a month, you might
find that your Childcare Costs Element stops. You could try asking your Work Coach if the Flexible
Support Fund could help – explain that if you lose the childcare place you’d have to give up work.
I’ve been ‘furloughed’ from work and my child’s nursery is closed. The nursery are charging a retainer
to guarantee my child’s place when things get back to normal.

Will my Universal Credit still cover 85% of the cost even though I’m not actually going into work?

We hope so! The Childcare Cost Element is for claimants who are in paid work – and whilst you are
furloughed, we hope that you would still count as being in work. So as long as you continue to promptly
report what you have paid to the nursery, hopefully you should still have a Childcare Cost Element
included in your UC assessment.

The company I work for is in financial difficulties, I am worried that it will go into liquidation and I will
have no job – can I claim Universal Credit?

As long as you satisfy the basic claiming criteria for Universal Credit you will be able to make a claim.
You have to: be working age, have savings/capital under £16,000, be in GB, not be excluded from UC
(some students are excluded depending on age, level of course etc), not be claiming Tax Free Childcare,
and agree to a claimant commitment. Whether you will have an award paid/how much will depend on
your individual circumstances. You could use an online calculator to give an estimate of how much you
may be entitled to.

Hopefully, due to the recent government announcements regarding the Job Retention Scheme your
employer will be able to keep you on.

If you are laid off, then the timing of your UC claim may be important  and you should also
make a new claim for Council Tax Support.

I’ve just lost my job and I’m due some holiday pay – when can I claim Universal Credit?

You can claim immediately, but depending how much holiday pay you are due, and when, you may be
better off delaying your claim until you receive it. If you are due a significant amount of holiday pay in
the next few days / couple of weeks, then it is more likely that it would be better to delay the claim until
after you receive this payment. This is because this payment from your employer will reduce your UC
award.

If you are entitled to a work allowance and the amount of holiday pay (and any wages you are still due)
is less than this allowance, then you should claim immediately. This is because the payment from your
employer will be totally disregarded and so not affect your UC award.

If you are not sure what you are best doing, contact a Benefits Advise.

My contract of employment has just ended and I’ve made a claim for Universal Credit. But my
outgoings are going to be much higher than my income – what can I do?

Make sure you claim Council Tax Support to help you with your Council Tax Bill. If you pay rent and so
have a Housing Costs Element included in your Universal Credit award you can also try for a
Discretionary Housing Payment from your Local Authority.

Think about what bills / expenses you can cut down – there’s lots of useful information online. Speak to
a Money Adviser who can help you renegotiate debt repayments and draw up a realistic budget.
Contact your Local Authority and ask if they can provide any help through their Local Welfare Assistance
fund – note not all Local Authorities have these.

You could also contact your local Food Bank to see what help they can provide.

I need to make a claim for Universal Credit but I’m self-isolating and don’t have access to the internet
at home. How can I make that claim?

You should ring the UC Helpline 0800 328 5644 and explain your situation. They will be able to take
your claim over the phone and explain what happens next.

I’m on Universal Credit as a jobseeker. I’m meant to spend 35 hours a week looking for work, but my
household has gone into self-isolation. What should I do?

You should contact your Work Coach by sending them a message via your UC journal and ring the UC
Helpline 0800 328 5644 and explain your situation. You should have your claimant commitment altered
to reflect the fact that you do not have to be available for work nor do any work search. Make sure you
accept this online within 7 days, otherwise your claim could be closed.

Keep in contact with your Work Coach and watch out for any texts and ‘to-do’s’. As soon as you stop
self-isolating your claimant commitment will be altered again to reflect your new situation – and again
you will need to agree to it within 7 days.

I’m currently on UC as a jobseeker, but need to provide care for my Mum who has come down with
Coronavirus. I’m worried that my UC will be sanctioned as I’m having to stay with Mum temporarily.
And she’s no access to the internet.

Let your Work Coach know what is going on. If you are having to self-isolate due to government
guidelines you should be treated as having a limited capability for work.

This means that your Work Coach should review your claimant commitment and tailor it to your current
situation. As, in addition to having a limited capability for work, you also have temporary caring
responsibilities, we would hope the DWP would suspend all work-related requirements.

The main thing is making sure the DWP know your situation as soon as possible – call the Helpline 0800
328 5644 if you can’t access the internet to get on your journal.

I need to send my Work Coach a message but I’m self-isolating and don’t have access to the internet
at home. What should I do?

You should ring the UC Helpline 0800 328 5644 and explain your situation. They will be able to explain
what happens next.

I need to make a claim for Universal Credit. I am self-isolating as my partner is showing symptoms of
the Coronavirus. Will I have to attend the Jobcentre for a New Claim appointment? I’ve heard that if I
miss this appointment our claim for UC will be closed. What should I do?

You should not be asked to attend an appointment at the Jobcentre at the current time, due to the
Coronavirus. You can communicate with your Work Coach by sending them a message via your UC
journal and ring the UC Helpline 0800 328 5644.

I am a jobseeker and I get Universal Credit for myself and my two children. The children get free
school meals, but the school has closed – what should I do?

The government has said that families who get free school meals due to being on a low income will be
offered vouchers for supermarkets or local shops, or food or meals by their schools. So if you have not
already been contacted by the children’s school, you could ring the school to find out what the local arrangements are.

Bedroom Tax

What is “Bedroom Tax “?

The “Bedroom Tax” is the name given to benefit changes introduced in 2013 for social housing residents, which mean that the amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you get might be reduced if you have more bedrooms than the government deems necessary.

If you (or you and your partner) are Pension Credit age and receiving Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent, then you will not be affected by the Bedroom Tax.

Your Housing Benefit, or the help included in your Universal Credit to help you pay your rent, will be reduced by an amount equal to 14% of your rent if you are regarded as having one ‘extra’ bedroom; or by 25% of your rent if you have two or more ‘extra’ bedrooms.

The bedroom tax doesn’t affect everybody. You won’t need to pay any more rent for having ‘too many’ bedrooms:

  • If you (or you and your husband, wife or partner) are Pension Credit age or over and receiving Housing Benefit
  • If you live in a ‘shared ownership’ property
  • If you have been placed in a certain type of ‘temporary accommodation’
  • If you live in a particular type of supported housing called ‘exempt accommodation’ – ask us if you’re not sure
  • If your Housing Benefit has already been reduced because of a Rent Officer referral

Use our Welfare Benefit calculator to ensure that you are receiving the correct benefits.

How many bedrooms am I allowed?

The basic rules are that one bedroom is allowed for each of the following:

  • A couple
  • A single adult
  • A child over the age of 16
  • 2 children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • 2 children of either sex under the age of 10

The number of bedrooms a household needs can be increased in certain circumstances. The rules in this area are complicated but include the following groups:

  • Disabled adults who need overnight care
  • Households with disabled children who cannot share a bedroom because of their disability
  • Foster carers
  • Households with adult children in the armed forces who are away from home for University

Once your local council/the DWP have worked out how many bedrooms you are deemed to need using the above rules, they will regard any bedroom you have above this as ‘extra’. This is regardless of its size, or what it is used for, and so will mean you receive less Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and you will have to make up the difference.

*See the Frequently Asked Questions for ideas on challenging the local council’s / DWP’s decisions.

What can I do?

If your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is being reduced by the Bedroom Tax:

  • First check that a Bedroom Tax deduction should apply to you. If you don’t think it should (maybe the local council / DWP have the number of children wrong, or don’t know about your overnight carer) then contact them immediately, and let us know – we may be able to help.
  • If the Bedroom Tax is being applied correctly and you are getting Housing Benefit, you need to pay the difference in your rent, otherwise you could lose your home. If you are struggling to pay your rent contact us immediately.
  • If the Bedroom Tax is being applied correctly and the Universal Credit you get each month includes help with your rent, this will not cover all the rent that is due so contact us to find out how much you have to pay. If you are struggling to pay your rent contact us immediately.
  • If the Bedroom Tax is being applied correctly and the DWP pay part of your Universal Credit to us, towards your rent, this will not cover all the rent that is due so contact us to find out how much you have to pay. If you are struggling to pay your rent contact us immediately.
  • If you are having real difficulties paying your rent then you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment- but the council’s budget is limited so you will need to explain your particular difficulties and provide a financial statement showing that you cannot afford the rent that is due. See the section on Discretionary Housing Payments for more information.

Even if the Bedroom Tax should apply to you according to the government’s rules, you might be able to argue successfully to an appeal tribunal that the rules are not being interpreted correctly in your case. Contact us for more information.

The Benefit Cap

What is “the Benefit Cap”?
The Benefit Cap limits the overall amount of welfare benefits a ‘working age’ household can receive. It does not affect you if:

  • you or your partner (and in some circumstances a dependent child) are getting certain benefits, or
  • you (or your partner) are Pension Credit age – unless you are getting Universal Credit, Income Based JSA or Income Support or Income Related ESA.

Here’s some information on the Benefit Cap, firstly for people on Housing Benefit, then for those on Universal Credit.

Benefit Cap for people on Housing Benefit

Who won’t be affected by the Cap?

The Benefit Cap does not apply to you if:

  • You or your partner are Pension Credit Age (unless you are getting Universal Credit, Income Based JSA or Income Support or Income Related ESA)
  • You or your partner have claimed and are entitled to claim, Working Tax Credit
  • You, your partner, or a child or young person for whom you get Child Benefit, gets Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Armed Forces Independent Payment.
  • You or your partner are in the ‘support group’ of Employment Support Allowance
  • You or your partner receive (or have an underlying entitlement to) Carer’s Allowance
  • You or your partner receive Guardian’s Allowance
  • You or your partner get Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • You or your partner get a War Disablement Pension, Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payment, or a War Widows’/Widowers’ Pension.
  • You (or you and your partner) are out of work but had been in work for at least 50 out of the 52 weeks before – this “grace period” lasts 9 months.

How to work out if the Cap applies to you

If you are of working age and not getting one of the benefits/in one of the situations that would exclude you from the Benefit Cap then the DWP will add together most of the benefits you are entitled to (including Child Benefit).

They will then compare this to the Benefit Cap limit that applies to you:

  • £384.62 per week for single parents.
  • £384.62 per week for couples with or without children.
  • £257.69 per week for single people without children.

If your total welfare is above this Cap limit you will be affected by the Benefit Cap.

When you add the benefits together do not include: Council Tax Support, Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Bereavement Support Payment, Discretionary Housing Payments and Housing Benefit paid on ‘specified accommodation’ (i.e. certain supported housing – ask us if you’re not sure if this applies to you).

If the total amount of the benefits you (and your partner) are entitled to comes to more than the Benefit Cap limit your Housing Benefit payments will be reduced. If this would mean losing all your Housing Benefit, you still have to be given 50p a week. This means that you can still try for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

It is only your Housing Benefit that can be reduced due to the Cap – although 50p a week must be left in payment. But if you receive Universal Credit then the whole of your Universal Credit award can be reduced due to the cap.

Benefit Cap for people on Universal Credit

Who won’t be affected by the Cap?

The Benefit Cap does not apply to you:

  • In any months in which you or your partner have earned income of £520 or more.
  • If you, your partner, or a child or young person for whom you get Child Benefit, gets Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Armed Forces Independent Payment.
  • If you or your partner are regarded as “having a limited capability for work-related activity”.
  • If you or your partner get Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
  • If you or your partner get a War Disablement Pension, Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payment, or a War Widows’/Widowers’ Pension.
  • If you are entitled to Carer’s Allowance or a Carer Element in your Universal Credit award
  • If you get Guardian’s Allowance
  • If you (or you and your partner) are out of work but had been in work continuously for over 12 months before losing the job and you or your partner (or if you were both working, between the two of you) have earned at least £430 net or more in each of these monthly assessment periods which started before 1stApril 2017 or had earned income of £520 or more in any monthly assessment periods which started on or after 1st April 2017 onwards – you will be protected for a “grace period” of 9 months.

How do you work out if the Cap applies?

If you are of working age and not getting one of the benefits / in one of the situations that would exclude you from the Benefit Cap then the DWP will add together most of the benefits you are entitled to (including Child Benefit).

They will then compare this to the Benefit Cap limit that applies to you:

  • £1666.67 per month for single parents.
  • £1666.67 per month for couples with or without children.
  • £1116.67 per month for single people without children.

If your total welfare is above this Cap limit you will be affected by the Benefit Cap.

When you add the benefits together do not include: any Child Care Cost Element of the Universal Credit award, Council Tax Support, Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Bereavement Support Payment, Discretionary Housing Payments and Housing Benefit paid on ‘specified accommodation’ (i.e. certain supported housing – ask us of you’re not sure if this applies to you).

If the total amount of the benefits you (and your partner) are entitled to is more than the Benefit Cap limit that applies in any monthly assessment period, then your Universal Credit payments will be reduced for that month. If you are struggling to pay your rent because of the Cap then you might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment to help you. Contact us for advice.

Find out more – take a look at our benefit cap FAQs.

Are you receiving all the benefits you are entitled to?

Use our budget calculator to find out. If you need any more information, call our Money Advice team on 0300 111 1212.

Discretionary Housing Payment

What is a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)?
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.

Many people have a shortfall between the Housing Benefit they get and the rent they have to pay.

If you are struggling to meet this shortfall then you can apply to their local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment. This includes where you have been affected by the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap.

You can also ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you are on Universal Credit and struggling to pay your rent.

Discretionary Housing Payments are awarded at the discretion of the local council – they are not an entitlement in the way that many other benefits are. And there is not a clear set of rules to help the local council decide whether or not they’ll give a payment – so an application can be refused.

Discretionary Housing Payments that are given to help with your ongoing rent are usually awarded for a limited amount of time – 13 or 26 weeks – so they are not a long-term answer. But you can re-apply at the end of that period.

If you make a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment you need to explain your personal circumstances in as much detail as possible explaining why you need the extra help and for how long you are likely to require it. It’s a good idea to include a “financial statement” showing your income and outgoings. You are more likely to get a payment if you will not need it for very long.

If you make a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment you must continue to pay your full rent until you have been told the outcome of your claim – otherwise arrears will build up on your rent account.

If a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment is refused, that decision is not appealable to an independent Tribunal but you can request an internal review of the decision – write to your local council explaining why you disagree with their decision.

There is no time limit for making a claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment, so you can ask your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment that covers a period in the past when you were entitled to some Housing Benefit or Universal Credit – which can help reduce any rent arrears on your rent account.

Our MoneyWise team is on hand if you need assistance or advice with applying for a DHP.

Non-dependent deductions

What are non-dependent deductions?

Non-dependants are normally classed as anyone living with you aged 18 or over, or 21 if you are on Universal Credit.

The Government makes the assumption that these adults will contribute towards your household costs, including rent and Council Tax.  They can therefore deduct a sum of money from your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and Council Tax Support award, which is called a non-dependant deduction.

These deductions are generally based on the income the non-dependant receives and are applied regardless of whether or not they do actually give you any money for food, rent, electricity etc.

This person may, however, be classed as a lodger if they are not a close relative and they pay you on a formal basis to live in your home. Having a lodger will affect your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit payments differently.

The non-dependant deduction rules are complicated and the wrong deduction can sometimes be taken – making a big difference to your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and Council Tax Support award.

The rules are also different depending on whether you are claiming Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. With Housing Benefit, the deductions are calculated based on earnings of the non-dependent, whereas with Universal Credit, the deductions are referred to as ‘housing costs contributions’ and a flat rate of £70.06 a month per non-dependent will be taken from your Universal Credit award.

There are some circumstances in which no deduction will be taken such as:

  • If you or your partner are registered blind or getting the care component of Disability Living Allowance, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payments, Attendance allowance, or Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • If the non-dependent is only staying with you temporarily
  • If they are under 25 and on Income Based Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • Under 25 and on Income Support
  • On Pension Credit
  • On Carer’s Allowance
  • A prisoner, whether on remand or sentenced
  • In the armed forces and away on operations

Contact your local council or DWP if you have a non-dependent living with you to ensure that you are not being over-billed. Our MoneyWise team is also on hand to help if you need further assistance.

Pension Credit

What is Pension Credit?
Did you know that around a third of people who are entitled to Pension Credit do not claim it? You could be missing out on extra money, so read on to find out more.

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

Guarantee Pension Credit is a benefit which people of Pension Credit Age can claim; it tops up your 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! The Pension Credit age varies depending on your gender and date of birth. Visit https://www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension to check whether you are eligible.

What if my partner has reached Pension Credit age but I haven’t?

If you are a couple and one of you has reached Pension Credit age, you can make a claim for Pension Credit. But this is something that will change in the future – ‘mixed age couples’ will have to claim Universal Credit instead, which is much less generous. So it is worth checking if you could be entitled, and claim Pension Credit now; if you do get Pension Credit you can stay on it for as long as you remain entitled to it and will not have to change to Universal Credit.

How much could I get?

Guarantee Pension Credit tops up your income to a certain level. The amount you could get depends on whether you are single or a couple and whether you have certain circumstances that mean you need more money to live on. Because it is a top-up benefit, the amount you can get also depends on the amount and type of other income you receive and the level of any savings you have above £10,000.

How do I make a claim?

The easiest way to make a claim is by ringing the Pension Credit claim line on 0800 99 1234.

Savings Pension Credit

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, e.g. private or works pensions.

Changes introduced in April 2016 mean that those who reached State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016 are not eligible to make a new claim for Savings Pension Credit.

People who were already getting their State Pension, or who reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016, can still make a claim for Savings Pension Credit. However, if they are a member of a couple and the younger one reaches State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016, they will not have access to Savings Pension Credit unless they have already been awarded it before this date and have remained continuously entitled to it since then.

No more Assessed Income Periods from April 2016   

Assessed Income Periods were periods set by the Pension Service during which you did not need to report changes in your pensions, savings or investments, and your Pension Credit would not be reduced if your income or savings increase during your Assessed Income Period.

Since April 2016 no new Assessed Income Periods have been set and those which were already in place and which had been set for longer periods ended earlier.

This means people who get Pension Credit will need to report all changes in their circumstances that could affect their entitlement straight away.

New rules for people who go abroad for four weeks or more

If you go abroad, outside of Great Britain, and you do not intend to return within four weeks or you are not back home within four weeks, your Pension Credit (and Housing Benefit) will stop. There are exceptions – there is a 26-week limit for if you, your partner or dependent child are in hospital or undergoing medical treatment abroad and an 8-week limit if you are abroad due to the death of a close relative.  If you go to Northern Ireland, this counts as abroad. When you go abroad you must expect to return home within the 4 (or 8 or 26) weeks and actually be back within that time period. These rules have applied since 28 July 2016.

Speak to our Money Advice team on 0161 331 2222 if you are unsure as they will be able to assist you to make sure that you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to.

Alternatively, try our handy Benefit Calculator.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

What is PIP?

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit paid to help people with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability.

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 – whether physical, mental health or learning difficulty, contact our Money Advice team to see if you or they ought to claim.

Most people who are currently receiving Disability Living Allowance – except under 16s and those who were aged 65 on 8 April 2013 – are gradually being reassessed for Personal Independence Payment instead – see the Frequently Asked Questions. If you are currently getting Disability Living Allowance and are not sure if you are going to be affected by this change you can use this ‘checker’ https://www.gov.uk/pip-checker

Who can get Personal Independence Payment?

You can claim Personal Independence Payment if you have a long-term health condition or disability, are aged 16 or over, and under 65.

It doesn’t matter whether you are in or out of work and doesn’t take account of your income or savings.

Personal Independence Payment considers how your disability/health condition affects your ability to complete certain everyday activities. You will be asked to fill in a questionnaire and have to attend a medical assessment.  If you score enough “points” from these you will be awarded Personal Independence Payment. See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on these “points”.

Note: You might have a health problem but not consider yourself to be disabled. If your illness means that you need help, or take longer to do the task, or cannot do it reliably, repeatedly or safely, or you use aids and/or appliances to live a more independent live, then you may be able to claim Personal Independence Payment.

To be able to claim you will need to have had the problems that mean you qualify for Personal Independence Payment for a period of three months before making a claim, and be expected to continue to have these problems for a further nine months after making the claim. But these rules do not apply if you are terminally ill, or if you move onto Personal Independence Payment from Disability Living Allowance.

Parents of children under 16 can claim Disability Living Allowance for them instead.
If you are aged 65 or over you can claim Attendance Allowance instead.

How do I claim?

Claims are made over the telephone: 0800 917 2222. Lines are open 8am – 6pm Monday – Friday.

If you would prefer to complete a paper form just explain this when you call – but don’t delay completing and returning the form as an award will only be made from the date the DWP receive the form.

Once you’ve made this initial claim you will then be sent a questionnaire to complete about how your illness/disability affects you.

Most people who claim Personal Independence Payment will have to attend a face-to face consultation (medical) with a healthcare professional, although there are exceptions: E.g. for some people who are terminally ill.

The questionnaire and the medical are to work out how many points you score – so make sure you explain your problems and the support you need, as fully as possible.

 

 

Tax Credits

Working Tax Credits

What are Working Tax Credits?

Working Tax Credit (WTC) is designed to top up your earnings if you work. There have been a number of changes to the rules for qualifying for WTC and they are summarised below.

To qualify, couples with children must have one person working at least 24 hours per week. If both partners are working then they will need to work at least 24 hours between them and one of them must be working at least 16 hours

Working Tax Credit is no longer available to people aged 50 or over who are returning to work for 16 hours or more after being on benefits for at least six months. To qualify they will need to work at least 30 hours per week whilst the extra allowance already paid to people over 50 working 30 hours will stop.

Claimants need to report changes of circumstance immediately as backdating requests have been reduced from three months to one month. Drops in income of up to £2,500 per annum will be ignored and if the drop is more than this then the first £2,500 will be ignored.

There have also been alterations to the rules relating to increases in household income. Prior to April 2016 if the household income increased by up to £5,000 during the tax year this increase was ignored when calculating the WTC entitlement for that year. However since April 2016 any increase in income of more than £2,500 will be taken into account when calculating the WTC entitlement.

As Working Tax Credits are one of the benefits that are being replaced by Universal Credit, if you have a change in circumstances, it is likely you will need to start a new claim for UC.  It is planned that by 2022, Working Tax Credits will be completely phased out in favour of Universal Credit.

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/qualify-tax-credits

Child Tax Credits

What are Child Tax Credits?

Child Tax Credit (CTC) is paid to help people with the costs of bringing up a child. There is no condition of being in work to qualify, although how much CTC is awarded is dependent on the household’s income and circumstances.

CTC is one of the six benefits that is being phased out and replaced by Universal Credit. This means that a person cannot claim tax credits and Universal Credit at the same time. If you are claiming CTC and you have a change in circumstances (such as a change in your income) you will be required to start a new claim for Universal Credit.

The Tax Credits helpline 0345 300 3900 assists with both new tax credits claims and allows existing claims to be updated.

Two Child Limit

On 6 April 2018, the Government introduced a two child limit into Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit. This does not affect entitlement to Child Benefit.

If you already have two or more dependent children in your family and you have a new baby, or you become responsible for another child, your Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit will only increase if that child is disabled and you get Disability Living Allowance for them and/or you have to pay for registered childcare for them, or if an ‘exception’ applies.

If you take on responsibility for a third, fourth, fifth etc. child and they were born after 6 April 2017, contact us for further advice.

Exceptions to the rules

There are some exceptions to the rules. In certain circumstances relating to multiple births, adoption, non-parental caring arrangements (e.g. kinship care and where a child was conceived as a result of non-consensual sex) extra money for a third, fourth, fifth etc. child could be included.

For example, if you have no dependent children but then gave birth to triplets, or if you already have one dependent child, then gave birth to twins you should receive extra Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit for all those children. If you are an existing Universal Credit claimant, you will receive extra Universal Credit.

If you think an exception should apply, it will be up to the Tax Credit Office or Universal Credit Department to decide whether extra benefit can be paid for a third, fourth, fifth etc. child.

The Housing Benefit Office must follow the decision of the Tax Credit Office and, until the Housing Benefit Office has seen the Tax Credit award letter, they cannot include any extra child allowance for a third, fourth, fifth etc. child.

If you were already receiving Housing Benefit on 5 April 2017 and you had three or more children included in your Housing Benefit assessment, the Housing Benefit Office will continue to include these children in your award.

However, if you need to make a new claim for Housing Benefit or Universal Credit (e.g. if you move to a different local authority area) or you become responsible for another child, your Housing Benefit award can only include a maximum of two children (even if more than two of your children were born before 6 April 2017) until the Housing Benefit Office has seen your Child Tax Credit award.

So, unless you are getting Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance (or Universal Credit and you are claiming Housing Benefit because you are living in specified accommodation), it is very important that you show the Housing Benefit Office your Tax Credit letter as soon as you receive it. If you delay, you could miss out on benefit.

As of 1 February 2019, anyone who makes a new claim for Universal Credit will only get a maximum of two child elements, unless any of the exceptions apply. There is, however, transitional protection for claimants who were already receiving child elements with an existing award for Universal Credit on 31 January 2019, or in a Child Tax Credit award in the previous 6 months. They will continue to receive child elements for the children who they were previously receiving elements or allowances for, until there is a break in the Universal Credit award or they are no longer responsible for the child.

If you are concerned about these changes, please contact us.

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