There are planned benefit changes just around the corner. Will the changes affect you…are you ready?

In April 2013, two major changes will be made to the benefit system, the benefit cap and the “Bedroom tax.” These changes may mean that you receive less in benefits. If you are affected by the benefit changes, don’t panic, find out about more about your options and plan ahead so you can pay your bills and rent.

Why are these changes taking place?

The coalition government wants to make changes that will make the welfare benefit system fairer, simpler, and more affordable.

The changes are designed to make sure that families getting benefits will not get more than the average working family. It is also hoped that changes will save money and help cut the country’s budget deficit.

What age group will be affected?

The changes below will only affect you if you receive benefits and are of working age (under 61 years old). Please read all the below information to find out if they will affect you.

What is the bedroom tax?

Also known as the under-occupancy rule, the bedroom tax means that from April 2013, you may get less Housing Benefit if you have a ‘spare’ room, as decided by government set standards. Under new government rules, if you have one spare room your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay each week .e.g. If you get £100 to pay you rent of £100 each week, your housing benefit will be cut by £14 to £86. This means their will be a difference of £14 between you’re the rent you will have to pay and housing benefit you receive. If you have two or more spare rooms your housing benefit will be cut by 25% of the rent you pay each week.

Somebody sleeps in every bedroom of my home- so that means I don’t have a spare room, right?

Wrong. Under the new benefit rules, the following is allowed without you being affected by cuts:

  • 1 bedroom for a couple
  • 1 bedroom for a person aged 16 years or over
  • 1 bedroom for 2 children aged under 16 of the same gender
  • 1 bedroom for 2 children aged under 10 years (a child under 10 is expected to share with another a child 9 years or under, boy or girl).
  • 1 extra bedroom is allowed if you or your partner needs a regular overnight carer
  • No extra bedroom is allowed for children visiting at weekend, foster children, couples who use separate bedrooms because of illness, disabled adults
  • 1 extra bedroom may be allowed for a severely disabled child

What does the Benefit Cap mean?

From April 2013, the total benefits you can receive will be limited (capped) to £500 per week (£26,000 per year) for families, and £350 per week for single people without children.

Work out how much you receive in benefits each week to check if your benefits are above the cap.

Will the benefit cap apply to everyone?

No. You may be exempt (not affected) if:

  • You or your partner/child receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/ Personal Independence Payment (PIP)/ Attendance Allowance
  • You or your partner receives working Tax Credit
  • You or your partner receives War Widows/Widowers Pension
  • You or your partner receive Employment & Support Allowance with Support Component

Have you had a letter from the Department of Work & Pensions?

The Department of Work and Pension (DWP) should have contacted you if you will be affected by the benefit cap.

No- I haven’t received a letter…

You may not be affected immediately

Yes- I have received a letter…

Is this information about your household correct? Do you fall into one of the above exempt groups? If you think the DWP are wrong, you need to contact them.

Contact our Welfare Rights Advisors:

0300 123 3456

How much will be deducted if I receive more than the cap?

Go onto the government’s benefit cap calculator to get an estimate of how much your Housing Benefit could be reduced by if you exceed the level of the benefit cap.

Are there any other planned changes to the welfare benefit system?

Yes.

The “Bedroom tax” and Benefit cap will have the soonest impact (April 2013), but there are some other planned changes you should be aware of if you receive benefits.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a monthly payment that combines nearly all available benefits, and will be paid directly to one person in the household. The benefits it will include are income-related jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit, working tax credit, income support and income-related employment support allowance.

Will this affect the payment of my rent?

Yes, as your housing benefit will most likely be paid directly to you, and you will be responsible for paying your rent on time to your landlord.

When will Universal credit be introduced?

From October 2013 for new benefit claimants, and sometime from mid-2014 if you already receive benefits

Non-dependents deductions

I non-dependent is a person who is over 18 years old, is not dependent on you for financial support and lives with you in your home. This could be a grown-up son or daughter or an elderly relative.

Non-dependents do not include a partner, joint tenant, registered carers, and foster children.

What are non-dependents deductions?

If you have a non-dependent living with you, you could have your Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit reduced.

How much is the deduction?

At the moment, the deduction depends on the circumstances of the non-dependent such as, whether they claim benefits, whether they work more than 16 hours a week and what their income is (before tax and National Insurance).

Current non-dependent deductions to Housing Benefit
Aged 25 or over and on IS/JSA(IB), or aged 18 or over and not in remunerative work 11.45
In receipt of main phase ESA(IR) 11.45
In receipt of Pension Credit Nil
Not in receipt of main phase ESA(IR) rate Nil
– gross income less than £124.00 11.45
– gross income not less than £124.00 but less than £183.00 26.25
– gross income not less than £183.00 but less than £238.00 36.10
– gross income not less than £238.00 but less than £316.00 59.05
– gross income not less than £316.00 but less than £394.00 67.25
– gross income not less than £394.00 73.85

What can I do if I have a non-dependent living with me?

It is your responsibility to make sure the rent is paid if you are the tenant. The non-dependent living with you should make up the shortfall in your Housing Benefit or Council Tax, but it is up to you to make sure this happens.

Options and Support available

I am going to be affected- what do I do?

If your income is going to be affected by the Benefit Cap or the Bedroom Tax you are going to have to make up the shortfall (the shortfall is the difference between the amount you received before and what you will receive after the changes) in Housing Benefit or moving.

There are several options available to avoid feeling negative effects from the welfare changes, but if you don’t plan ahead you could get yourself into debt.

Maximise your income…

Are you getting the right benefits?

We have a Welfare Rights advisory service to help you access the benefits you are entitled to.

Contact our Welfare Rights Team to get a benefit check.

You may be able to apply for…

  • Discretionary Housing Payment where you can show exceptional need. DHP can help cover the shortfall in your Housing Benefit. You will need to contact your local authority for an application form. Disabled people living in adapted homes, and foster carers are more likely to receive the payment. Payments will only be for a limited period.
  • Disability Living Allowance if you have difficulty walking or need help looking after yourself. Households where claimants and/or their children get Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance are exempt from the benefit cap.Please be aware:From October 2013, in London and the South East, a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment will replace DLA for disabled people aged 16 to 64.
  • Working Tax Credit if you/your partner are working and on a low income.  Claiming Working Tax Credit exempts you from the benefit cap.

Could you manage your money better?

Better budgeting could mean that your money could stretch further to cover the shortfall in Housing Benefit. We offer training and advice to help you make the most of your money.

We have a Money Adviser who is here to help you with budgeting and debt advice. Contact our Money Adviser for a one-to-one session or to sign-up to a money management training course, or visit the Your Money section of our website.

Do you need help getting into work?

Getting a job or working more hours is a way to increase your income and cover any shortfall in housing benefit.

We offer free training and employment advice to help you get the skills and support you need to get a job.

Go to our Employment for Tenants page for more details, or call the Customer Care Line on 0300 123 3456.

Could you rent out your ‘spare’ room?

You could increase your income by taking in a lodger or boarder who will pay you rent. Remember you will need our permission first. The first £20 of any income from a lodger is not taken into account when calculating your Housing Benefit, but any extra income is deducted from your HB entitlement. More information is available on the Department for Work and Pension’s factsheet.

Consider a move

Moving to smaller accommodation will reduce your rental charge. We will give you priority for a transfer but it may take some time for you to move.

Click onto the Moving to another home page to find detailed advice on the moving options available to you, including swapping and the Housing Moves scheme.

Useful contacts

Here are some useful contact numbers and websites to help you further

Family Mosaic Services:

  • Welfare Rights Advisers – advice on benefits and grants 
  • Money Adviser – advice on money management and debt 
  • Incomes Team – advice on rent payments and arrears  
  • Housing Options – advice on transfers and re-housing 
  • Employment Team– free training and support getting into work

Contact any of the above, through our Customer Care Line   0300 123 3456

National services: