The government has made big changes to the benefits system as part of the Welfare Reform Act. A summary of these changes is given below.
Removal of spare room subsidy – bedroom tax
On 1 April 2013, the government introduced size limit rules into housing benefit for working age people renting from a local authority and registered providers of social housing, housing associations or social landlords.
Working age includes anyone who is under the age of state pension credit age. State pension can be calculated using the state pension age calculator
The new rules restrict the size of accommodation housing benefit can be received for, based on the number of people within a household.
The following are expected to share:
- an adult couple
- two children under 16 of the same gender
- two children under 10, regardless of gender
The following can have their own bedroom:
- a single adult (16 or over)
- a child that would normally share, but shared rooms are taken
- children who can’t share because of disabilities or medical conditions
- a non-resident overnight carer for you or your partner (but only if they must stay overnight)
One spare bedroom is allowed for:
- an approved foster carer between placements, up to 52 weeks from the end of previous placement
- a newly approved foster carer, up to 52 weeks from date of approval if no child is placed with them during
Rooms used by students or members of the armed/reserved forces will not be counted as spare if they intend to return home.
Those parents who don’t live together, but have shared care of children are not exempt, unless they are the provider of their main home, receive child benefit, or are treated as their responsible.
How could you be affected?
If you are assessed under these rules as having more bedrooms than necessary for your household, you will be considered to be under-occupying that property.
If you are under-occupying there will be a reduction in housing benefit.
The amount allowed for rent and any service charges will be reduced by 14% for under-occupancy of one bedroom, or 25% for under-occupancy by two bedrooms or more.
These changes should be considered before renewing, or signing a new tenancy agreement, but you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment
to make up for some, or all of the reduction.
As part of the Government's Welfare Reform changes the total amount of benefit that can be received is a set amount for both single people and couples. This is called the benefit cap.
The benefit cap was brought in to make sure that no family received more in benefits than the average working household. The cap is currently £500 per week for couples and lone parents and £350 per week for single adults.
From November 2016
the cap amount will drop even further to:-
£384.62 a week if you are a couple or have children
£257.69 a week if you are a single person
In Northumberland if your Housing Benefit is already capped the increased capped amount will apply from 7 November 2016.
If this is the first time your Housing Benefit is capped the cap will apply from 12 December 2016.
Which benefits are included in the benefit cap?
Employment Support Allowance (except where the support component has been awarded)
Child Tax Credit
Widowed Parents Allowance/Widow’s Pension/Widowed Mother’s Allowance
Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)
Which benefits are not included in the benefit cap?
If you or a member of your household are receiving one of the benefits below then the benefit cap will not apply to you:
Working Tax Credits (a claim for Working Tax Credits must be made)
Disability Living Allowance / PIP
War Pensions Scheme Payments (including War Widow’s/Widower’s pension and War Disablement Pension)
Employment Support Allowance (only if paid with the support component)
Armed Forces compensation scheme payments/independence payments
Industrial Injuries Benefits
Carers Allowance (this income only applies from Nov 16 when the new benefit cap amount is introduced)
Guardians Allowance (this income only applies from Autumn Nov 16 when the new benefit cap amount is introduced)
Which benefits will be reduced if I am affected by the benefit cap?
If you receive Housing Benefit this will be reduced by the amount you are over the cap. If your Housing Benefit entitlement is reduced due to the cap amount, you will receive at least 50p of your Housing Benefit entitlement.
If you receive Universal Credit your entitlement will be reduced by the amount that you are over the cap.
How can I find out if I'm going to be affected by the benefit cap?
The DWP has put together a benefit cap calculator
you can use that can tell you if you will be affected or not. It's really easy to use and can be completed in five minutes.
What can I do?
If you are affected by the benefit cap we may be able to help you in the short term. You may be able to apply for a discretionary housing payment. Please contact us on 0345 600 6400.
If you think the cap should not apply because you, your partner or any children you are responsible for when working out your housing benefit, receive one or more of the above benefits you can report this to the benefit cap helpline. The helpline number is 0345 605 7064
or textphone 0345 608 8551
for people with hearing or speech impairments. The helpline is open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.
Finding work could mean that the benefit cap won’t apply to you if you are able to get Working Tax Credit. You can find out more about Working Tax Credit at www.gov.uk/working-tax-credit
, including how many hours you need to work to get it.
For help in preparing and looking for work contact the helpline number on 0345 605 7064 to make an appointment to see a work coach.
You can also find help online at https://www.gov.uk/moving-from-benefits-to-work/overview
Personal independence payment
The disability living allowance has been replaced as the main non-means-tested benefit for working age people with a long-term health condition or disability, affecting their daily living or mobility.
The personal independence payment has a daily living component and a mobility component. Each component has two rates: standard and enhanced.
People can get both components if they satisfy the conditions and will need to satisfy the disability conditions for three months before the claim and be expected to continue this for nine months afterwards – unless they are terminally ill and claiming under special rules.
The daily living component will be paid at the same rates as high and middle rate disability living allowance care component, but there will be no equivalent to the low rate care. The criteria are different.
Therefore, it can’t be assumed that those on high or middle disability living allowance care will all transfer to the equivalent new rates, just as it can’t be assumed everyone on current low rate disability living allowance will not qualify for personal independence payments.
Entitlement is assessed by considering 12 activities. Points are awarded depending on how well people can carry out each of the activities.
Personal independence payment claims contact number
: 0800 917 2222
Jobcentre Plus claimant commitment information
The government states that through reforms it is seeking to speed up entry into employment from benefits for those able to work.
These will include certain conditions for people returning to work, or taking up training opportunities.
Changes to Family Premium
The family premium will no longer be included in the Housing Benefit applicable amount for new entitlements for Housing Benefit from 1 May 2016 and for existing customers who have a child or become responsible for a child or young person for the first time after the 30 April 2016.
For existing customers who are no longer responsible for a child or young person, the family premium can no longer be awarded. If responsibility for a child or young is regained after the 30 April 2016, the premium will not be included when calculating your Housing Benefit entitlement.
For existing customers who receive Housing Benefit, the family premium will no longer be included within your calculation if there is a break in your entitlement for more than one week.