Change of circumstances

also known as: Benefit calculator, Crisis Support - NET's, Discretionary Housing Payments, NET's, Overpayments.

If you are already claiming housing benefit, then the information on this page will apply to you.

It is very important that you tell us about any changes in your (or any member of your households) circumstances as soon as possible. You should do this within one month of the change to make sure you don’t lose money you are entitled to, or receive too much money which you will have to pay back.

Use our Benefits Calculator to see how your change in circumstances may affect your benefit.

5Benefits Calculator

Download a change of circumstances form

Changes to your income

You need to tell us if:

  • you or anyone living with you gets a job (no matter how many hours they work), changes their job or leaves their job
  • you start or stop getting Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance
  • you start or stop getting Tax Credits
  • the money you or your partner gets increases or decreases
  • the money non-dependants get increases or decreases
  • there are any other changes in the money people in your home get

Changes in your home

You need to tell us if:

  • you change your address (if you move address within Northumberland you may download a change of address form here which you can complete and post to Benefit Section, Northumberland County Council, Wansbeck Square, Ashington, Northumberland NE63 9XL)
  • the number of people in your home changes - for example, someone has a baby
  • anyone moves into or out of your home (including lodgers and sub-tenants)
  • your rent changes, your landlord changes or moves

Other changes

You need to tell us if:

  • you, or your partner, go into hospital for more than 6 weeks
  • you, or your partner, become a student, or stop being a student
  • the amount of savings or capital you have changes
  • any of your children leave school or leave home

In all cases it is your duty to notify us of any change in your circumstances. Do not rely on someone else to pass the message on.

You must notify us of your change in writing in one of the following ways:

Please note: It is important that you provide us with the original evidence that supports your change in circumstances where appropriate, for example payslips, bank statements or birth certificate.

If you require further help or information please phone 0845 600 6400 or one of our local numbers.

You may use our benefits calculator to see how your change in circumstances may affect your benefit.

Additional help available

If you are already claiming housing benefit and need additional financial help, there are a number of different ways we may be able to help.

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are additional payments for people currently receiving Housing Benefit who require further financial assistance with their housing costs.

If you are already getting all of your rent paid by Housing Benefit you cannot get Discretionary Housing Payments.

A discretionary housing payment may be used to pay for:

  • your rent where it has been restricted by the Rent Officer and your Housing Benefit award is less than the rent charged
  • reductions in your Housing Benefit entitlement following changes to the Local Housing Allowance from April 2011
  • increases in essential work related expenditure, such as increased fares to work if you have had to move because you could no longer afford to live near your work following a reduction in your Local Housing Allowance rate
  • a rent deposit or rent in advance for a property that you are yet to move into if you are already entitled to Housing Benefit for your present home

Please note: that these are only examples of when we may pay a Discretionary Housing Payment. If your circumstances are different you should still apply.

We cannot give Discretionary Housing Payments towards:

  • ineligible service charges
  • increases in rent due to outstanding arrears
  • reductions in any benefit as a result of Jobseeker’s sanctions, Child Support sanctions or sanctions following certain benefit related offences
  • suspended Housing Benefit
  • rent, when you are getting Council Tax Support but not Housing benefit
  • shortfalls caused by overpayment recovery

How to apply for a DHP

How much could you receive?

How much we give you depends on your circumstances but we cannot guarantee we will definitely give you a payment. We look at each case individually and will look at the following things when we make a decision:

  • Your income
  • Your savings
  • If anyone else in your house can help you
  • If you have any loans or debts
  • If you could manage your money better
  • If you or anyone in your family is ill or disabled
  • If you have tried to put the situation right yourself

Please note: for housing benefit, we cannot give you more than your total rent (less amounts for services such as electricity or water).

If you disagree with our decision

Decisions on claims for Discretionary Housing Payments are not subject to appeals to the Appeals Service. If you disagree with the decision on your claim for a Discretionary Housing Payment you should write to the council at Benefit Section, Northumberland County Council, Wansbeck Square, Ashington, NE63 9XL and the decision will be reviewed by a different officer.

Change of circumstances

You should tell us immediately if your circumstances change. If the change means we have to reduce your Discretionary Housing Payment, you might have to pay back some or all of the payment we have already paid you.

Please also have a look at our Discretionary Housing Payment Policy and Discretionary Housing Payment FAQs.

Northumberland Emergency Transition Support, otherwise known as NET's provides crisis support to residents of Northumberland. NET’s is delivered as a partnership between Five Lamps, Dawn Advice Ltd and Voices Northumberland.

NET’s provide crisis support in the following ways:

Emergency Support

  • To help meet your immediate short term needs for goods or services that arise because of a disaster or unforeseen circumstance.
  • Awards are only available for: food, baby consumables, clothing, heating and travel and for a maximum of 7 days support.

Community Grant or Loan

  • To help you remain in the community or move back into the community after a period in supported or unsettled accommodation.
  • Awards are only available for: beds/ bedding, furniture, white goods, kitchen equipment, floor coverings, curtains, travel and storage/ removal costs.

How to apply for Crisis Support:

  • Freephone: 0300 303 1931

Opening times:

  • Mon-Thur 8.30am – 5pm
  • Friday 8.30am-4.30pm
  • Lines closed weekends and bank holidays. Text Phone: 0787 269 3418.

Visit the Five Lamps website or Dawn Advice website for more information

Please also have a look a look at our advice on redundancy and benefits.

Overpayments

An overpayment occurs when a benefit payment is made to someone who is not entitled to it (under the benefit regulations). This normally happens when we are not told of a change in circumstances quickly, when there have been mistakes or delays in processing claims, or when a fraudulent claim has been made.

5Make a payment online here

If you have received an invoice for overpaid housing benefit and you wish to pay back the full amount, or if you have made an arrangement with us to repay an invoice you can make payment in a number of ways:

  • Online here – using your credit / debit card
  • By phone: 0845 600 6400 or one of our local numbers and pay by credit or debit card on our automated telephone service – available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
  • By post - Please make your cheque or postal order payable to Northumberland County Council and post to the Income Section, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, NE61 2EF. Please ensure your invoice number is on the back of the cheque or postal order.
  • In person  - please take your bar-coded bill with you to any of our Customer Information Centres and pay by cash, debit /credit card or cheque
  • At any POST OFFICE or PAYPOINT outlet - please take your bill to any Post Office or PayPoint outlet. The bar code on the front of your bill will be used to process your payment. You will be given a receipt for the payment. There is no fee for this service.
  • Standing order - You can either request a standing order or set up your own via online banking. You must quote the following:
    Sort code: 08-90-06
    Account number: 61603530

You must also quote your invoice number as your reference.

Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings that may be taken by the council in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

An overpayment is recoverable from either the person who caused the overpayment, or the person who received the overpayment.

  • If the tenant is currently receiving housing benefit, the overpayment will be recovered from future benefit payments by a weekly deduction.
  • If payments are made direct to the landlord, the tenant's reduced entitlement will be reflected by the amount of the benefit payment that is issued every 4 weeks.
    The tenant is responsible for paying any rent arrears that occur as a result of the reduced amount paid to the landlord.
  • If the tenant is not currently receiving housing benefit, the overpayment may be recovered from other benefits or an invoice for payment may be issued.
  • If the council has decided to recover an overpayment from a landlord it will issue an invoice or make deductions from other tenants' benefit paid to that landlord. The amount of these deductions should not be treated as rent arrears for those tenants, and the landlord must not try to recover the shortfall from them.
  • If the person liable to repay the overpayment is working, the council can instruct their employer to deduct a percentage of net earnings each week or month until the housing benefit overpayment has been fully repaid.

What to do if you disagree with the overpayment

  • The claimant can ask for a review of a decision to calculate an overpayment. Any such request should be made within 1 month of the decision notice.
  • A landlord can request a review within one month of the decision notice where recovery is being sought from him personally; that is where an invoice for payment has been issued to him, or a deduction is being made from the benefit he receives for one of his tenants in order to recover an overpayment owed by the landlord in respect of another tenant.

Where an invoice addressed to a landlord remains unpaid, or an agreed arrangement to repay the debt over time is not being maintained, the council may take action in the County Court.

If a landlord habitually fails to repay overpayments that are recoverable from him, the council can decide that the landlord is not a 'fit and proper person' under Benefit Regulations, and can refuse to make direct benefit payments to that landlord.

Benefit fraud

People who deliberately claim benefits when they are not entitled to it are committing a criminal offence. If a landlord, who is paid housing benefit directly on behalf of their tenant, fails to notify the council that their tenant has left the property then they may be committing benefit fraud.

Find more information on benefit fraud here.

5Report benefit fraud here