Welfare changes

In April 2013, three major changes were made to the benefit system, the benefit cap, the “Bedroom tax” and the abolition of Council Tax Benefit. These changes may have resulted in you receiving less in benefits. If you have been affected by the benefit changes, don’t panic, find out more about your options and plan ahead so you can pay your bills and rent.

Read our welfare change FAQs below to see if you will be affected.

Why have these changes taken place?

The coalition government has made changes in order to make the welfare benefit system fairer, simpler and more affordable.

The changes have been designed to make sure that families getting benefits do 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.

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What age group is affected?

The changes 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 affect you.

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What is the "bedroom tax"?

Also known as the under-occupancy rule, the "bedroom tax" means that from April 2013, you will have been getting 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 have been cut by £14 to £86. This means there is a difference of £14 between the rent you have to pay and Housing Benefit you receive.

If you have two or more spare rooms, your Housing Benefit will have been 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

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What does the Benefit Cap mean?

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

Does the benefit cap apply to everyone?

No. You may be exempt 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 were affected by the benefit cap.

No - I haven’t received a letter

You may not have been affected.

Yes - I have received a letter

Is the 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.

If you have received a letter, you should call the Department of Work and Pesnions (DWP) on 0845 605 7064.

How can I get more advice?

Our Welfare Advisors can provide further advice. If you live in South or East London, please call us on 020 7089 1187. If you live in Hackney or Essex, please call us on 01268 498 563.

You can also email us at welfarerightsteam@familymosaic.co.uk.

If I work does it mean my benefits are not being capped?

Households who are working enough hours to qualify for Working Tax Credit are exempt from the cap. This is:

  • 16 hours for lone parents
  • 24 hours for couples
  • 30 hours for single individuals over 25 years old.

Households who are enititled to Working Tax Credit are exempt even if they don't claim it.

 

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Changes to Council Tax

Council Tax Benefit was abolished in April 2013 and replaced by local Council Tax Support Schemes.

Why has this happened?

The government has taken the decision that local councils need to run their own scheme to help low income households whose council tax used to be paid by the benefit. But the government is giving councils 10% less money to pay for this than before, so local councils have to decide how to save money.

What does this mean for you?

If you received Council Tax Benefit before April 2013 and you are of working age, it is very likely you now have to pay some of your Council Tax - even if you got full Council Tax Benefit before.

If you you used to get partial Council Tax Benefit, you may have had to pay more Council Tax after April 2013.

You won't have been affected if you are a pensioner.

The new rules for what is called 'Council Tax Support' differ from borough to borough. To find out what your council has put in place for Council Tax Support, please contact your council. You can also get information about this by calling your local housing benefit office.

This is important. If you have to pay some of the tax, you need to think where to find the extra money.

Have there been more changes to the welfare benefit system?

Yes.

The “Bedroom tax", Benefit cap and abolition of Council Tax Benefit started in April 2013, but there are some other planned changes you should be aware of if you receive benefits.

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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 includes are income-related jobseekers allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit, working tax credit, income support and income-related employment support allowance.

Does this affect the payment of my rent?

Yes, as your Housing Benefit is most likely paid directly to you and you are responsible for paying your rent on time to your landlord.

When was Universal Credit introduced?

From October 2013 for new benefit claimants and from mid-2014 for those already receiving benefits.

More information

You can find more information about Universal Credit here.

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Non-dependents deductions

A 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, 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.

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Options and Support available

I have been affected - what do I do?

If your income has been affected by the Benefit Cap or the Bedroom Tax, you have to make up the shortfall (the shortfall is the difference between the amount you received before and what you currently receive) 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?

  • Use the government's "Benefits adviser" tool to find out what benefits you can claim
  • We have a Welfare Rights advisory service to help you access the benefits you are entitled to
  • If you are unsure about what you are entitled to, contact our Welfare Rights Team

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 has replaced DLA for disabled people aged 16 to 64.
  • Working Tax Credit if you/your partner are working and are 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 and opportunities for our residents to help you get the skills and support you need to get a job.

Visit 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. But 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 Housing Benefit entitlement. More information is available on the Department for Work and Pension's factsheet.

Consider a move

If you decide you want to stay in your current home, you will need to find a way to pay the shortfall in Housing Benefit. If you get into rent arrears, your home may be at risk.

Moving to a smaller property will mean that you pay less rent.

If you decide you want to move to a smaller home, we can give you detailed advice on a variety of options. We will give you priority for a transfer but it may take some time for you to move. The most realistic option is to find a swap.

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

What are we doing to help you move?

  • We have employed more staff to ensure we can provide advice and information to you if you want to move
  • We are contacting every tenant affected to discuss what your options are
  • If you have lost 25% of your Housing Benefit and want to move, we have a dedicated caseworker who can help you explore all your options and support you in finding somewhere else to live
  • If you move to a smaller home, we will give you a cash payment, not only if you transfer to another Family Mosaic property but also for any swap, a move into shared ownership, private renting and other recognised rehousing schemes such as Housing Moves

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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

You can contact any of the above through our Customer Care Line on 0300 123 3456.

National services:

 

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Act now to avoid getting into debt.
Contact us on 0300 123 3456 Option 2