There are ongoing reforms to the UK benefit system resulting in changes to benefit entitlement.
If you are being affected by the benefit changes find out more about your options and the assistance available to you so you can pay your bills and rent.
Who is affected?
Most of the recent changes only affect you if you receive benefits and are of working age (currently between 62 and 63 years old).
However, with plans to move all Housing Benefit claimants onto Universal Credit, this will eventually also affect people over state retirement age.
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 are deemed to have a ‘spare’ room.
Under the new rules, if you have one spare room, your maximum Housing Benefit is cut by 14% of the rent paid each week, and if you have two or more spare rooms, your Housing Benefit is reduced by 25% of the rent paid each week.
The size criteria in the social housing restricts Housing Benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household, with the following exceptions:
- Two children under 16 of same gender expected to share
- Two children under 10 expected to share, regardless of gender
- Disabled tenant or partner who needs non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom
- Approved foster carers will be allowed an additional room so long as they have fostered a child, or become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months
- Adult children in the Armed Forces will be treated as continuing to live at home when deployed on operations
- Disabled children who are unable to share a bedroom with a sibling because of their severe disabilities are allowed their own room.
What does the Benefit Cap mean?
From April 2013, the total benefits claimants could receive were limited (capped) to £500 per week (£26,000 per year) for couples and lone parents, and £350 per week for single people without children.
Does the benefit cap apply to everyone?
No. There are exemptions if:
- A member of the household receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/ Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or 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
How can I get more advice?
Our Financial Wellbeing officers can provide further advice. You can also email us at Financialwellbeing@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/people with disabilities/caring responsibilities
- 24 hours for couples
- 30 hours for single individuals over 25 years old
Households who are entitled to Working Tax Credit are exempt from the Cap even if they don't claim it.
Changes to Council Tax
Council Tax Benefit was abolished in April 2013 and replaced by local Council Tax Support Schemes.
What does this mean for claimants?
Before April 2013, most people in receipt of means-tested benefits had their full Council Tax bills paid by benefit. However, since April 2013 most people of working age have to pay some Council Tax. The maximum amount of council tax support someone can receive varies between different boroughs and you would need to contact your local council to find out what scheme they have in place.
People who were on a low income who used to get partial Council Tax Benefit will also probably need to pay more Council Tax after April 2013.
You won't have been affected if you are a pensioner.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a monthly payment that combines most means-tested benefits, and will be paid 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.
So far, Universal Credit is being gradually rolled out in specific areas in the UK. Currently, in the areas people can claim, it only affects single people who are claiming the equivalent of Jobseekers Allowance.
However, once someone has claimed Universal Credit, they stay on this regardless of changes of circumstances such as moving to a new area or changing from a single claimant to a couple.
Eventually, all working age claimants of means-tested benefits will be transferred to Universal Credit.
Will 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.
You can find more information about Universal Credit here.
Housing Benefit - 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).
Weekly amount of non-dependant deductions from April 2014 to March 2015
Housing Benefit Rent Element
Aged less than 25 and in receipt of Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance which does not include an amount for the support component or work related activity component
Aged 25 or over and in receipt of Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance or aged 18 or over and not in remunerative work
In receipt of main phase ESA (IR)
In receipt of Pension Credit or a full time student
Aged 18 or over and in remunerative work:
Gross income < £128
Gross income £128 < £188
Gross income £188< £245
Gross income £245 < £326
Gross income £326 < £406
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.
If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, you need to inform your local housing benefit department of any changes to your circumstances and those of your non-dependant/s. 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
If your income has been reduced by any of the benefit changes, you may need 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 consider moving.
There are several options available to try and deal with the adverse effects of the benefit changes such as:
- Use the government's Benefits adviser tool or the Turn2Us calculator to find out what benefits you can claim.
- If you are unsure about what you are entitled to, contact our Financial Wellbeing Team.
You may be able to apply for:
Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) where you can show exceptional need. A DHP can help cover the shortfall in your Housing Benefit. You will need to contact your local authority in order to apply. Disabled people living in adapted homes, foster carers and large families affected by the Benefit Cap are more likely to receive the payment. Payments will only be for a limited period.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - if you have difficulty walking or need help looking after yourself. Households where claimants and/or their children get PIP, Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance are exempt from the benefit cap. Find out more about PIP here.
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. Find out more about Working Tax Credit here.
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 can 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.
Visit our 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.
Some useful contact numbers and websites to help you further.
Family Mosaic Services:
- Financial Wellbeing Advisers – advice on benefits
- 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.
- Citizen’s Advice Bureau | Call 08444 111 444 or visit http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk to find your local bureau
- Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) | Call 0800 138 1111 or visit http://www.cccs.co.uk
- National Debt Line | Call 0808 808 4000 or visit http://www.nationaldebtline.co.uk
- Money Advice Service | Call 0300 500 5000 or visit https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk
- Direct Gov – DWP information on benefits | Visit http://www.direct.gov.uk
- Money Saving Expert – Budgeting Hints and Tips - Visit http://www.moneysavingexpert.com
- Turn2Us - information on benefits and grants - Visit http://www.turn2us.org.uk
- Rightsnet – information on benefits issues – Visit http://www.rightsnet.org.uk