The government is making (and has already made) big changes to working-age benefits since 2013. Changes such as the “Bedroom Tax”- reducing Housing Benefit for working age tenants with ‘extra’ bedrooms, and Universal Credit – where all payments, including those to cover your rent- are made monthly directly to you.
Some of these changes might make it more difficult for you to pay your rent. Remember - your rent is your responsibility, but Mosscare is here to help if you are having money worries.
We can also help you with mutual exchanges, transfers, or applications for Discretionary Housing Payments.
What do you need to know?
Below we have provided some summaries of the recent and forthcoming changes. There is more detailed information on all these – follow the links or use the side menu on the left, with some Frequently Asked Questions. If you can’t find the answer to your question, please contact us on: 0161 232 4507
Are you on one of the benefits that Universal Credit is replacing?
Or are you someone who can claim Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new benefit that is being introduced in stages between 2013 and 2022. It is for people of working age, in or out of work, designed to top up their income to a minimum level. Universal Credit will eventually replace Housing Benefit and certain other benefits for people who are out of work as well as tax credits for people in work.
Universal Credit is gradually replacing these benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
If you are Pension Credit age, you will not be affected by this change, unless you have a partner who is under Pension Credit age and you are not getting Pension Credit. See the Frequently Asked Questions if this applies to you.
Universal Credit is being introduced gradually across the country and in stages. The government aims to have it fully rolled out by 2022.
Universal Credit will be paid in one lump sum and on a monthly basis and will include any entitlement to help you pay your rent. This is very different to the current system so it is worth finding out about these changes so you can start thinking about what you might need to do to prepare for it.
Personal Independence Payment
Do you or your partner suffer from any disabilities or illnesses?
Personal Independence Payment is a benefit to help people with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or disability. It is gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance for adults aged 16 or over and who were aged under 65 on 8th April 2013.
An award of Personal Independence Payment can dramatically increase your income – so if you or your partner or a child aged 16 or over have an illness or disability, do contact an experienced adviser to see if it is worth making a claim.
Personal Independence Payment can be paid to people regardless of whether they are in work or not working and regardless of their income or savings.
The Bedroom Tax (Under occupation)
Does the government think you have too many bedrooms?
The “Bedroom Tax” is the name given to benefit changes introduced on 1st April 2013 for social housing tenants, which mean that the amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you get might be reduced if, according to the government, you have more bedrooms than they think you need.
If you (or you and your partner) are Pension Credit age and getting Housing Benefit to help you pay your rent then you will not be affected by the Bedroom Tax. NOTE: Pension Credit Age is gradually increasing – to check, go to https://www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension
If you are affected it is worth checking to see if the rules have been applied correctly and what else, if anything, you can do.
Does someone age 18 or over live with you?
Non-dependants are normally classed as anyone living with you aged 18 or over (if you are getting Universal Credit, it’s 21 or over). The government assumes that these adults will contribute towards household costs, including your rent and Council Tax. They can therefore deduct a sum of money from your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support entitlement, and this is called a non-dependant deduction. If you are getting Universal Credit, they can take a sum of money from it- and its official title is a ‘housing cost contribution’ but we’ll refer to it here as a non-dependant deduction.
These rules are complicated and the wrong deduction can sometimes be made – making a big difference to your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and Council Tax Support award, and so to how much rent and council tax you have to pay.
Discretionary Housing Payments
Are you on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and struggling to pay your rent? Or perhaps you need to move due to the Welfare Reform changes but don’t have the money for a deposit for privately rented housing, or for removal costs?
Every year the government gives local councils a pot of money to make Discretionary Housing Payments to help people who qualify for Housing Benefit (or the housing costs element of Universal Credit) who are having trouble with:
- paying their rent, or
- finding enough money to pay for the start-up costs of a tenancy, such as rent deposits and removal costs.
Council Tax Support
Finding it difficult to pay your council tax bill?
Someone on a low income can get their council tax bill reduced through the Council Tax Support scheme if they meet all the claiming conditions.
Council Tax Support replaced Council Tax Benefit in April 2013. One of the main differences between this system and the old one is that it’s now up to individual councils to decide who gets a reduction in their council tax bill. Each council sets its own rules, and has the power to change these rules from each April.
Council Tax Support helps people on low incomes and/or certain welfare benefits to pay their council tax bill. If you think you may be entitled you’ll need to apply to your local council for a reduction.
Note that if you claim Universal Credit you MUST claim Council Tax Support separately, from your local Council. This is unlike claiming Housing Benefit where it’s all on one form.
Some English councils made changes to their Council Tax Support rules from April 2016 due to budget cuts.
The Benefit Cap
The government introduced rules in 2013 which limit the overall amount of welfare benefits a ‘working age’ household can receive. It does not affect you if you and your partner are Pension Credit age.
This mainly affects large families (4 or more children – 3 or more in higher rented areas). When the Cap is reduced further (between November 2016 and January 2017), more families will be affected.
If you (or you and your partner) are affected it is worth checking to see if you can claim one of the benefits that will exclude you from the Cap.
Changes to Housing Benefit rules in 2016
From April 2016 if you ask for a Housing Benefit payment to be “backdated” this can only be allowed for up to one calendar month from the date you ask for it. A backdate is when you haven’t claimed in time and you want the Housing Benefit office to pay your Housing benefit from an earlier date. If you are under “Pension Credit age” you have to show that you had a very good reason for not claiming earlier.
Another change – from 28th July 2016 will affect you if go abroad for longer than 4 weeks; you won’t get any Housing Benefit while you are away. There are exceptions – there is a 26-week limit for certain people who are abroad due to a particular type of work as listed in the Regulations (eg armed forces, mariners), some people fleeing domestic violence or if you are in hospital or undergoing medical treatment abroad. The time limit of 4 weeks can be extended by up to a further 4 weeks if you are abroad due to the death of a close relative and the Housing Benefit Office considers it unreasonable to expect you to return within 4 weeks. If you go to Northern Ireland, this counts as abroad under the new rules; they affect anyone away from Great Britain. When you go abroad you must intend to return within the 4 (or 8 or 26) weeks and actually be back home within that time period to be able to receive Housing Benefit for the period you are away.
If someone who normally lives with you is going to be staying in the property they might be able to claim Housing Benefit instead – contact us for advice.
Changes to Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit from 2017
The government is proposing to introduce a two child limit into Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit. Until the government publish any changes to the law, we can only provide basic information on these proposals. The information below is based on the information available at the moment and is subject to change.
If you get Child Tax Credit, you already have 2 or more dependent children in your family and you have another child or children on or after 6 April 2017, your Child Tax Credit will only increase if that child is disabled and you get Disability Living Allowance for them and/or you have to pay for registered childcare for them. The Housing Benefit rules will be changed in the same way.
Gerry and Sonia claim Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit to top up Gerry’s wages. They have 4 children aged between 10 and 3. They have a new baby, born in May 2017. The baby has no health conditions or disabilities and Sonia does not work, so they do not pay for any childcare. They will not get any extra Child Tax Credit for the new baby nor any extra Housing Benefit.
Similarly, if you are already claiming Universal Credit and you have 2 or more children, you may not get any extra child elements for any new children in your family from April 2017 onwards (but you would get a disabled child element if applicable).
There will be some exceptions to the rules, including for multiple births. So, for example, if you have no dependent children but then give birth to triplets on or after 6 April 2017, or if you already have one dependent child, then you give birth to twins on or after 6 April 2017, you will receive extra Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit for all those children. If you are an existing Universal Credit claimant, you will receive extra Universal Credit.
If you are concerned about these changes, please contact us.
Changes to Housing Benefit and Universal Credit from 2019
The government has announced another change to Housing Benefit and help with rent through Universal Credit.
The amount of help you get towards your rent may be capped at the Local Housing Allowance rate that applies to you. If the amount you are entitled to under the Local Housing Allowance rules is less than the amount you would get under the ‘Bedroom Tax’ rules, the help you get will be based on the lower amount. So if the Local Housing Allowance rates in your area are lower than the amount of help you are entitled to at the moment, you may see a reduction in the help you can get from April 2019. You can check The Local Housing Allowance rates for your area can be found at http://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/Search.aspx
Will this apply to me?
You could be affected by this change from April 2019 if:
- You live in ‘general needs’ housing, you are claiming help with your rent via Housing Benefit and you took on your tenancy on or after 1st April 2016.
- You live in ‘general needs’ housing and you are claiming help with your rent via Universal Credit. (It does not matter when you took on your tenancy).
- You live in supported or sheltered accommodation. (It does not matter when you took on your tenancy). The lowest ‘Shared Accommodation Rate’ of the Local Housing Allowance will not apply to anyone in supported accommodation
Will anyone not be affected?
You will not be affected by this change if all the following apply on 1st April 2019:
- you live in ‘general needs’ (ie not supported) accommodation and
- you took on your tenancy before 1st April 2016 and
- you are still receiving help with your housing costs through Housing Benefit – ie you have not yet had to make a claim for Universal Credit
Don’t forget - if the changes do apply to you, but the amount of rent can get help towards under the ‘bedroom tax’ rules is less than the Local Housing Allowance rate for you, the help you get towards your rent will not change due to this new rule.
Please contact us if you are concerned about this change.
Changes for 18-21 year olds
This change will affect 18-21 year olds whose Universal Credit claim is under the ‘full’ (digital) service and who take on a new tenancy from April 2017 onwards.
From April 2017 there will be no automatic entitlement under the 'full' (digital service) to help with rent for 18-21 year olds who are out of work and who request help towards their rent as part of their Universal Credit claim.
However, the government has said it will ensure that certain groups still be able to get help with their housing costs:
- parents (both lone parents and couples),
- certain carers
- those who the DWP consider to be unfit for work
- certain vulnerable people
- young people unable to live with parents,
- working young people, and
- those who have been in work for 6 months or more - for the first 6 months after leaving work.
Even if they are claiming Universal Credit, 18-21 year olds who are in certain types of supported accommodation will get help with their rent through Housing Benefit rather than through Universal Credit. This change will not affect Housing Benefit claims.
Changes for older people
Most of the Welfare Reform changes affect working age people, but there are changes that affect older people too.
New State Retirement Pension
Did you know about the new State Pension?
Anyone who reaches State Pension age on or after 6th April 2016 will fall under the new rules for State Retirement Pensions. People who reach State Pension age before this date will get their State Pension based on the current rules.
There are some key differences between the old and the new schemes.
Could Pension Credit give you extra income?
There are two types of Pension Credit: Guarantee Pension Credit and Savings Pension Credit. Some people get one or the other and some people can get both.
Guarantee Pension Credit is a benefit which people of Pension Credit Age can claim; it tops up their income to a minimum level. It is much more generous than the working age means-tested benefits. Even if you are only entitled to a small amount, the good news is that you automatically qualify for maximum help with your rent too! So it is well worth making a claim even if you’re not sure whether you will qualify - you’ve nothing to lose.
Savings Pension Credit is for people aged 65 and over. It provides extra money to some people who have made some additional provision for their retirement, eg. private or works pensions.
Changes from April 2016 mean that if you reach State Pension age on or after 6th April 2016 you will not be able to make a new claim for Savings Pension Credit.
© 2016 Housing Systems Ltd