The Government is reducing the amount of money that some people can get from benefits.
We know that many of you will be worried about what this could mean for you and your family, so this page holds information to help you find out what’s happening, how you can prepare, and the links to other support that is available.
Why not use the benefits calculator to find out what benefits you might be entitled to?
Below in the drop down menu are the key changes.
At Herefordshire Housing, we have a Financial Inclusion Team who will be able to provide further information, advice and support on any of the subjects mentioned above. If you would like to speak to one of the team, please get in touch. Alternatively you can find more information about entitlement to benefits by following these links: Citizens Advice, Turn2 Us.
Since April 2013, Housing Association tenants who are of working age, and are deemed to be under occupying their homes, have had their Housing Benefit reduced.
Housing Benefot is reduced by 14% if your household is deemed to have one spare bedoom, and 25% for two or more spare bedrooms.
How to work out how many bedrooms you need
A room is awarded to each of the following:
- An adult couple
- Any other person over 16
- Any 2 children of the same sex under 16
- Any 2 children of either sex under 10
- Any other child
- A non-resident carer
Guidelines have also been introduced to allow an extra bedroom entitlement for:
- Foster parents
- Non dependents serving in the armed forces
- Children who need their own room due to a disability.
There are no exceptions to the rule for couples who need to sleep apart due to a medical condition, or if you have children whose main residence is at another property.
Mr & Mrs Smith lived in a two-bedroom flat with a rent of £70 per week. They receive Job Seeker’s Allowance and are under occupying their home by one bedroom. As Mr & Mrs Smith are under occupying they are not entitled to full housing benefit.
Their Housing Benefit is reduced by 14% of their rent (14% of £70 = £9.80). Mr & Mrs Smith now receive £60.30 per week Housing Benefit and have to pay £9.80 per week towards their rent.
Council Tax Reduction Scheme
From April 2013, Council Tax Benefit was abolished and the Council introduced its own scheme to help those claimants with a low income with their Council Tax Bills.
There was a 10% reduction in the funding from Central Government to Herefordshire Council to help with Council Tax reduction, and all Local Councils had the responsibility to develop their own ways to help people with Council Tax payments.
Herefordshire Council implemented a scheme where all working age claimants have to contribute towards their Council Tax bill and they have removed Second Adult rebate. 100% Council Tax reduction is now a thing of the past, and all working age claimants will have to pay a minimum percentage of their Council Tax bill.
From April 2013 – March 2014 this was 8.5%
From April 2014 – March 2015 this is 16%
From April 2016 this will be 20% with some exceptions to carers, those with young families and disabilities.
More information on the current scheme, details on how to make an application for Council Tax Reduction can be found by following the link: https://www.herefordshire.gov.uk/advice-and-benefits/benefits-and-support/council-tax-reduction/who-can-get-help-to-pay-their-council-tax-bill
The Benefit Cap
The Government has decided that there should be a limit on how much a family can receive in benefits.
- For couples with or without children, and single parents, the limit has been set at £500 per week (including Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Child Benefits and other benefits like Job Seeker’s Allowance/Employment and Support Allowance/Income Support).
- For single claimants (without children) the amount has been set at £350 per week (including the same benefits as above).
You can find further information about the benefits that are included in the calculation by following the link below.
The Government recently announced that the benefit cap will be further reduced to £385 per week for couples and people with children, and £258 per week for single people. We anticipate that the new cap will be introduced to Herefordshire in the Autumn in 2016.
Local Welfare Provision
Payments for emergencies and community care
Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants, which are part of the Social Fund administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), ended in April 2013.
It has been replaced by local welfare provision, a discretionary scheme to support those in emergency need, managed by Herefordshire Council. Herefordshire Council have the choice as to whether to make an award and will consider each application carefully based on the circumstances of each individual. The DWP will still deal with Budgeting Loans, Alignment Payments, Sure Start Maternity Grants, Funeral Payments, Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments.
The key differences between the DWP Social Fund and the new Herefordshire Council Local Welfare Provision are:
- Awards will normally be in goods, services or vouchers. Cash will not normally be paid
- No loans will be made
- Applicants may be seen by a member of staff or an approved advisor
- Applicants will be encouraged to engage with a support service
- Applicants will be given details of other services that may provide financial support
- The scheme will consider two categories of need; Exceptional Circumstances Award ( ECA) and Community Care Award (CCA).
How to apply
Application for an Exceptional Circumstances Award (ECA) and/or a Community Care Award (CCA) is by phone 01432 383838 to Herefordshire Council’s Welfare Rights team.
Universal Credit was introduced to working age claimants in Herefordshire in March 2015. It is a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income.
Universal Credit simplifies the benefits system by bringing together a range of working age benefits into a single streamlined payment. Universal Credit aims to:
- Improve work incentives
- Smooth the transitions into and out of work, supporting a dynamic labour market
- Simplify the system, making it easier for people to understand, and easier and cheaper for staff to administer
- Reduce in-work poverty
- Cut back on fraud and error.
It replaces the following benefits:
- Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
What’s different about Universal Credit?
The main differences between Universal Credit and the previous welfare system are:
- Universal Credit will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work
- Most people will apply online and manage their claim through an online account
- Universal Credit will be responsive; as people on low incomes move in and out of work, they’ll get on-going support, giving people more incentive to work for any period of time that is available
- Most claimants on low incomes will still be paid Universal Credit when they first start a new job or increase their part-time hours
- Claimants will receive just one monthly payment, paid into a bank account in the same way as a monthly salary
- Support with housing costs will go direct to the claimant as part of their monthly payment.
Further information about Universal Credit can be Universal Credit.
Personal Independence Payment - PIP
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the new benefit introduced to replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for claimants who are aged between 16-65, and is based on an assessment of individual need. DLA was introduced in 1992 and has not been fundamentally reviewed or reformed since. There is confusion about the purpose of the benefit. It is complex to claim and there is no systematic way of checking that awards remain correct. PIP has been introduced to tackle all these issues whilst still providing the necessary support for disabled people.
The new assessment will focus on an individual’s ability to carry out a range of key activities necessary to everyday life. Information will be gathered from the individual, as well as healthcare and other professionals who work with and support them. Most people will also be asked to a face to face consultation with a trained independent assessor as part of the claim process.
1) People Transferring from DLA
Existing DLA claimants who are aged 16 to 64 will be invited to apply for PIP, even if they have an indefinite or lifetime award of DLA.
There will be no automatic transfer from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment.
Further information about PIP can be found here