The Government began introducing major changes to working age benefits in 2013. There have been various changes to the eligibility rules of specific benefits and also some hugely significant changes that affect how much you can receive and how you will actually be paid.
Universal Credit (UC) goes Digital in Stockport on 21 November 2018
Universal Credit is replacing six existing working age benefits:
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
All working age claimants on the above benefits who do not move on to Universal Credit as a result of making a new claim will be migrated over to Universal Credit between 2019 and 2023.
Are you UC ready? To get help and support call us on 0300 123 4460 for general advice on Universal Credit or any help and support getting online or setting up a bank account.
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If you are unsure about whether these changes affect you and the impact that they will have upon you personally then speak to your Customer Relationship Manager for advice.
Please read on for more information on all of these.
We want to help you through these changes, if you have any questions please call us 0300 123 4460.
The Bedroom Tax is a restriction on the amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you can receive if you are classed as having 1 or more spare bedrooms. Housing Benefit or Universal Credit determine how many bedrooms you and your family require. Even if you use all the bedrooms in your home it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need them.
If you have 1 or more spare bedrooms then there is a restriction on the amount of benefit you will receive towards your rent. You are responsible for paying your rent in full and on time so it means you will need to ensure that any shortfall is paid.
How many bedrooms am I allowed?
The Government decided that a room will be allowed for:
- Each adult couple
- Any person aged 16 or over
- Two children between the ages of 11 and 16 of the same sex
- Two children under the age of 10 regardless of sex
- A carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care
What happens if I have a spare bedroom?
If you have one spare bedroom your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be cut by 14% of the rent of you pay every week.
If you have two or more spare bedrooms your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be by 25% of the rent you pay every week.
Who isn’t affected?
You are not affected if you are of Pension Credit age, live in a ‘shared ownership’ property, live in a particular type of supported housing (called ‘exempt accommodation’) or are exempt under special rules.
Who can apply for an exemption?
There are special rules where an extra bedroom can be awarded and the restriction (or part of the restriction) may be removed so that your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit increases. The following circumstances may entitle you to an exemption:
- Two people are unable to share a bedroom because of a disability
- A room is required for an overnight carer
- Someone in the household is a foster carer
- You have a son or daughter in the armed forces who normally lives with you
- You have a son or daughter away at university who intends to return within 52 weeks (Housing Benefit) or 6 months (Universal Credit)
If you are affected by the Bedroom Tax then you may be able to get help on a temporary basis from your Local Council through the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme. For more information speak to your Local Council or contact your Customer Relationship Manager.
The Benefit Cap limits the overall amount of welfare benefits a ‘working age’ household can receive. It does not apply to you if are in receipt of certain benefits, including Working Tax Credits. If you are affected by the Benefit Cap then your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced.
How will this affect you?
The maximum amount of welfare benefit you can receive is as follows:
- £384.62 per week for single parents
- £384.62 per week for couples with or without children
- £257.69 per week for single people without children
If you are affected by the Benefit Cap then you should be notified of this by the Local Council or the Department for Work and Pensions.
If you are affected by the Benefit Cap then you may be able to get help on a temporary basis from your Local Council through the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme. For more information speak to your Local Council or contact your Customer Relationship Manager.
Universal Credit is a new benefit available for working age customers. It is being introduced gradually across the country and will replace the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Working Tax Credits
- Child Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
It is available for new benefit customers in certain areas and is claimed online. If you are currently claiming any of the above benefits then you eventually be advised that you need to claim Universal Credit.
What makes Universal Credit so different?
Universal Credit includes money towards your rent and money towards your personal circumstances. It won’t be paid direct to Equity Housing Group like Housing Benefit. You will need to follow the rules and stick to an agreement with the Jobcentre in order to keep receiving your payment.
In order to claim Universal Credit you need to have an email account and the relevant forms of ID. In order to claim you will be asked to create an online account and complete a ‘to do’ list. You may then be required to attend appointments at the jobcentre.
How can I prepare for Universal Credit?
To be ready for Universal Credit it is best to think carefully about the key changes and how you will handle those once you are affected:
- Rent Responsibility – Universal Credit is paid in full to the customer and won’t be paid to Equity Housing Group so it is important to ensure that your account is clear of all arrears and you have a bank account in place to receive the payment. Your rent must be paid in full and on time.
- Access to the internet – If you don’t have access to the internet then find out where you can gain access in your local area because UC is claimed online and you need to regularly manage your account online to keep receiving the payment.
- Computer confidence – Now is the time to build up your skills so that you are confident managing the process and the online account.
- Budgeting – UC is paid in one lump sum payment every month but in arrears. You will receive a payment once per month and need to priortise your rent from this to ensure that your rent is paid in advance as per the terms of your tenancy agreement.
- Delay in payment – you won’t receive your first payment for 5½ weeks after you claim. Your rent will be due in the meantime and you need to make sure that you are able to manage whilst you wait for your payment. Any final salary or wage payments will affect your Universal Credit award and reduce the amount you receive.
- Council Tax Support – this is not included in Universal Credit and you will need to apply for this separately with your Local Council if you claim Universal Credit.
The Department for Work and Pensions have launched a new website in order to provide more information about Universal Credit: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/
There is further help and guidance available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7Km4IXfVJB1n8SQUmkJD0Q
For more information about these changes and potential future changes please see:
If you require further advice about Universal Credit please contact your Customer Relationship Manager as we have Specialist Support in place to provide customers with advice and guidance.