Changes to welfare benefits

The welfare benefits system is undergoing a huge shake-up with many benefits being changed or abolished completely.

If you are of working age and in receipt of benefits, or claim benefits from time to time, these changes may affect you.

If you were aged 61 before October 2012 then your benefits should not change. However it is possible that pension aged claimants who have younger working age partners could be affected when Universal Credit is phased in.

For many benefits, working age is defined as below the qualifying age for pension credit. You can check when you will reach state pension credit qualifying age using the GOV.UK online checker or ask someone to check it for you.

The major changes include:

If you require advice or further information on any of the above then please contact our welfare rights service.

Benefit cap

Benefits for working-age households are now capped.

From 7 November 2016 the amount of benefits you can receive is limited to:

  • £384.61 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
  • £384.61 a week for single parents whose children live with them
  • £257.69 a week for single adults who do not have children, or whose children do not live with them.

The cap does not apply if anyone living in your household is claiming various disability benefits, or is eligible for Working Tax Credit, or where someone in the household is in receipt of Carer's Allowance or Guardian's Allowance, and also for Universal Credit claimants earn over £430 per month (combined net income if part of a couple), or receive a payment for providing care.

There is a also 'grace" period of 9 months where you will not be capped if you (or your partner) have been doing paid work for a period of 50 weeks out of the previous 52 weeks. During these 52 weeks you must not have been in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseekers Allowance or Income Support.

You will be notified by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) if you are affected by the benefit cap. If you are affected then your housing benefit payment or Universal Credit award will be reduced.

For more information visit the UK Government’s Benefit Cap page to see which benefits are included and which benefits can exclude you from the benefit cap. You can also use the GOV.UK benefit cap calculator to check if you may be affected by the benefit cap.

You can also contact our  welfare rights service for free, confidential advice. They will undertake an income maximisation check to ensure you are receiving your correct entitlements. They can also provide advice on claiming a Discretionary Housing Payment. Our skills team can offer you free advice about moving into work, training or education.

Bedroom tax

The amount of housing benefit (or housing cost element of Universal Credit) you receive may be reduced if you are:

  • under state pension age and
  • rent from the council or a housing association and
  • have one or more extra bedrooms and your home is assessed as under occupied.

A home is classed as under occupied if you have more bedrooms than the government say you require.

The government rules allow one bedroom for:

  • each adult couple (married and unmarried)
  • any other person aged 16 or over
  • two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • two children under 10 regardless of their sex
  • any other child
  • a foster child
  • adult children who serve in the armed forces who continue to live with their parents
  • a disabled child or disabled non-dependant adult who requires and receives overnight care from a non-resident carer (or group of carers)
  • a couple who are unable to share a bedroom because of their disabilities

You will not be assessed as requiring an extra bedroom if:

  • your child/children's main home is at another address.

Where under-occupancy arise due to a death in the household, no reduction will be applied for one year.

If you are assessed as having an extra bedroom, there will be a reduction in your housing benefit (or housing cost element of Universal Credit) by:

  • 14% for under occupancy by one bedroom
  • 25% for under occupancy by two bedrooms or more.

If your housing benefit (or housing cost element of Universal Credit) is reduced because of the bedroom tax rules you should apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.  The Scottish Government have made funds available to local authorities to fully mitigate the bedroom tax.

If you require further advice in relation to the bedroom tax or other benefits then please contact our welfare rights service.