There have been significant changes to welfare benefits as part of the welfare reforms.
The information below provides some guidance on the changes and how they may affect you.
Local Council Tax Support Scheme
Wirral Council has its own local Council Tax Support scheme. The scheme is to help people on low incomes with payments of their Council Tax. If you are claiming or receiving Universal Credit you must make a separate claim for Council Tax Support.
The Government set the rules for Pensioners who apply for Council Tax Support. Changes have been made to the family premium held within the assessment of Council Tax Support. The family premium ended for people of pensionable age, who are responsible for a child and applied for Council Tax Support after 1 May 2016.
Housing Benefit for those living in social sector rented properties
People of working age who live in accommodation which is larger than they need, may have their housing benefit reduced. This is commonly known as the bedroom tax. People who have reached pensionable age are not affected.
If you have one extra bedroom, the amount of rent used to calculate your Housing Benefit, or Universal Credit will be reduced by 14%.
If you have two or more extra bedrooms, the amount of rent used to calculate your Housing Benefit, or Universal Credit will be reduced by 25%.
If you are affected by under occupying your property, you may wish to consider a move to smaller accommodation, or move to a suitable affordable accommodation from a private landlord. You should talk to your landlord to see if this is possible. You could consider increasing your hours of work to help you meet the reduction.
Housing Benefit Room Allocation
From 1 April 2017 if you or your partner is unable to share a bedroom because of your or their disability, you may be allowed an extra bedroom when working out your entitlement to Housing Benefit. This is provided there is a spare bedroom available and the person affected is in receipt of any of the following:
- Attendance Allowance (higher rate)
- Middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance
- Daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
This will also apply to any other non-dependant disabled adult or child that lives with you and you have a room available to be used by a carer or a team of carers
Local Housing Allowance (LHA)
Local Housing Allowance rates from April 2016 to 2019-20 will be ‘frozen’. This means that they will remain at the Local Housing Allowance Rate set for April 2015 or will be set at the 30th percentile of market rents, if they are a lower amount.
Housing Benefit backdating for working age claimants
From 1 April 2016 people of working age, who ask for Housing Benefit to be paid from an earlier date, can only have Housing Benefit backdated for a maximum of one month.
Housing Benefit family premium changes
People, who made a new claim for Housing Benefit on, or after 1 May 2016, will not be awarded the family premium when working out their entitlement to benefit. This also applies to people already claiming who become responsible for a child.
There are circumstances when you can retain the family premium:
- if you move from an out of work benefit to an in-work benefit
- if you reach pensionable age and receive a guaranteed element of Pension Credit
Restriction to two child limit
From 6 April 2017 if you claim Housing Benefit with a minimum of two children in your household and then have a further child, you will only be allowed the personal allowance for two children, not three, when working out your Housing Benefit entitlement. The personal allowance will increase if you are awarded Child Tax Credits for three children.
Discretionary Housing Payment
If you have difficulty meeting any shortfall in your rent, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
Discretionary Housing Payments are for people in receipt of, or will be entitled to, Housing Benefit, or rent costs paid within Universal Credit, and have a shortfall in their rent and require further financial assistance to meet their housing costs.
All the circumstances of you and your household and financial circumstances are considered when making a Discretionary Housing Payment. Discretionary Housing Payments are not available to help with any shortfall in the Council Tax Support scheme.
New State Pension
The new State Pension was introduced in April 2016; your entitlement is based on your National Insurance contributions. If you qualify for the new State Pension, you will no longer be able to make a claim for Savings Pension Credit.
The amount of State Pension from April 2017 is £159.55 per week, if you have made the qualifying National Insurance contributions.
Personal Independence Payments
Personal Independence Payment replaces new claims for Disability Living Allowance.
Personal Independence Payment is based on an assessment of individual need and will affect everyone aged 16 to 64, even if they have an indefinite period award.
There are no current plans to replace Disability Living Allowance for children under 16 and people who in April 2013, were aged 65 and over, receiving Disability Living Allowance.
Some tenants of working age will have their Housing Benefit, or Universal Credit, reduced if they receive a high level of state welfare benefits and are not exempt from the benefit cap.
If you are affected, the benefit cap will be applied to the combined income from all the included benefits and will be deducted from Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. If the capped amount is greater than the weekly Housing Benefit, a minimum amount of 50p per week will remain in payment.
Some households will have their Housing Benefit only partially reduced, if the capped amount is less than their Housing Benefit. For people in receipt of Universal Credit, the amount will be capped to the levels shown below.
The cap levels are:
- £385 per week for couples (with or without children) and lone parents
- £258 per week for single adults
There will be a period of “grace” for 39 weeks before the cap is applied, for people who have continuously been in work for the previous 12 months. You will not have your Universal Credit capped if you start work and you will be working 16 hours or more per week, paid at the national minimum wage, or you qualify for Working Tax Credit.
There are some benefits and one off payments that are exempt from the benefit cap.
Universal Credit is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).