Welfare reform and
Universal Credit

The government has brought in new legislation that's changing benefits.

This means the benefit cap is lower, Universal Credit is rolling out across the country, and there’ll be new rules for claiming backdated Housing Benefit.

How will benefit changes affect you?

If you receive benefits, you’ll see changes to the way you pay your rent as well as the amount of benefits you get. It’s really important that you pay your rent on time, so if you need any information please contact us.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is being introduced across the country in stages. It combines the following benefits in one monthly payment:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit.

What do you need to know about Universal Credit?

How will this affect you?

When you move onto Universal Credit, you’ll receive one monthly payment for your benefits. This means you’ll be responsible for paying us directly for your rent.

Universal Credit is paid in arrears – after it’s due. It’s only paid to one person in your household.

When will you be affected?

The government’s aiming to move everyone onto Universal Credit by 2021. It’s already available everywhere for single people who don’t have children. It’s also available in some parts of the country for families and couples, and this will increase over the coming months.

You can find out when it’s coming to your area on the gov.uk website.

What do you need to do about it?

  • You’ll need a bank account that your Universal Credit can be paid into.
  • Think about setting up a budget and make sure you can pay all your essential bills, like rent, Council Tax, gas and electricity.
  • The easiest way to pay your rent is to set up a Direct Debit.

Where can you get help?

When the time comes for you to move to Universal Credit, the Department of Work and Pensions will offer you help with budgeting and setting up bill payments.

The benefit cap

The government is reducing the benefits you receive.

They’ve come down from £26,000 to £23,000 a year in London, and to £20,000 a year across the rest of the country.

These caps are for households, not individuals.

What do you need to know about the benefit cap?

How will this affect you?

The cap limits the amount of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit you get if you’re of working age but not working.

If your total benefits exceed the cap amount, your Housing Benefit will be capped. This means it won’t cover all your rent. It’s your responsibility to pay your rent. So it’s important that you find out if you’re affected, as you’ll need to make up the difference.

The benefits cap will start in autumn 2016.

How much is the cap?

The benefits received by your household are added together. This means any benefits that you or your partner get, and any for dependent children who live with you.

The proposed rates are:

For parents and couples without children:

  • £442.31 a week in London
  • £384.62 a week outside London

For single people:

  • £296.35 a week in London
  • £257.69 a week outside London

To find out if the cap affects you, please use the government’s benefit cap calculator.

Is anyone exempt from the cap?

The government says the cap will encourage people into work. So if you’re working, or aren’t able to work, the cap won’t apply. If you’ve been in regular work but lost your job, there’ll be a period of time where the cap won’t apply. This should give you time to find other work.

If you or someone in your family gets a disability benefit, or if you’ve retired, the cap won’t affect you.

You can check the full exemption list on the Citizens Advice website.

What should you do about it?

  • Work out if you’re affected by the cap by checking whether you’re exempt, and, if you’re not, by adding up the benefits you receive. If the total is more than the amounts above, your benefits will be capped.
  • You’ll have to make up any shortfall in your Housing Benefit.
  • Paying your rent is really important. Setting up a Direct Debit for your rent can help to make sure you don’t miss any payments.
  • You may be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local authority if you’re struggling to pay your rent.

Housing Benefit changes

If you have a good reason for claiming your Housing Benefit late, your payments can be backdated. But the period you can claim back has reduced – from six months to one month.

What do you need to know about Housing Benefit changes?

How will this affect you?

If you don’t claim Housing Benefit for more than four weeks, you may have to pay the rent for this period yourself.

If your Housing Benefit stops, you’ll have to find the money to pay your rent.

What should you do about it?

  • When you move in with us, claim your Housing Benefit as soon as possible.
  • Read all your letters from the Housing Benefit office carefully. The most common cause of cancellation is when people don’t respond to letters in time.
  • If your Housing Benefit stops, please contact us and your Housing Benefit office immediately to get it solved.

Under 35? Changes for young people

The government plans to reduce your Housing Benefit if you’re single, under 35 and don’t have any dependents.

Who’s affected?

If you’re under 35 in April 2018 and your tenancy started after April 2016 this change will affect you.

How will this affect you?

From April 2018, your maximum benefits entitlement will be limited to the ‘shared room rate’. The exact amount will vary depending on where you live, but the shortfall could be as much as £35 per week, and in some cases more.

You can see the current rates for your area on the DirectGov website.

Under 21 in April 2017?

The government has announced that under 21s won’t have an automatic right to help with housing costs from April 2017.

The government hasn’t announced their plans yet, so we don’t know how this will affect you.

We’ll keep this page updated as we find out more, but please contact us if you have any questions.

Tenancy started after April 2016?

The government plans to introduce a maximum Housing Benefit allowance for everyone whose tenancy started after April 2016.

This means that your maximum Housing Benefit entitlement will be limited to the local housing allowance from April 2018.

You can see the current rates for your area on the DirectGov website.

Discretionary Housing Payments

These government changes may leave you with less Housing Benefit than you need to pay your rent.

If you can’t make up the shortfall, your local authority might be able to top it up with a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment

You’ll probably have to complete a form with details of your income and what you spend.

Help will vary depending on your local authority. You can find yours on the gov.uk website. Some might limit payments or ask you to do something else, like finding somewhere cheaper to live.