Welfare reform and
Universal Credit

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

This means the benefit cap has been lowered, Universal Credit is rolling out across the country, and there’ll be new rules for the amount of help you can get.

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.

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 2022. It was available everywhere for unemployed single people who don’t have children, but this changed in December 2017 so they are now included in the general roll out for new claims which is due to be complete by December 2018.

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

You might find the Universal Credit budgeting tool from the Money Advice Service useful.

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.

You might find the Universal Credit budgeting tool from the Money Advice Service useful.

Universal Credit if you’re aged 18–21

From 1 April 2017, if you’re single and aged 18 to 21 you won’t be automatically entitled to get help paying your rent.

There are some exceptions to this, including people already receiving Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. But if you’re making a new claim and you live in an area where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out (also known as a digital or full service area) you’ll be affected by this change.

You won’t be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover any shortfall in rent.

The full list of exemptions for people aged 18 to 21 include:

  • couples, unless they are claiming as a single person
  • those responsible for a child, qualifying young person or foster child
  • those who receive daily living personal independence payment (PIP) or a mid/high rate care PIP
  • those who have multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA)
  • anyone living in temporary accommodation (as defined in the Universal Credit regulations)
  • care leavers under 18 years old
  • a victim of, or threatened by, domestic violence
  • those unable to live with their parents because they have no parents or their parents don’t live in the UK
  • those who can’t live with their parents due to a serious risk to their physical or mental health
  • working young people earning above the earning threshold
  • anyone who has been in work for six months or more – for the first six months after leaving work
  • those who don’t fall within the ‘all work-requirement group’ – eg, with a limited capability for work; a full-time carer; pregnant and 11 weeks before your due date or a full-time apprentice
  • those who are in the ‘all work-requirement group’ but are expected to work less than 35 hours due to a physical or mental impairment or caring responsibilities.
  • Those who are in the ‘all work-requirement group’, but are on short-term sick leave; have had a partner or child die in the past six months; receiving structured, recovery-orientated alcohol or drug dependency treatment; receiving medical treatment abroad; on remand or in prison; under police protection or attending court or tribunal.

If you have any questions about your benefits, please get in touch so we can help.

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 or Universal Credit 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.

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 new 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 or Universal Credit.
  • 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.

What do you need to know about Discretionary Housing Payments?

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.