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Welfare reform

The Welfare Reform Act was introduced in 2012. Here is a summary of existing or planned changes, you may find useful.

If you have debts or require further benefit advice and help, please click here to see details of agencies who may be able to help.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is being rolled out across the UK, and in December 2016 is going fully live in the Swindon Job Centre Plus area. Further information about this plus frequently asked questions are available here.

The DWP has produced this video about UC which you may find useful.

Which benefits will be included?
UC replaces working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, and income-related employment and support allowance.

It doesn’t include disability living allowance (DLA) or carer’s allowance. Measures in the Welfare Reform Act replace DLA with Personal Independence Payments, which will also be excluded from UC.

How will it be paid?
For most households, UC will be paid in arrears as a single monthly payment - aiming to replicate the experience of most people in work. Where a couple make a joint claim, they will have to decide who receives the single payment.

This method of payment will be a change for many people already receiving benefits who are used to budgeting on a fortnightly basis. Many current claimants of housing benefit, who are used to their benefit being paid directly to their landlord, will also face changes in the new system. Most working-age tenants will not be able to choose to have their benefit paid directly to their landlord and will start to personally receive the housing element of the new UC as part of their monthly payment.

How can I pay my rent?
Ways to pay your rent are available here.

How can I prepare for Universal Credit?

  • Go online. UC will be applied for and managed online. Your local Job Center Plus will be able to help you to do this. Local libraries and community halls may also offer courses and access to computers.
  • Open a bank account. All UC payments are made into a bank account, a month in arrears. Be ready for this by setting up a bank account in preparation.
  • Get a month in advance of your rent. UC payments are a month in arrears, so prepare for this by paying a little extra each week now to get ahead.

Gov.uk have created a guide for preparing for UC, which you can find here.

Updates of where UC will be rolled out in which areas are available here.

Benefit cap

In the budget of 8 July 2015, the Government further announced their intention to reduce the benefit cap further for couples and families to £20,000 per annum outside of London. This is coming into effect from November 2016. Any benefit above this cap rate will be deducted from housing benefit first.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be writing to residents who will be affected by this change. If you will be affected, please contact the DWP as outlined on the letter, and please contact us to discuss this.

For many households, this will mean you have no entitlement to housing benefit and you will be liable for full payment of rent. You can check whether you will be affected and by how much on the Benefit Cap calculator on the gov.uk website here.

Under Occupancy – The Bedroom Tax  

What does the size criteria mean?
The size criteria has restricted housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person/couple living as part of the household, with the following exceptions: children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share, children under 10 are expected to share regardless of gender. Disabled tenants or partners with non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra room

Who is affected?
The reductions apply only where both the claimant and their partner are under state pension credit age.

What about disabled people?
The only additional allowance is for an overnight carer. Some disabled children are exempt, but at the moment adults are not allowed any additional rooms.

How much will people lose?
The cut will is a fixed percentage of the housing benefit eligible rent. This has been set as a 14% cut for one extra bedroom and a 25% cut for two or more extra bedrooms.

What about supported and sheltered housing?
Supported accommodation is exempt from these changes, but this does apply to sheltered housing. However most residents of sheltered housing will be above working age.

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