You may have heard about the major changes to welfare benefits that have started this month and will begin to roll out nationally over the next few years. But do you know whether you’ll be affected – and how and when?
Here charity Turn2us tells us a bit more about how three of these changes might impact on families,and provides some tips for parents who could be affected.
1. Universal Credit
One of the major changes is the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) which will replace six means-tested benefits for working age people – Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
People who currently claim these benefits will begin to be moved over to UC between Octoberthis year and 2017.Exactly when you will begin to claim depends on factors such as where you live and whether you have a change in your circumstances.
Turn2us tip – UC will be paid to claimants monthly rather than weekly, and according to Turn2us’ recent research, nearly two-fifths (39%) of parents who currently claim are worried this change might make it harder for them to manage their finances. If you’re worried about this too, have a look at Turn2us’ information on budgeting which might help you to plan ahead for these changes.
2. Changes to Housing Benefit
From 1st April, a new size criteria was introduced for Housing Benefit claimants who live in social housing. This means that famiies who rent their home from the council or a housing association will see a reduction in their Housing Benefit if they are considered to have more bedrooms than they need.
You are allowed one bedroom for each of the following groups: each adult couple, each person over 16, two children of the same gender under 16, two children under 10, regardless of their gender, any other child and overnight carer you need who doesn’t live with you.
Households protected from this change include foster carers, parents of young armed forces personnel and households with disabled children who are unable to share with siblings.
Turn2us tip – If you are affected by these new rules and have seen a Housing Benefit reduction, it’s worth doing a free and easy benefits calculation to see if you are entitled for any additional support, and you can also see whether you might be able to apply for Discretionary Housing Payment to provide extra help with your housing costs.
3. Benefits cap
The government is introducing a cap on how much money people can receive in benefits, which will be £500 per week for a single parent or a couple. The cap will be applied if your total income in benefits exceeds this amount. If you do not receive UC, the cap will be applied by reducing the amount of Housing Benefit you receive.
The cap is likely to have the greatest impact on families with three or more children, and those living in high rent areas. It is being trialled this month in four London boroughs and will start to be rolled out nationally from July this year.
Turn2us tip – There are some exemptions to the cap, so regardless of the amount you receive in benefits, you will not be affected if you are entitled to Working Tax Credit, if you are recently unemployed, or if you are claiming certain other benefits. If you are concerned about the cap, try a quick benefits check to see if you are entitled to any benefits that would make you exempt.
Turn2us is running its Benefits Awareness Month campaign throughout April and has a dedicated website with the latest information on all of these changes.
The site includes clear factsheets with full details on who the changes affect and what next steps they can take.
If you are worried about any of the changes and would like to speak to an adviser about your situation, you can find someone in your local area here.