Welfare Reform Changes – What you need to know!

undefinedIn April 2013, the Government made major changes to the welfare benefits scheme.  There are several changes and the impact upon you will depend on your personal circumstances.

Below is a list of the changes that have been made:

Under Occupation – Spare bedroom (s)

From April 2013, Housing Benefit has been reduced for working age people living in council and Housing Association properties if they have spare bedrooms:

  • If ‘under occupying’ by 1 bedroom, the rent used to calculate your entitlement to housing benefit will be reduced by 14%.
  • If ‘under occupying’ by 2 or more bedrooms, the rent used to calculate your entitlement to housing benefit will be reduced by 25%

Hackney Council Social Fund

From April 2013, Hackney Council will introduce a new local assistance scheme to assist the most vulnerable.  This will replace parts of the Social Fund scheme currently run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

  • Community Care Grants – payments for cooker, bed, etc., and
  • Crisis Loans – for general living expenses e.g money lost or stolen.

The council’s scheme is not the same as the current DWP scheme.  Download information about the new scheme HERE and HERE.

Discretionary Housing Payment

For those Housing Benefit recipients who do not have their rent met in full by Housing Benefit and have a temporary situation which makes it difficult to pay their rent, they can receive extra help in the form of a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHPs). Awards are designed to be temporary and short term and are made on a case by case basis dependent on individual circumstances.

DHPs are not a solution for ongoing/long term rental shortfalls between Housing Benefit and rent.

DHP’s can be made for a weekly or monthly benefit top up or as a lump sum to cover removal costs, deposits and rent in advance for tenants wishing to move Awards can also be made retrospectively.

Please find attached Hackney’s new:

Please find the link to the London Borough of Hackney’s DHP web page HERE.

Please note that Discretionary Housing Payments cannot cover shortfalls between Council Tax and Council Tax Reduction entitlement.

Benefit Cap

A limit has been put on the total amount of benefit that most working age people can get.  This is called the benefit cap and is due to be introduced between April and September 2013.

There are some exemptions when the cap will not apply.  All households which include someone who is receiving the following benefits will be exempt:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • The supported component of ESA
  • Attendance Allowance
  • War Widows or War Widower’s pension
  • Households receiving Working Tax Credit

If you are affected your Housing Benefit will go down and you may lose almost all of your Housing Benefit.

The level of the cap will be:

  • £500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
  • £500 a week for single parents whose children live with them
  • £350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them

If you’re already getting benefits and could be affected by the cap you’ll be contacted by the DWP.  They’ll elt you know what will happen to your benefits.  If your household is going to be affected you need to take action now.  If you are a Housing Association or Council tenant, you should let your landlord know immediately that there may be a problem.

Council Tax Benefit changes: 

Existing council tax benefit claimants were automatically moved onto the new scheme on 1 April 2013.  However, the amount of help they receive may have changed.

Working age people:

  • will have to pay at least 15% of their council tax regardless of their income
  • will no longer be eligible for second adult rebate
  • the amount of income individuals can have each week before it affects their entitlement (the applicable amount) will be frozen at 2012/13 levels.

This means that all working households will have to pay at least some of their council tax. For someone in a band D property in receipt of 100% entitlement this means a maximum payment of £3.76 a week.

Read more here: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/council-tax-reduction-scheme.htm

Council tenants: Contact Hackney Council’s Housing Advice and Options Team or Hackney Homes.

Housing Association tenants: Contact your Housing Association directly and tell them about your concerns.

Private tenants: Contact Hackney Council’s Housing Advice and Options Team.

Money Advice: The Money Advice Service was set up by government.  They are independent and give free, unbiased advice to help you make the most of your money.  Please visit: www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk

Employment and Training: If you live in Hackney and are looking for a job or an apprenticeship, Hackney Council’s Ways Into Work programme can help you.  Whether you’re just starting out, haven’t worked for years or you want to change careers, the Ways Into Work programme can advise you, find you the most suitable training and help you apply for the jobs that you want.  To access their help and register for an appointment go to the Ways to Work Programme’s website at: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/wiw.htm

Hackney iCare – Hackney Council has launched a new website Hackney iCare to provide details of all the adult social care, health, cultural and wellbeing services across the borough.  Visit the website here: http://www.hackneyicare.org.uk/kb5/hackney/asch/home.page

London (Hackney) Community Credit Union – Credit unions are banks run and owned by local residents offering bank accounts, low interest loans and other banking tools to people in any financial situation,  with all profits re-invested in the community.  To find out more about becoming a member of Hackney Community Credit Union so you will able to apply for a low interest loan visithttp://www.hackney.gov.uk/Assets/Documents/London-Community-Credit-Union-Leaflet.pdf

Child Poverty Action Group Welfare Benefits Guide: The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has published a comprehensive list of all 42 April 2013 changes being made to the benefits system.  The CPAG has calculated how much a typical family will lose per week.  Read more here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/apr/01/every-welfare-cut-listed

More information about the benefit changes: For more information on these changes please visit: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/welfare-reform-what-are-the-changes.htm

Free Advice Sessions (including form filling) for patients at their own local Hackney GP surgeries – provided by the Health Information Advice Consortium (HIAC):  More information HERE.

List of independent Local Advice Agencies who can help you: Please also find the names, addresses and telephone numbers of local organisations who may be able to help you HERE.