Welfare reform updates
Welfare reform is the term used to describe the Government's changes to the welfare benefits system. The changes include benefit cuts, penalties for people with spare rooms and online applications. For full details you can visit the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website
Benefit cap reductionsThe benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of income from certain benefits a household can receive. If you receive more than the benefit cap allows then your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced until you are brought back within the cap.
If you are a couple or have children your benefit cap is currently £500 per week. The limit for single people with no children is £350 per week.
From 7 November 2016 the benefit cap is going to be reduced and will be set at a different level depending on whether you live inside or outside of London. Couples or those with children who live inside London can receive up to £442.31 per week, while single people in London will be entitled to up to £296.35 per week. Outside of London, couples and claimants with children can receive £384.62 while single people will receive up to £257.69 per week.
Any applicable Housing Benefit or Universal Credit reduction will take place depending on where you live. The roll out starts on 7 November 2016 but will take a number of weeks to reach everyone.
Benefits includedWhen the reduced benefit cap is introduced, the benefits included in the cap will be:
• Universal Credit
• Child Benefit
• Child Tax Credit
• Housing Benefit
• Incapacity Benefit
• Income Support
• Jobseeker's Allowance
• Employment and Support Allowance (except when in the support group)
• Maternity Allowance
• Severe Disablement Allowance
• Widowed Parent's Allowance and Bereavement Allowance.
ExemptionsYou may be exempt from the cap if you claim any of the benefits below for yourself or for any member of your household (not including adult children, who do not normally count as part of the household):
Working Tax Credit, Attendance Allowance, Carer’s Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Guardian’s Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefits (Armed forces equivalent), Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), War Widow’s Pension, War Pensions, Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, Armed Forces Independent Payment.
Backdating Housing BenefitNew Housing Benefit arrangements came into effect on 1 April 2016, reducing the maximum period for which Housing Benefit claims may be backdated for working age claimants from six months to four weeks.
The good cause provisions have not changed. Working age claimants will still need to demonstrate good cause throughout the period for which you are requesting backdating. The new arrangements mean that requests made to backdate Housing Benefit after 1 April 2016 cannot be backdated for more than four weeks. Good cause is not defined in legislation and the new regulations do not change the existing guidance for considering this. However, the reduction in the maximum backdating period makes it all the more important that claims are made promptly and you should submit claims in good time.
The backdating period for persons who have newly attained the qualifying age for state pension credit will remain at three months. However they will no longer be able to exceed that duration with backdating provisions from the working age regulations.
Additional helpPlease remember that our Financial Wellbeing Officers are here to support and assist you. They can be contacted via our customer service line on 0300 323 0011.
Local authorities and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are also highlighting their availability to assist people and have access to additional funding in exceptional circumstances.