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What is Welfare Reform?

In 2013-14 there were several national and local welfare reform changes which may affect you now, or in the future.

These changes include:

Under-occupation in social rented homes

If you rent from a local council, a housing association or other registered social landlord, the amount of Housing Benefit you get is now based on the number of bedrooms your household needs. If you have extra bedrooms the amount of Housing Benefit you receive may go down - by 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.

The new rules will allow one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
  • any other adult aged 16 or over (non-dependant, boarder or lodger)
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • a non-resident overnight care
  • a foster child or children living with an approved foster carer
  • adult children who are in the armed forces but who continue to live with parents, will be treated as continuing to live at home, when deployed on operations
  • disabled child who cannot share a bedroom (qualifying criteria apply)

There are certain circumstances where the size limit rules will not be applied:

  • Shared ownership
  • Pension age
  • Supported accommodation
  • Temporary accommodation
  • Non-mainstream accommodation

Benefit cap

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has placed a cap on the maximum benefit people can receive. This is likely to be a maximum of £500 per week for a family with dependent children and £350 per week for those without dependent children.

From 7 November 2016, the level of the cap will be approximately £385 per week for a family with dependent children and £258 per week for those without dependent children.

If you are affected, the DWP will contact you separately.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It will bring together a range of working age benefits into a single payment.

It was launched in October 2013 and replaces:

  • Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit.

For more information visit the website for the Department of Work and Pensions.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

All new LHA claims will have their LHA rate reviewed annually in April each year, rather than having individual review dates throughout the year.

This is due to the introduction in April 2012 of annual LHA rates rather than monthly.

LHA cases can be reviewed during the year where there has been a change in rent since the annual review, either an increase or decrease.

Discretionary Housing Payments

If you are in receipt of housing benefit and or Local Council Tax Support and are struggling financially, you may be able to get some additional help. If you wish to be considered for a short-term discretionary payment award, over and above your current housing benefit and or Local Council Tax Support award, please apply using our online form.

Pension Credit

If you are of pensionable age this benefit guarantees a minimum weekly income. Contact the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234 for further information.

Local Council Tax Support scheme

For people of working age, Council Tax Benefit was replaced by Local Council Tax Support from 1 April 2013. This will be based on the current Council Tax Benefit scheme but with some differences. Find out at  what is Local Council Tax Support.

Change of circumstances

It is important that the information we hold on Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Support claimants is accurate. If you receive Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Support and your circumstances change, you must contact us immediately.