From 1 April 2013, if you are a council or Housing Association tenant, Housing Benefit will be cut if you have a ‘spare’ bedroom. This has now been referred to by opposition groups and the media as the ‘bedroom tax’. Under the new rules, Housing Benefit is paid depending on how many rooms each household needs. If a household has more bedrooms than required, Housing Benefit will be cut by 14% of your rent if you one spare room or 25% if you have two or more.
According to the new rules, the following are allowed one room within the household:
- Each single adult
- Each adult couple
- Each child aged 16 or over
- Two girls or two boys under the age of 16
- Two children of either gender under the age of ten
- A carer who stays overnight
These changes will cause particular hardship on families whose children move out of the family home, perhaps beginning further education or their own families. It is important to note that these changes affect on council and Housing Association tenants, and not private tenants whom the Government acknowledge would not pay for over occupancy themselves. However, given the Benefit cap (discussed below), private tenants are no better off.
From April 2013, in four London authorities, the benefits cap will begin to be phased in. Eventually, every part of Great Britain will be affected by the cap. The cap sets a limit on how much one family can receive in benefits.
A single person can receive up to £350 per week and a couple or a lone parent can receive up to £500 per week. Any amount over this will be stopped from their Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. Therefore, the people most affected by this change are those who live in high rent areas or have large families. This has led opposition groups to anticipate an increase in child poverty and large household struggling to make ends meet.
However, the Government does provide some respite. People who are in work or who receive certain disability benefits will be exempt from the cap.
Council Tax Benefit
From 1 April 2013, Council Tax Benefit will stop. It will be replaced by a new scheme decided by each council, which means the amount of financial support available will vary considerably in through the country. As all councils are receiving less money from the Government and they have been told to cut their budgets, many people will be worse off and expected to receive Council Tax bills asking to the shortfall themselves.
The largest change to the benefits system will come into force in October 2013, unless you live in a pilot area. Universal Credit replaces a series of benefits which will gradually be abolished. These include:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
As the transition begins, any new claims for any of the above benefits will become claims for Universal Credit. Those people who are already on the above benefits will be migrated onto the new system from 2014 and the Government has anticipated that the migration would be complete by 2017.
Although, Universal Credit replaces the above benefits, each applicant will need to fulfil the same conditions in order to receive Universal Credit.
Personal Independence Payments
From April 2013, again in selected pilot areas and from June 2013 across Great Britain, new claims to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will become new claims for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
From October 2013, renewal claims for people receiving DLA for a fixed period will be for PIP and from 2015 existing claimants of DLA will start to be transferred onto PIP.
However, importantly, claims made for children (below 16) or the elderly (over 64) will not be affected by these new changes and they will continue to receive DLA or Attendance Allowance (AA).
Under the new rules, PIP will consist of two parts. The first is the daily living element and the second is the mobility element. Each element (no longer referred to as components) can be at the standard rate or the enhanced rate (no longer low, middle and higher rate) if extra assistance is needed.
As under the previous rules, most people will have a face to face consultation with a Health Professional or Registered Disability Assessor to assess their needs as part of their claim. Successful claims will then be reviewed at intervals depending on how likely it is that the person’s circumstances will change.