Following the Welfare Reform Act 2012 the government has introduced changes to the Welfare Benefit system that could have wide ranging impact on household incomes. Most of the reforms apply only to people of working age , however, non dependent deductions , also apply to those of pension credit age. On this page we intend to give basic information on the reforms and how they may affect you, however, as it is impossible for us to keep our site updated as the situation is changing rapidly , we would ask that you refer to the governments own website for more details or upto date advice by clicking
Under the Scotland Act 2016 some social security benefits are being devolved to the Scottish Government. For more information on the benefits affected please see the attached link which gives the list of benefits affected and the dates of introduction of the new Scottish benefits.
Should you find that you are struggling with Welfare Reform or simply wish some advice or assistance you can contact Margo Allan our Tenancy Officer on 0345 6077117 to arrange an appointment.
The main changes that will directly affect Housing Benefit are:
Increased Non-dependant Deductions, Under Occupancy charge (Bedroom Tax), Benefit Caps and the introduction of Universal Credit. Please click on the tabs below for more information.
A non dependant is someone who normally lives in a home on a non-commercial basis, usually an adult son/daughter, friend or relative. Deductions are made from your housing benefit if you have one or more non-dependants. The law assumes they will contribute towards your rent, whether or not they do.
- Non dependants aged 25 or over on income related ESA, income support or income based JSA - £14.65 weekly
- Other non- dependants not in remunerative work regardless of income - £14.65 weekly
- Non Dependants on pension credit - No deduction
- Non-dependants in remunerative work (excluding those on pension credit) - The weekly amount depends on your non-dependants weekly gross income.
- If you or your partner, are registered blind ,or, get the care component of disability living allowance (any rate), the daily living component of personal independence payment, or attendance allowance - No deduction.
- Under 18 - No deduction
- Under 25 and on income support, income based JSA or assessment phase income related ESA, on Pension credit - No deduction.
- In hospital for over 52 weeks, prison, if their normal home is elsewhere or they are a full time student - No deduction (although a deduction can be made in the summer if they take up remunerative work)
Under Occupancy Charges
Housing Benefit is reduced if you are a working-age tenant of a local authority or housing association and are considered to have one or more spare bedrooms.
- Every adult couple (including civil partners)
- Any other adult aged 16 or over
- Two children under 10 (unless it is inappropriate for them to share a room because of disability)
- Two children under 16 of the same sex (unless it is inappropriate for them to share a room because of disability)
- A foster child or children, if you are approved foster parent (or kinship carer)
- Any other child; and
- A non –resident carer who regularly provides overnight care for a disabled claimant or their partner.
14% if you have one spare bedroom, or 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.
At present the Scottish Government has agreed to make up the shortfall between your housing benefit and your rent as a result of the reduction, in order to receive this you will need to request a Discretionary Housing Payment form from your Local Authority or Housing Association. You can also telephone Housing Benefit on 01546 605512 to request a Discretionary Housing Payment form.
Currently there is a cap on the total amount of benefit you can receive from the main out of work benefits and childrens benefits. If your total income from the relevant benefits is greater than the cap level, your housing benefit will be reduced so that your total benefit does not exceed the cap.
From autumn 2016 benefit cap threshold reduces to:
£385 for couples (with or without children) and single parents; and
£258 for single people
You are exempt from the benefit cap if you, your partner or your children receive any of the following:
- Attendance allowance
- Disability Living allowance
- ESA support component
- Industrial injuries benefit
- Personal independence payment
- War pension
- War widows pension or
- Working tax credit
- Armed Forces Compensation scheme guaranteed income payment
From autumn 2016 those in receipt of carers allowance or guardian allowance will also be exempt from the benefit cap.
If your total income from the relevant benefits is above the cap , your housing benefit will be reduced until this income equals the cap. However, you will always be left with at least 50p of housing benefit, this means that you will retain eligibility for discretionary housing payments and passported benefits .
E.g. If a couple with children receive a total of £450 per week from benefits, including £90 housing benefit, as a couple the cap that applies to them is £385 a week. Their housing benefit will be reduced by £35 to £25 per week. Their total relevant benefit income will now be £385.
It is a single means tested benefit payable to people of working age who are on a low income. It does not depend on your national insurance contributions and is not taxable. You can claim it if you are looking for work, if you are unable to work through sickness or disability, if you are a lone parent, if you are caring for someone or if you are working and your wages are low.
Universal Credit replaces the following benefits:
- Child tax credit
- Housing benefit
- Income related employment and support allowance
- Income-based job seekers allowance
- Income support , and
- Working tax credit
Universal credit is being phased in gradually over a number of years. To qualify for Universal Credit you must meet certain work related conditions , which vary according to your circumstances.
Universal credit is worked out by comparing your basic financial needs with your financial resources. It is calculated on a monthly basis. Your financial resources include your earnings, income, capital and savings. Your Universal Credit may also include an amount to cover housing costs.
Further details on how Universal Credit is calculated can be found online at www.gov.uk
You normally need to claim Universal Credit online at www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit.
If you do not have access to a computer or are unable to use a computer please contact Margo Allan on 0345 6077117 she can refer you to Community Learning for a basic IT skills course.
Universal credit is paid once every calendar month in arrears. It is normally paid in to a bank , building society or Post Office card account. A single payment is made to the household. If you are eligible for the housing costs element it will be included in your universal credit payment. It will then be up to you to pay your full monthly rent to your landlord. Scottish tenants are able to request the the housing element of their Universal Credit is paid direct to their landlord.
If tenants are in arrears with their rent, landlords can request housing payments to be made direct to the landlord.
In order to pay your rent to your landlord and make payments for other regular bills it is usually cheaper and more convenient to make payments by direct debit, in order to do this you need access to a transactional bank account, if you do not have a bank account and anticipate you may have problems opening a bank account, please contact Margo on 0345 6077117.
If you are being migrated on to Universal Credit from your existing benefits, there may be a gap between your final payment of the existing benefit and your first Universal Credit payment. You may be able to claim a universal credit advance to bridge this gap. It will be recoverable from you over 12 months by deductions from your monthly universal credit payments. For new claimants any advance needs to be repaid over 6 months.
To be entitled to Universal Credit you need to have accepted a claimant commitment, if claiming jointly with your partner you both need to accept the claimant commitment. The claimant commitment is a record of the requirements you are expected to meet in order to continue to receive Universal Credit. It will usually be developed through a face to face meeting with a DWP adviser.
Tenants need be make sure anything they agree to in the claimant commitment is achievable. Your benefit can be sanctioned if you do not comply with your claimant commitment.
The claimant commitment can be reviewed and updated at any time by the DWP ( eg when your work –related requirements change) This will normally be done at a regular `Work search interview`. This can take place over the phone, online, or at a face to face meeting. There are four types of work-related requirement that apply to Universal Credit : Work focussed interview requirement Work preparation requirement Work search requirement, and Work availability requirement
Which if any of these applies to you depends on your circumstances. Further information on these requirements can be found online at www.gov.uk. In some circumstances none of the work-related requirements may apply . This could be because of your disability or due to your caring responsibilities or because you are already working an adequate number of hours.
As with all changes of circumstance which could affect your entitlement to benefit , if you have a change of circumstances which could affect your entitlement to Universal Credit , you must let the Department of Work and Pensions know as soon as possible.
Changes of circumstance which need to be reported could be:
- Somebody joining or leaving your household
- Children leaving school
- Separating from a partner
- That you have a partner or have got married
- A child being born
- A death
- Starting or finishing work, or your non dependant starting or finishing work
- Being in receipt of any other benefit – eg DLA/ Carers Allowance/Tax Credits/ PIP
- Inheriting money or property
- if you increase or decrease your working hours you must also inform Housing Benefit and any other benefits agency, however, the plan with Universal Credit is that there will be a real time link with Her Majesty Revenue and Customs Service, this means your employer will be sending information directly to HMRC each time you are paid.
- Tax credits- if you split from a partner it is vital that you tell tax credits within a month of the split, they are under no obligation to backdate your benefit entitlement to the date of any change of circumstances, however, they are perfectly entitled to claim back any payment of benefit you have received since the change of circumstances occurred, even if you would have been entitled to benefit had you informed them.
If you are unsure of which changes need to be reported you are best advised to contact the benefits agency for guidance. It is safest to report all changes as soon as possible.
One of the most common causes of benefit overpayments is non reporting of change of circumstances , remember some changes will have to be reported to more than one agency ie. if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit and Tax Credits and Employment and Support Allowance you need to inform all three of the benefits agencies of any changes- do not assume that they will advise each other.