News! Welfare Reform - What is it?

The Government is changing the Council Tax Benefit scheme and it will be replaced by the Local Council Tax Support Scheme (LCTSS) from April 2013.

The Government is giving local authorities less money to administer the new scheme so that they have to find a way of funding this shortfall in grant. Bolsover District Council has discussed how they might raise this money and they are consulting local residents throughout September and October 2012 to get feedback from both individuals and organisations on the proposals.

The Government has advised that pensioners must be protected from the changes and, therefore, the changes will only apply to claimants of working age. If you are of working age and receive benefits to help pay your rent or Council Tax, you could be affected.

Size Criteria Restrictions

Housing Benefit entitlement for working age customers, occupying Social Sector Housing (i.e. Housing Association and Council properties), will be subject to a percentage reduction to their eligible rent. This applies when the property is deemed to have more bedrooms than they are entitled to under the size criteria rules.

The new size criteria rules are one bedroom for each of the following:

  • a couple;
  • a person who is not a child i.e. 16+;
  • two children of the same sex;
  • two children who are under 10, regardless of sex;
  • any other child (other than a foster child or whose main home is elsewhere);
  • a carer providing overnight care.

The 'eligible' rent will be subject to a 14% reduction for under-occupation by one bedroom and a 25% reduction for under-occupation of two bedrooms or more.

Over the coming months Bolsover District Council will be looking at which households may be under-occupying their property and writing to notify them and what options they have open to them.

The Benefit Cap

The Benefit Cap on household benefit payments will come into force from April 2013 and means no family without work can receive more in welfare than the average wage paid to people in work.

This cap will apply to the combined income Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance (except when paid with the Support Component), Housing Benefit, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Carers Allowance, Maternity Allowance and Universal Credit (from October 2013).

The cap will be:

  • £550 per week for couples and lone parents
  • £350 per week for single adults

The cap will be applied by deducting this from any Housing Benefit paid, but claimants who have been in employment for 52 weeks or more when they claim benefit will be exempt from the cap for a grace period of up to 39 weeks.

The following benefits will NOT be taken into consideration when calculating the total income to which the cap will be applied, Council Tax Support; Social Fund Payments; Working Tax Credits; Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance; Industrial Injuries Benefit; Personal Independence Payments (from April 2013); Employment and Support Allowance if paid with the Support Component and War Widows or War Widower's Pension.

If you're already getting benefits and could be affected by the benefit cap you'll be contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

For more information on the Welfare Reform changes please telephone 01246 242424 to talk to one of the Advisors or visit www.bolsover.gov.uk/housing-benefit-overview