Changes to benefits

Background

The government is changing the welfare benefits system. This page explains who may be affected and where you can go to seek help and advice.

For general advice please see:

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a single payment system that will eventually replace income-based jobseekers allowance, income-based employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credits, working tax credits and housing benefit.

Universal Credit is currently only available to new single claimants in the Wycombe area.

Limit on benefits (the “benefit cap”)

There is now an upper limite on total amount of benefit available to most people aged 16 to 64:. called the “benefit cap”. The Department for Work and Pensions(DWP) now calculates how much money you receive from a range of benefits.

Who is affected

The cap applies to the total amount that the people in your household (unless they are non-dependants) get from the following benefits, including:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (unless you get the support component)
  • Guardian's Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent's Allowance (or Widowed Mother's Allowance or Widows Pension you started getting before 9 April 2001)

The cap might affect you if you have any grown-up children who still live with you and they qualify for one of these benefits. This is because they won't normally count as part of your household.

Who isn’t affected

The benefit cap doesn’t affect you if anyone in your household qualifies for Working Tax Credit or gets any of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits (and equivalent payments as part of a war disablement pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme)
  • Employment and Support Allowance, if you get the support component
  • War Widow's or War Widower's Pension

How it works

If you receive more than the maximum amount allowed, the DWP will tell us to reduce your housing benefit payments. If you're affected, your Housing Benefit will go down to make sure that the total amount of benefit you get isn't more than the cap level.

If you're already getting benefits and could be affected by the cap you'll be contacted by the DWP. They'll let you know what will happen to your benefits.

The maximum amount of benefit will be:

  • £500 per week for single parents
  • £500 per week for couples with or without children
  • £350 per week for single people without children

This maximum amount of benefit will not apply if:

  • you receive pension credit or working tax credit
  • a member of your household is claiming disability living allowance, attendance allowance, industrial injuries benefit, or the support element of employment support allowance

Check if you are affected

You can use the benefit cap calculator (external website) to find out if you'll be affected, and how much your benefits could go down by.

What should you do?

If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent, you should seek advice now. If you unable to pay your rent you could lose your home, so it is important to talk to your landlord about different ways to pay.

You can also:

  • talk to your landlord about transferring to a smaller home or taking in a lodger
  • get more information about the cap on benefits by calling the government's information line on 0845 605 7064.
  • try to find some paid work to increase your income
  • make sure you are claiming all the benefits you can - for example, money to help with the costs of a disability
  • get in touch with your local citizens advice bureau or other local advice agencies
  • seek advice on household budgeting if you have concerns about managing your household budget. Organisations such as Citizens Advice (external website) can offer support and guidance.

Extra help from Wycombe District Council

In some circumstances we may be able to offer short-term extra discretionary help towards your rent and/or council tax. The funding for this is limited.

If you have a spare bedroom

If you live in a housing association property and have one or more spare bedrooms not in use, your housing benefit may be reduced.

Your housing benefit could be affected if:

  • you are 16 to 61 years old
  • you only receive a small amount of housing benefit - for example, if you are working
  • you are sick or disabled

Your housing benefit should not be affected if:

  • you live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit
  • you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits
  • you live in a shared ownership property

Exemptions for foster carers and armed services personnel

Foster carers and families of armed services personnel will are exempt from the room restrictions.

What is a spare bedroom?

The new rules mean you can have one bedroom for:

  • each adult couple
  • any other person aged 16 or over
  • two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
  • any other child
  • a carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care

It does not matter how the spare bedroom is used, the rules apply even if:

  • you and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
  • the main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you

What happens if you have a spare bedroom

If you have one spare bedroom, your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay every week. If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%.

If your housing benefit is cut you will have to pay your landlord the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.

Example 1

Mr and Mrs Smith live in a two-bedroom flat costing £70 per week in rent. At the moment housing benefit covers the full cost of their rent. Under the new rules they will have one spare bedroom. Their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% of their rent (14% of £70 = £9.80). Their housing benefit will be reduced by £9.80 to £60.20 per week.

Example 2

Mr and Mrs Bell live with their two teenage boys, aged 13 and 15, in a three bedroom house. Their rent is £100 per week and they receive £10 per week in housing benefit. Under the new rules their children will be expected to share a bedroom and so they will be treated as having one spare. Their housing benefit will be reduced by 14% of £100 (£14), and so they will lose all their housing benefit.

Contact information

Web form: Benefits enquiries

  • Telephone: 01494 412 227