Birmingham City Council

Important Welfare Reform Changes

Overview

Please remember that you can make a claim for Housing Benefit and report a change in your circumstances by using our self serve online forms.

What is changing?

There are a number of changes that are due to take place from April 2013 as a result of the Government's Welfare Reform Act. Please see DWP - Welfare Reform attached below; this gives an explanation and overview of the Governments Welfare Reform agenda.

Where to go for more information

You can get more information at www.gov.uk. Gov.UK provides information on public service in one place including up to date information on the Housing Benefit changes.

If you are affected by any of these changes or you are having difficulty paying your rent please see Discretionary Housing Payments

If you are affected by the Benefit Cap please visit Benefit Cap for further information, help and advice.

Essential Information
  • The Government has announced that Local Housing Allowance will only be reviewed once a year. The first review is scheduled for April 2013 to enable the Local Housing Allowances to be uprated alongside other benefits. To enable this to be done the Government have abolished reviews for any "anniversary dates" that fall between 1 January 2013 and 31 March 2013. Please see below for more information.

    Your benefit entitlement may change if;

    • from April 2013 if you are considered to be underoccupying a social rented property
    • from April 2013, the total amount of your benefit is more than the benefit cap level.
    • you have other adults (non dependants) who live with you who are not your partner

    Please see below for more detail.

  • Your benefit entitlement may change if you have other adults (apart from your partner) living with you

    Deductions can be made from the amount of benefit you get if you share your home with any adults who are not dependant on you – for example, adult children, relatives or friends. These deductions are made because it is assumed that these people should pay something towards your rent, whether they actually do so or not. If you are in this position you may already be aware that these are called non dependant deductions.

    The amount deducted from your benefit entitlement is based on the weekly gross income of the non dependant.

    The non dependant deductions had been frozen since 2001 but have now been increased in stages until they are equal to what they would have been without the freeze.

    The following table shows the revised deductions for non dependant charges for 2014.

    If you are affected by this change you will have to ask the other adults in your home to increase the money they give you or you will have to make up the shortfall from your own income. If you are suffering from financial difficulties as a result of these changes please visit Discretionary Housing Payments


    NON-DEPENDANT DEDUCTIONS 2014

    Deduction in HB

    Age 18 or over


    Not in remunerative work

    £14.15

    In remunerative work and in receipt of gross income, per week, of


    Less than £128.00

    £14.15

    128.00 - 187.99

    £32.45

    188.00 - 244.99

    £44.55

    245.00 - 325.99

    £72.95

    326.00 - 405.99

    £83.05

    406.00 and over

    £91.15



    Over 18 but under 25


    On IS/JSA (IB) or ESA (IR) (assessment phase only) which does not include an amount for the support component or the work related activity component (if on main phase, see Others below)

    NIL

    Age 25 or over


    On IS/JSA (IB)

    £14.15

    Others


    In receipt of main phase ESA (IR)

    £14.15

    In receipt of Pension Credit (either or both elements)

    NIL



  • Universal Credit forms part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. It is intended that this will simplify the benefits system by bringing everything together into a single streamlined payment.

    It aims to:

    • Simplify the system, making it easier for people to understand
    • easier and cheaper for staff to administer
    • improve work incentives
    • make the move from into and out of work smoother
    • reduce in-work poverty
    • cut back on fraud and error.

    The first applications to Universal Credit will be made in October 2013, and people already receiving benefit will be automatically transferred to Universal Credit between October 2013 and 2017. New claims to Housing Benefit are due to end in October 2014.

    The Money Advice Service have produced a video to help you get ready for Universal Credit.

    You can also visit Gov.UK for more information.

  • From 15 July 2013, a 'cap' (a maximum limit) will be introduced on the total amount of benefit that working age people can receive if they are not working.

    Birmingham will commence work on claims that are affected from August 2013 onwards.

    The Government expects all Authorities to be applying the benefit cap by the end of September 2013.

    For further information and advice please visit Benefit Cap
  • What has changed?

    From April 2013 the Government introduced new rules that set out the number of bedrooms Housing Benefit will pay for, if you are renting from a local authority, a registered housing association or other registered social landlord.

    Please note that this is a change in the law and therefore Birmingham City Council has no choice but to implement these new rules.

    What are the changes?

    The new rules restrict the size of accommodation you can receive Housing Benefit for based on the number of people in your household.

    The current rules allow one bedroom for the following:

    • every adult couple (married or unmarried)
    • any other adult aged 16 or over
    • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
    • any two children aged under 10
    • any other child
    • a carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care
    • one additional room for any foster children residing with an approved foster carer
    • parents of armed forces personnel (who are away from home on operations) will continue to have them included in the household when applying the size criteria

    How will this affect me?

    It is possible that the amount of Housing Benefit you get to pay your rent could go down. If you are assessed under these rules as having more bedrooms than is necessary for your household you will be considered to be under-occupying that property. If you are under-occupying there will be a reduction in your Housing Benefit of:

    - 14% of the total eligible rent for under-occupancy by one bedroom

    - 25% of the total eligible rent for under-occupancy by two bedrooms or more


    If you are thinking of moving you need to consider these changes before you renew or make a new tenancy agreement.

    When will this affect me?

    The size limit rules take effect from 1 April 2013. Current Housing Benefit claims will have already been reassessed and new decision letters have been issued.

    People making new claims for Housing Benefit from 1 April 2013 onwards will be subject to the new rules from the start of their claim.

    It is important that you should notify us if the information we hold about your household is not up to date as this may affect the amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid to you. You can do this by using the Change of Circumstances self serve option.

    If you are left with serious financial difficulties as a result of these new rules you may be able to apply for help with a Discretionary Housing Payment.

    Where to go for more information

    You need to consider what your options might be and where necessary talk to your landlord or Housing Officer. Please refer to Welfare Reform- Benefits Are Changing for further help and assistance.

  • Local Housing Allowance (LHA) claims were originally assessed based on the rates applicable at the time the claim was made. Unless a claimant had a change of circumstances, that rate was reassessed 12 months later - known as the "anniversary date".

    From 1 January 2013, anniversary date reassessments will no longer take place. Anyone who was due to have a review between 1 January and 31 March 2013 will now not be reviewed until 1 April 2013.

    This is in line with the Government's plans to uprate LHA rates annually rather than monthly. It is designed to prevent claimants having two reassessments in a short space of time.

    Reviewing LHA rates once a year in April will make it simpler for claimants to understand and help people plan for the future as they will know the amount of LHA available for the year ahead.

    We will be writing to claimants who are affected - you do not need to do anything, as any changes will be made automatically.

    If you think that a delay in reassessment will place you in serous financial difficulties, you can apply for assistance via the Discretionary Housing Payments scheme.

  • As part of the Government's review of the Discretionary Social Fund, Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants were abolished at the end of March 2013 and the Department for Work and Pensions no longer administer these payments.

    From 1 April 2013, Birmingham City Council introduced a Local Welfare Provision scheme. There will be no cash payments made through this discretionary scheme and it is not intended to replicate the previous Social Fund scheme.

    Local Welfare Provision will seek to assist vulnerable people, where they are unable to meet their immediate short term needs or where they require assistance to maintain their independence within the community.

    Please visit Birmingham Local Welfare Reform for further information and an online application form.

  • As part of the Government's reform of the welfare system, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will be replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people aged 16 to 64 on or after 8 April 2013.

    Whilst the majority of existing claimants will not be affected until 2015, some will be affected earlier. The DWP will therefore be writing to all existing DLA claimants in their annual new benefit rate letters to explain about PIP .

    It is important that new and existing claimants are aware of what is changing and when. The DWP have provided an online checker where, using your date of birth, you can quickly identify how and when you might be affected. You can access this checker and obtain further information regarding PIP by visiting www.gov.uk/pip


    PIP New Claim Application for those aged 16 - 64 0800 917 2222
    PIP General Enquiry Line 0845 850 3322
Frequently Asked Questions
    • According to the new rules if someone is assessed as having more bedrooms in their accommodation than is necessary they will be considered to be under-occupying that property.

      Please see "How many rooms am I allowed?"

    • The size limit measure will affect anyone who is of working age and is receiving Housing Benefit or has made a claim for Housing Benefit.

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

      Non-Mainstream accommodation – These are mooring charges for house boats and site charges for caravans and mobile homes as well as various “excluded tenancies” within schedule 2 to the Housing Benefit Regulations, such as regulated tenancies.


      Temporary accommodation – Any claimant who is placed in temporary accommodation by the local authority because they are homeless or to prevent homelessness.


      Exempt accommodation – The size limit rules will not be applied to those in supported ‘exempt’ accommodation. This is a particular type of supported accommodation defined for Housing Benefit purposes as accommodation provided by a non-metropolitan county council in England, a housing association, a registered charity or voluntary organisation where that body or a person acting on its behalf also provides the claimant with care, support or supervision as set out in paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 to the Consequential Provisions Regulations 2006.



    • If you wish to move to smaller accommodation it is advisable to talk to your landlord. They should be able to advise you if moving to smaller accommodation is possible and what steps you need to take.
    • There may be circumstances where someone in receipt of Housing Benefit would be considered to be under-occupying because of a death in their household. In these circumstances they would be protected and the size limit rules would not be applied until after 12 months or they moved home or there was another change of circumstances (whichever came first).

    • If you could previously afford to pay your rent and find yourself in a situation where you now cannot, for example because of a loss of job, provided you have not claimed Housing Benefit in the last 52 weeks, the size limit rules will not be applied for the first 13 weeks. They will be applied earlier than 13 weeks if you move home or have another change of circumstances.



      .



    • If you are assessed as under-occupying your accommodation and experience a reduction in your Housing Benefit, there are a number of courses of action open to you. You may wish to find more appropriately sized accommodation or stay where you are and make up the shortfall in rent yourself.


      Move – You may decide that it would be best to move to appropriately sized accommodation in the social rented sector. Your landlord will be able to talk this through with you and advise you as to whether this in a viable option.


      You may decide that moving to the private rented sector would be appropriate for you. Again your landlord or Housing Officer will be able to advise you about this.


      Ask non-dependants to contribute – If you decide to stay in your current accommodation and make up the shortfall yourself you may wish to ask other non-dependants (other adults) living with you to contribute to the rent.


      Take in a lodger – You may wish to take in a lodger to fill the extra room you have. You should check this is allowed by your landlord. If you do this the lodger would be assessed as part of the household meaning you would not necessarily be considered to be under-occupying and you may have more income from their rent.


      Increase hours of work – If you are in employment you may consider increasing your working hours to make up the shortfall in rent.
      Take a job – If you are not currently in employment, finding a job could help you pay the additional rent.
      Apply for a DHP – In certain circumstances a claimant may be entitled to a payment from the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund. This is a fund administered by the local authority for those they consider in real need of additional help with their housing costs. .
    • You could:

      • Talk to your landlord to see if it might be possible to renegotiate the rent
      • Think about whether or not you might be able to afford the difference
      • If you have other debts, think about getting some money or debt advice. You might be able to afford your rent if your other debts are reduced. You can get advice from the City’s Debt Advice Team on 0121 303 2087 or from other people such as a Citizens Advice Bureau
      • If your tenancy agreement is due to be renewed think about whether or not you are able to look for somewhere cheaper before you agree to a new period.


    • As a local authority we may be able to help some people with a Discretionary Housing Payment to meet the gap between their benefit entitlement and the rent they pay. The amount of money available for these payments is limited so we have to consider your circumstances carefully. These payments are also for short periods and will not help you to afford your rent on a long term basis.

      The Discretionary Housing Payments page has details on how to apply.

Attachments
attached document DWP Welfare Reform Overview
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