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Benefits are Changing

Published: Tue, 20 Dec 2016
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Benefits are Changing
Did you know the benefit system has been changing?  
If you are of ‘working-age’ and claim benefits it may affect how your housing benefit is assessed and you financially.
Click on the following to find out what may affect you and what help and advice is available…
Benefit Cap Social Sector Size Criteria
Housing Benefit: Backdating rules Personal Independent Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance Help and Advice

Benefit Cap

The maximum income from benefits you can receive has been reduced to £384.62 per week for a family and £257.69 per week for a single person.
If your income from a combination of the benefits listed below is more than the Benefit Cap, your Housing Benefit will be reduced by that amount.
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (except where the support component has been awarded)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent's Allowance
  • Widowed Mother's Allowance
  • Widow's Pension
  • Widow's Pension (age-related)
You may not be affected if your receive Working Tax Credit, Pension Credit or some disability related benefits.
If you are affected, you may be entitled to a Welfare Supplementary Payment to help with the shortfall but this will only be available until 31 March 2020.  
Any changes to your circumstances after the Welfare Supplementary Payment award is made can reduce (or end) this payment so you may not receive full mitigation for the shortfall between your rent and Housing Benefit.
For more information click on ‘nidirect’

Social Sector Size Criteria

This is sometimes referred to as ‘Bedroom Tax’ and is due to be introduced in early 2017.  
It means the amount of Housing Benefit people aged 16 years or over but below State Pension age can get will be based on the number of people in the household and the number of bedrooms in the home.
If you are assessed as having one or more extra bedrooms than is necessary for your household it is possible the amount of Housing Benefit you receive will go down. The amount allowed for rent and any eligible service charges will be reduced by:
  • 14% if you have one extra bedroom, or
  • 25% if you have two or more extra bedrooms.
Not everyone will be affected.  Some households may be exempt from the change or may be entitled to an extra bedroom.  
If we think you are affected you will receive a letter and ‘Household Details Form’ from us in early 2017.  If the details are correct there is nothing for you to do, however, if they are wrong you must complete the Household Details Form and return it to us in the prepaid envelope as soon as possible
If you are affected, you may be entitled to a Welfare Supplementary Payment to help with the shortfall which will be available until 31 March 2020.
For more information click on ‘nidirect’

‘Backdating’ rules for Housing Benefit

For working age claimants the backdating period for Housing Benefit has reduced from six months to one month...there are no exceptions.
If you’re applying for Housing Benefit please complete your application as quickly as possible.  
If you wish to succeed a tenancy you must complete an application for assignment / succession /change of tenancy form from the date of application to ensure you don’t lose out on Housing Benefit.  
Contact your local Housing Benefit office on 03448 920 902 for more information.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

This is a new benefit for people aged 16-64 years with a disability or long term health condition.  
It replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for new claimants, or existing DLA claimants who report a change in their mobility or care needs, from 20 June 2016.  
Everyone who currently gets DLA will be assessed for PIP by December 2018.  If you do not meet the PIP assessment criteria and either lose your DLA award or receive a lower PIP award, you may receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment for up to one year to help.
For more information click on ‘nidirect’

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) changes

If you’re claiming contribution-based ESA and are in the Work Related Activity Group, the length of time you can receive this is now limited to 365 days.  
This change came into effect on 31 October 2016   Depending on your circumstances you may be able to claim income-related ESA.    If you are affected by this change, the ESA Centre will contact you to tell you what you need to do next.
A Welfare Supplementary Payment may be paid for up to one year to those affected and who are not entitled to income-related ESA or if their award of income-related ESA is lower than their contribution-based ESA.  If you are eligible for a Welfare Supplementary Payment, you will get a letter telling you that you are entitled to it; you do not need to apply for it.
For more information click on ‘nidirect’

Help

To help reduce the impact of Welfare Changes the Northern Ireland Executive committed to ensuring that a supplementary payment will be available until 31 March 2020 (in some circumstances).  
If your benefit has been impacted the Department for Communities will contact you directly about a Welfare Supplementary Payment which you may be entitled to.

Advice

Assistance and advice on the changes to the welfare system is available by contacting the Independent Welfare Changes Helpline on 0808 802 0020, which is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and is free to call from any mobile or landline within the UK. More information is available on ‘nidirect
If you have any questions or queries regarding potential or actual changes to your housing benefit payments then call us on 03448 920 902.  Our team in Housing Benefit is here to help.   
Much more detail on all Welfare Changes can be read online at the NI Government’s website ‘nidirect