From April 2013 the proposed welfare reforms will mean lots of changes to the way benefits are assessed and paid to claimants.
We look at a few examples of how the changes could affect different households.
I have lived in the same two bedroom house for 30 years. I am 75 and don’t think that I could cope with moving house. What will happen to me?
The Advisor says: Kenneth, you don’t have any reason to worry. The under occupation penalty only affects people of working age, so anyone between the ages of 16 and 61, meaning the changes will not affect you.
We live in a three bedroom house. My son is six and my daughter will be ten next June, do the under-occupation changes mean that we will have to move?
The Advisor says: Although the under-occupation rules mean that you qualify for a two bedroom house, within three months of the changes to the rules (which will happen in April 2013), you would qualify for a three bedroom house.
I would advise that you start making some savings now if you can, so that for those three months you can afford to pay the difference in your housing benefit.
Our children have left home, so we know that our housing benefit will be reduced because of under-occupation. Do you have any advice about what we should do?
The Advisor says: You may want to consider moving into a smaller home. You can do this through a mutual exchange by registering at www.exchangelocata.co.uk or registering on a Choice Based Lettings system and bidding for smaller properties.
Alternatively, if you’d like to stay in your home, you could consider taking in a lodger. Get in touch with your Neighbourhood Officer to find out more about these options.
I live on my own for most of the week but my children come to visit at the weekend. I have two bedrooms that they stay in when they visit, will my benefit be reduced?
We understand that this may not be easy at the moment but we are here to help and can offer and suggest a number of training and work experience opportunities. And, make sure that you are claiming all the benefits that you are entitled to. If you don’t already do it, start budgeting carefully, there may be small savings that you can make each week that will help towards the shortfall such as changing your energy provider.
For budgeting and benefits advice, why not make an appointment with your Money and Benefits Advisor?
My wife sleeps in the spare room because she has a respiratory disease. Will our benefits be reduced?
The Advisor says: Your benefits will be reduced because the under occupancy rules say that an adult couple are entitled to one room. The government has put more money into housing payments for situations like yours so make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to.
Your Benefits & Money Advisor can help with this, or visit www.turn2us.org.uk.
I’m worried about the benefit changes. I’m a single mum on housing benefit and have two sons over 18. Will I still be able to afford to live in my house?
The Advisor says: Because your sons are over 18, they may be classed as non-dependants. A non-dependant is someone who lives with you who is over 18. I expect that you already have money deducted from your housing benefit for this, but those deductions will increase in April 2013.
The amount deducted will depend on whether your sons work (and for how long each week) and whether they are eligible for other benefits. If either of your sons is a full time student, has been in hospital for a long period of time, is in prison or you are claiming middle or high rate Disability Living Allowance, no deduction to your housing benefit will be made.
If none of the above apply, then perhaps you could ask your sons to pay half each towards the shortfall?
Your sons can also claim housing benefit in their own right, so make sure that you’re all claiming everything you are entitled to.
I’m on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and have heard that there are going to be changes. Can you tell me what those changes are?
The Advisor says: DLA will have a new name, Personal Independence Payment, or PIP, from April 2013. This is a tax free benefit for children and adults with disabilities to help cope with the extra cost of living for people with a disability.
All working age claimants of DLA will be reassessed for PIP, which does mean that some working age claimants may have their benefits reduced.
If this does happen, contact your Benefits & Money Advisor for advice and support.
From April 2013 benefits for working age claimants will be capped at £26,000 a year, meaning no household will receive over £500 a week or £350 if you are a single household.
Council Tax benefit for working age claimants may be reduced depending on the area you live in, contact your local council for more details.