Welfare Reforms and Benefit Advice

Benefit Cap –Worcestershire Residents

Currently there is a cap on the total amount of benefits a household can receive each week if you are working age. Under the new cap, those living in the UK outside Greater London will receive a maximum of:

  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) for a couple.
  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) for single people whose children live with them.
  • £257.69 per week (£13,400 a year) for single people who do not have children or whose children do not live with them.

The Benefit Cap Applies To Those households that includes someone of “working age”

Many benefits are described as being for people of working age (e.g. Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance). This usually means you have to be over 16 but under Pension Credit age to claim them.

The Benefit Cap Does Not Apply To Those households that include someone who is receiving:

If you have been employed continuously for 12 months, and lose your job through no fault of your own, the benefit cap won’t apply to you for the first 39 weeks of your claim.
Benefit Cap Calculator
The government has provided the Benefit Cap Calculator to give you an estimate of how much your benefit might be capped.

  • You can't check if you’re affected by the benefit cap if you're claiming Universal Credit.
  • You'll need to know the amounts of each benefit you get to use the calculator and the number of people in your household.
  • Your household includes you, your partner and any children that you’re responsible for and who live with you.

If you are affected by the Benefit Cap then the reduction in your benefits will be deducted from your housing benefit and you will be responsible for paying the shortfall.

Child Benefit

Child Benefit is paid at a higher rate for your oldest child. This is £20.70 a week. If you have other children, you get £13.70 a week for each of them.

If you get Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, and have been since before 6 April 2004 with a child element included, Child Benefit will affect the amount of Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance you receive.

If you or your partner have an individual income of £50,000 or more and you receive Child Benefit, an income tax charge has been introduced as a way to reduce the value of the Child Benefit you get. See High income Child Benefit tax charge.

The government has provided the Child Benefit tax calculatorto give you an estimate of how much your benefit might be capped.

Child Tax Credits – Changes April 2017

You do not have to be working to claim Child Tax Credit and you could get could get a basic amount of up to £545 a year. This is know as the “Family Element
Currently under child tax regulations, you could get Child Tax Credits for each child you are responsible for if they are:

  • Under 21
  • Under 20 and in eligible training

FROM 6TH APRIL 2017, YOU WILL ONLY RECEIVE THE FAMILY ELEMENT OF CHILD TAX CREDIT IF YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR A CHILD OR CHILDREN BORN BEFORE THAT DATE

You may be entitled to money for each child that qualifies as Child Tax Credit does not affect your Child Benefit.

How much you get depends on your circumstances. You can use the Tax Credit Calculator  to find out how much you may be entitled to

FROM 6TH APRIL 2017, MOST PEOPLE ONLY GET THE CHILD ELEMENT OF CHILD TAX CEDIT FOR UP TO 2 CHILDREN.  YOU WILL STILL BE ABLE TO CLAIM IT FOR MORE THAN 2 CHILDREN IF THEY WERE BORN BEOFRE 6TH APRIL 2017.

Council Tax Support  - Worcester City

Council Tax Support is the system under which councils give discounts on Council Tax bills to help people who have a low income.  Before April 2013 it was called Council Tax Benefit

From 1 April 2014 changes were made to Council Tax Support in Worcester for some working age people. Pensioners will not be affected.

Employment and Support Allowance – ESA (work related activity group) – changes April 2017

From April 2017, disabled adults (including young disabled people) who claim Employment and Support Allowance – ESA and who are placed in the work -related activity group (WRAG), will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming jobseekers allowance.

This amounts to a cut of £29.05 per week.

This cut will only apply to new claims made after that date and not existing claimants. It will also not affect the most severely disabled ESA claimants. It will also not affect the most severely disabled ESA claimants who fall in the group.

Housing Benefit Replaced for 18-21 year olds- Changes April 2017

From April 2017, 18 to 21 year olds will no longer get an automatic entitlement to the housing element of Universal Credit.
Instead there will be a new Youth Obligation Scheme that says they must either “earn or learn”.
This means that anyone aged between 18 and 21 must either be in education or employment, and will not be automatically eligible for welfare support. There will be exceptions for vulnerable young people and those that cannot return to the family home.

THIS WILL BE ROLLED OUT IN LINE WITH THE UNIVERSAL CREDIT FULL SERVICE SO RESIDENTS IN WORCESTER CITY WILL BE AFFECTED FROM JULY 2018.

What you need to do?

If you are aged 18-21 and leaving home after April 2017, you should look for help with getting ready for employment if you are not in education. This can be done through apprenticeship schemes, traineeships and work experience.
You can contact Worcester Job Centre at:

  • Worcester Job Centre, Vine House, Farrier Street, Worcester, WR1 3EL.
  • To change or make an appointment call: 0845 604 3719
  • To speak to someone about your benefit call: Worcester Benefit Centre on 0845 608 8665

Local Housing Allowance –Worcestershire

The level of Housing Benefit for Social Housing tenants will be limited to the Local Housing Allowance rate from April 2019 for new or renewed tenancies taken out from April 2016.
This means that the change will apply to all tenancies signed after 1st April 2016, but the 'cap' in Housing Benefit entitlement only applies from 1st April 2019.
If you have a tenancy that started after 1st April 2016 and your rent, including services charges, is higher than the Local Housing Allowance, your Housing Benefit will be capped at the lower amount.
The  Government have frozen the Local Housing Allowance  from 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2020, this means that the maximum housing benefit you receive if you are affected by the Local Housing Allowance will not change, even if your gross rent increases as a result of any increases over this period.

Worcester City LHA Rates from April 2016

Bedrooms

Room Rate *

1 Bed

2 Bed

3 Bed

4 Bed

Worcester  City 

£70.32

£99.06

£128.19

£153.02

£188.33

*The room rate is the “shared accommodation rate” .This applies to single people under 35 and do not have dependent children.

This table shows the maximum amount of Housing Benefit that will be paid for any tenant living with general needs accommodation in Worcester City

Under the new rules the maximum amount of Housing Benefit you can receive will be decided by the number of bedrooms you require – not the number of bedrooms you have. The amount of benefit you receive may reduce depending upon your income, savings and circumstances and the Benefit Cap.

One room is allowed as a bedroom for each of the following occupiers, each person only counting in the first category which applies to them:

  1. A couple
  2. A single person aged 16 or more
  3. Two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  4. Two children (of the same or opposite sexes) under the age of 10
  5. A child under the age of 16

If you are of working age and have none or more extra bedroom, your rent and any service charges used to assess your Housing Benefit (or housing element of Universal Credit) is already capped. This is called a spare room subsidy or ‘bedroom tax’.

This rule will still apply , unless the Local Housing Allowance results in a lower amount of Housing Benefit being paid to you, (when it starts on April 1st 2018) ,in which case your Housing Benefit will be limited to the Local Housing Allowance.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability if you’re aged 16 to 64.

The rate depends on how your condition affects you, not the condition itself.

You’ll need an assessment to work out the level of help you get. Your rate will be regularly reassessed to make sure you’re getting the right support.

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is ending for people who were born after 8 April 1948 and are 16 or over.
  • You can keep getting DLA if you’re under 16 or you were born on or before 8 April 1948 and have an existing claim.
  • Your carer could get Carer’s Allowance if you have substantial caring needs.
  • You’ll continue to get DLA until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) writes to you to:
  • tell you when it will end
  • invite you to apply for PIP

Help with PIP

You can contact a local support organisation to get help understanding PIP.

Under Occupation in Social Housing

Government rules introduced in 2013 reduced the amount of Housing Benefit that council and housing association tenants can claim if their home is considered too large for their needs. The rules only affect people of working age - pensioners are not affected. It is commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for working age people in or out of work, which merges together some benefits and tax credits that you may be getting to know.

Universal credit will replace:

Universal Credit will be paid to a single claimant in each household, in arrears, once per calendar month. The date that the Universal Credit will be paid is determined by when you make your claim and when it is approved.

ALL NEW CLAIMS WILL HAVE A 7 DAY WAITING PERIOD WHERE NO MONEY WILL BE RECEIVED FOR THEAT PERIOD.

There are some exemptions for the 7 day waiting period which you can find on the Department of Works and Pensions website www.gov.uk/universalcredit .

  • All claims for Universal Credit have to be made on-line at www.gov.uk/universalcredit.
  • Alternatively you can visit the local Job Centre, Library or Hive Hub.

Below is a list of information required to complete the form:

  • Your postcode
  • Your National Insurance number
  • Details of the bank, building society or credit union account you want your Universal Credit paid into
  • Your rent agreement (if you have one)
  • Details of your savings or other capita
  • Details of any other income that’s not from work e.g. from an insurance plan
  • Details of any other benefits you are getting
  • Details of any children, including their child benefit numbers if you have them
  • You might also need these details for people who live in your home e.g. your partner

Should you require assistance from the Department of Works and Pensions to make a claim for Universal Credit you can phone them on 0345 600 0723. BUT PLEASE BE AWARE this phone number is between 3 - 45p per minute from a mobile and up to 12p per minute from a landline.

However, if your telephone package (landline or mobile) provides inclusive minutes and you have enough of those left to make the call then the 03 call would come from those in the first instance before becoming a charge on top.

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages throughout the country for new claims only. If you are already in receipt of one of the 6 Benefits that will be included then you will be contacted by the DWP as and when you will change over to Universal Credit.

Welfare Assistance Scheme -Worcester City – Changes 1 May 2017

The South Worcestershire Discretionary Welfare Assistance Scheme replaced national crisis loans and community care grants. The scheme provides assistance in the form of goods or vouchers to help individuals or families facing exceptionally difficult circumstances or an emergency across South Worcestershire -  this scheme as it stands will come to and end on 30 April 2017.

From 1 May 2017 Worcester City Council will operate its own Welfare Assistance Scheme – this means only people who pay their council tax to Worcester City Council will be able to make an application – more information on this will follow soon!

If you live in any of the other Worcestershire Districts you will need to contact your council  direct to find out what type of scheme if any they provide for their residents :

Support and information

Appeal a Benefit Decision

How you appeal a benefit decision depends on: the type of benefit you applied for and the date the decision was made

The Money Advice Service

Has a lot of help and information to help you with budgeting and planning for Universal Credit.

Turn2US

Is a free service that helps people in financial need to access welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help – online, by phone and face to face through our partner organisations? Their website can help you find financial support, quickly and easily, based on your circumstances. It features a free and easy to use Benefits Calculator, Grants Search and other information and resources

Worcester Citizens Advice Bureau & WHABAC provide

A free, independent, confidential and impartial service. They offer a range of services, supporting people, providing information / advice and directing people to the best source of help for their issue.

Worcestershire Advice Network website

Deliver advice and information services across the county. Their services are free, independent, impartial and confidential. Worcestershire Advice Network is a partnership between; Five Worcestershire Citizen Advice bureaux as well as South Worcestershire DIAL and North Worcestershire DIAL who provide information and advice to disabled people and others on all aspects of living with a disability.

  • To access the advice or information you need: Click on the subject area you need help with and follow the link to Adviceguide for self help advice and information
  • If you cannot find what you are looking for: Complete the online form. They will get back to you within three working days.
  • You may like to discuss your problem. The let's talk connects you to one of their trained volunteers. They will offer information and options to help you resolve your issues.

Shelter

The housing and homelessness charity, give free independent advice and information on housing to help you understand your rights and options.

The Housing Advice Team

If you would like to speak to somebody for housing advice or homelessness enquiries, you can contact the team as follows:
Tel:  01905 722589
Email:  housing@worcester.gov.uk
If you are concerned that you are at risk of becoming homeless, it is really important that you seek advice at the earliest opportunity. In the first instance, you should speak to a customer services advisor at the Worcestershire Hub - this is located in the Hive.

 If you are a tenant of a housing association in Worcester and are having problems with your rent you should contact them in the first instance as they have a lot of help and support to offer such as Welfare Reform Advisors and Debt Advisors