The government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced major changes to the benefits system, particularly for people of working age.
The main changes so far:
Changes to Local Housing Allowance
If you are renting privately and think you may be entitled to help with the cost of your rent, you can apply for Local Housing Allowance (LHA).
Under 35s who rent privately
Since January 2012, if you are single and aged under 35, living in privately rented accommodation and claim local housing allowance to help pay your rent, you may only be entitled to the shared accommodation rate.
Under-occupation (Bedroom Tax)
From April 2013, if you live in a housing association home and claim Housing Benefit to help pay your rent, your Housing Benefit may be reduced depending on the size of your family and the number of bedrooms you are considered to need.
From October 2013, the overall amount of benefit you can receive was capped. A further reduction to the Benefit Cap has been introduced from November 2016. This is set at £20,000 for households outside of London. Further information on the reduced cap including whether it applies to you can be found here.
This has been rolled out nationally and is now available for Knowsley residents making new benefit claims.
It is a single benefit for working age claimants and will replace a range of means-tested benefits including Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Child Tax Credit.
Benefit will be paid monthly and you will be responsible for paying your rent directly to your landlord. Speak with your Work Coach and ask for budgeting support to help you manage this change. If you are struggling, speak with your landlord and don’t ignore problems.
Find out more or make a claim for Universal Credit
Benefit and Tax Credit rates have been frozen since April 2016. This excludes pensioner benefits which are protected. Residents in receipt of disability benefits (including Personal Independence Payments, Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance - Support Group Only) will have their benefit increased with the Consumer Prices Index. This has fallen therefore these benefits will not increase from April 2016.
New State Pension, affects all women born on or after 6 April 1953 and all men born on or after 6 April 1951. This will give a single amount to those with 35 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions. Those without the full number of years, but with a minimum of 10 will receive a pro rata amount. Those claiming the new state pension will not be able to claim Pension Credit savings credit. Further details can be found in the Age UK ‘what the new pension reforms mean for you’ document here.
From May 2016, changes to Housing Benefit will see the withdrawal of the ‘family premium’, affecting both new claims and new births.
To see if you are affected by the welfare reforms, use the ‘welfare reform calculator’ on the Entitled To website. This will highlight how the benefit cap, bedroom tax (under-occupation), changes to Council Tax support and Universal Credit affect you.
Where can I go for financial advice and support?
Visit the Council’s financial advice pages for details of local and national organisations offering free and confidential advice.
They can help ensure you are receiving your full benefit entitlement, help you claim benefits and appeal benefit decisions. You can also receive free and confidential debt advice.
If you rent from a housing association (for example KHT or ForHousing) you can also get in touch with your landlord.
KHT tenants – call 0151 290 7000 and ask for the welfare reform team
ForHousing tenants – call 0300 123 5522 and speak with the Income Management Team
If you rent from another landlord, contact them directly to see what support they can offer.
In limited circumstances, the Council can make an additional payment to residents in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit who need more help with housing costs. This ‘discretionary housing payment’ is intended as short term help to give you chance to sort out debt, negotiate a lower rent or find cheaper alternative accommodation.