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Welfare reform

The Government has changed the benefits system. 

In April 2013 the following changes were introduced:

  • Universal Credit
  • Abolition of Council Tax Benefit and introduction of Council Tax Reduction Scheme
  • Social Sector Size Criteria
  • Benefit Cap
  • Personal Independence Payments

In April 2018, the government introduced Social Sector Rent Changes.

Where to go for information

  • The Citizens Advice service provides a wide range of advice. To find your local Citizens Advice look in the phone book or Yellow Pages, or visit their website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk
  • Shelter offers confidential housing, welfare benefits and debt advice through a network of advice services; freephone Housing Advice Helpline on 0808 800 4444 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 8am-5pm Saturday-Sunday and online at www.shelter.org.uk
  • Information about Housing Benefit can be found a www.direct.gov.uk

A limit will be put on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get.  This is called a "benefit cap".

If you're affected, your Housing Benefit will go down to make sure that the total amount of benefit you get isn't more than the cap level.  The cap will be set at £384.62 per week for couples and lone parents, and £257.69 per week for single adults.

If you’re already getting benefits and could be affected by the cap you’ll be contacted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). They’ll let you know what will happen to your benefits.

Households that aren't affected by the cap    

The cap won’t apply to households where a partner or any dependant child qualify for Working Tax Credit or receive any of the following:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits
  • Employment Support Allowance, if paid with the support component
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments
  • War Pension Scheme payments (including War Widow’s/Widower’s Pension and War disablement Pension).

From 8th April 2013, Personal Independence Payments replaced Disability Living Allowance.  This benefit is for working age people aged between 16 and 64 who are receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Between 2013 and 2016, everyone receiving DLA will be reassessed to see whether they are entitled to the new Personal Independence Payment.  People who are entitled will be transferred over to the new benefit and their DLA will stop.  Those who are found not to be entitled will be informed and their DLA will stop.  They may be entitled to claim other benefits.

There are no plans to replace DLA with Personal Independence Payments for children aged under 16, or those aged over 65 who are already receiving DLA.

You can find more information about Personal Independence Payments.

Changes affecting Housing Benefit for those who rent from a Registered Provider

In 2013 new rules were introduced to restrict the size of accommodation you can receive Housing Benefit for based on the number of people in your household.

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • 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, (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • a carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care

How will you be affected?

If you are assessed under these rules as having more bedrooms than are 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. the amount allowed for rent and any service charges will be reduced by:

  • 14% for under-occupancy by 1 bedroom
  • 25% for under-occupancy by 2 bedrooms or more

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

Housing Benefit in the Social Rent Sector

From 1 April 2018, the amount of Housing Benefit that will be paid to those who rent their homes from a Registered Social Landlord is changing.

The Government intend to apply a cap to the amount of rent that Housing Benefit (or the Housing element of Universal Credit) will cover to the relevant Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates for any new and renewed tenancies entered into from 1 April 2016 (1 April 2017 if you are living in supported housing).

What does this mean? 

If you sign for or renew your tenancy on or after 1 April 2016 (1 April 2017 if you are living in supported housing) from 1 April 2018, the amount of housing benefit you can get, will be capped to the relevant LHA based on the number of bedrooms, you and your family (if you have one) need.

If you are under 35 years of age and do not have any dependent children living with you, you will only be entitled to the shared accommodation rate even if you do not share your accommodation with anyone else.

Will I also have to pay for any spare rooms?

If you are of State Pension Credit age and are under occupying your home by one of more bedrooms, your rent and any service charges used will not be subject to the under occupation rules, however, your rent will be capped to the relevant LHA rate for your household.

If you are of working age and are under occupying your home by one or more bedrooms, your rent and any service charges used in the assessment of your Housing Benefit entitlement (or the housing element of Universal Credit) is already being capped. Only one reduction will apply, you will receive either the relevant LHA rate, or the capped bedroom allowance rate, whichever is the lower.


John and Carla are a couple aged 34 and 32 and live together in a 2 bedroom house. No one else lives with them. John and Carla signed for their tenancy after 1 April 2016, and so will be affected by the changes from 1 April 2018.

Their rent is £100.00 per week.

They are under occupying their home by 1 bedroom and subject to a 14% spare bedroom cap. The maximum housing Benefit they could receive is £75.00 per week, calculated as follows:

Rent                                                                 £100.00

Less 14% cap                                                   £14.00 –

Maximum eligible rent for Housing Benefit          £86.00           

However, from 1 April 2018, they will also be subject to the Local Housing Allowance rate. The current one bedroom rate of LHA in St Helens is £80.55 per week.

As the LHA rate is lower than the capped bedroom rate, John and Carla can only receive a maximum of £80.55 by way of Housing Benefit (or the housing element in Universal Credit) from 1 April 2018.

What do I need to do?

If you sign a new tenancy agreement or renew your tenancy on or after 1 April 2016, you will need to think about how these changes may affect you from 1 April 2018, and consider how you will afford any shortfall in your rent.

Below is a link to the current Local Housing Allowance rates, which are currently frozen. You should note that although these rates will not increase, they may go down.

If you sign for or renew a tenancy on or after 1 April 2016, your Registered Social Landlord has a duty to make you aware of the above mentioned changes. Whilst tenants may not be receiving housing benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit) at this time, they need to be aware that any future entitlement to these may be capped from 1 April 2018. If you are unsure if these changes will apply to you, you should speak to your landlord.