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Changes to benefits - do you know how you will be affected?

last modified  11/05/2012 13:00 PM

At EastendHomes we aim to keep our residents informed about how changes which the government makes can affect the benefits and assistance given to our residents. We wrote in our Spring newsletter about the changes being made to Housing Benefit and how this may have affected the amount of Housing Benefit some residents receive, and therefore how much of their rent they will be required to pay.

As you may have seen in the news, the changes being made to the way that benefits are paid are wide-ranging and go beyond the increased deductions for adults living in the household which we talked about in our Spring newsletter. From April 2013, further increases in deductions for these residents will be applied and we will also see the beginning of the shift towards Universal Credit, a new way for benefits and tax credits to be paid. Under the Universal Credit system, all payments such as Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Income Support will be grouped together and paid as one monthly payment. As well as the move of some benefits from weekly to monthly payments, in most cases Universal Credit will be paid directly to the invidivual, which will mean it will be their responsibility to pay their rent and ensure that they do not fall into arrears. EastendHomes will support tenants in making this transition but will also need to take action where necessary to ensure that rent is collected.

April 2013 will also see the introduction of the much-publicised 'benefits cap'. As benefit payments are grouped together under the banner of Universal Credit, there will be a limit, currently planned at £500 per week, over which payments will not be made. This change will particularly impact upon large families, who are likely to be living in large properties and therefore to be paying a higher rent, and may also be in receipt of child benefit and other payments. The weekly benefits cap will not apply to households with someone who is in work.

A further change to come into effect in April 2013 is known as the 'bedroom tax'. This is a change to the way in which Housing Benefit (or the housing element of the Universal Credit) is calculated, with a deduction being made spare bedrooms within the home. Spare rooms are defined by what is considered necessary as a 'housing need', for example children of the same gender under the age of 16 are expected to share a room, and children under 10 are expected to share regardless of gender. Tenants who are under-occupying will see their Housing Benefit cut by 14% for one extra bedroom, and 25% for two or more spare rooms.

EastendHomes will continue to try to keep our residents informed of these changes, mainly through our newsletters but also through other avenues. If you are concerned about how these changes may affect your household, why not make an appointment to speak to a specialist financial welfare advisor from our partners at the Bromley by Bow Centre? This free service can help you to plan for how these changes may impact on you.