Benefits are changing significantly by April 2013. The main changes that will affect social housing tenants are:
- the introduction of universal credit
- underoccupation or 'bedroom tax'
- incapacity benefit
- non dependant deductions.
Universal Credit -
This is a new benefit introduced by Goverment and will replace benefits such as Income Support, Job Seekers allowance, Working Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Child Tax Credit. This will be paid direct to working age claimants, and will include an amount for housing costs.
From April 2013 households with working age claimants will have their Housing Benefit cut if they underoccupy their homes. If there is one bedroom or 2 or more bedrooms too many the cuts will be 14% and 25% respectively.
A child aged 15 or under would be expected to share with one other child of the same gender.
A child of 9 or under is expected to share with one other child of the same age regardless of gender.
A bedroom for a non resident carer may be allowed.
No extra bedroom is allowed for tenants who have access to children on weekends or have foster children. Foster carers will be able to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments to cover any shortfalls.
Decisions for these payments will be made on a case by case basis.
The Government is introducing a benefits cap for both new and existing working age claimants. It works by reducing the Housing Benefit for households whose benefit income is more than the cap. This restricts the amount households can receive. It will affect larger households (4 or more children) and those living in more expensive areas.
The cap is up to £500 pw (£2166 pm) for couples or single parent households, up to £350 pw (£1516 pm) for single adults.
Capping may not apply to households which include those receiving Disability Living Allowance or Working Tax Credit, or those who have reached pensioable age.
Since April 2011 there has been a national exercise to reassess everyone under this benefit and move them to Employment and Support Allowance or Job Seekers Allowance. Those found fit to work will be moved to JSA. Those moved to ESA and considered seriously ill or disabled will not have to take part in work focused activity. They will be placed in a support group and will receive a higher level of benefit. All others on ESA will be placed ina work focused activity and will have to take part in work to receive their benefits.
Non Dependant Deductions
People who have adult children, relatives, or friends living with them may have a deduction made from their housing benefit based on the circumstances. NDD will increase up to April 2013. Residents living with a working non dependant who is earning £400 pw will have a £60.60 deduction from their benefits. They will be expected to get the shortfall from the person staying with them or meet it themselves. The minimum deduction for non dependants has increased to £11.45 pw from April 2012.