Welfare reform

The Government is changing the way benefits are paid this is called welfare reform. These changes affect our customers in different ways.

The Government is changing the way benefits are paid this is called welfare reform. These changes affect our customers in different ways. We have a dedicated Welfare Reform contact number if you require any information call 0333 400 8222 (option 2) or email wrinfo@aster.co.uk. The changes include the following listed below.

UNDER OCCUPANCY PENALTY

Also known as the bedroom tax. Housing Benefit may be cut if you are under pension credit age and have spare bedrooms in your home.

BENEFIT CAP

The Government has decided there should be a limit on how much benefit one household can claim. You may be exempt from the benefit cap depending on your circumstances for example if a member of your household is disabled.

UPDATE - MAY 2016: BENEFIT CAP CHANGES COMING INTO EFFECT FROM AUTUMN 2016 

What is the Benefit Cap?

The benefit Cap has been introduced by the Government to limit the maximum amount of benefit a family can receive.

How might this affect me?

If you are a couple or have children your benefit cap is currently £500 per week including Housing Benefit. From Autumn 2016 your Benefit Cap will be £384.62. 

If you are a single person with no children the Benefit Cap is £350 per week for those living outside of London. From Autumn 2016 your Benefit Cap will be £257.69. 

Does this include all of my current benefits?

The following benefits are included when calculating whether your household exceeds the cap: 

  • Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance 
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (except when in the support group)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Job Seekers Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance 
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Universal Credit (unless you have an in-work exemption) 
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Allowance.

What do I need to do?

Local authorities will shortly be writing to anyone who think may be affected with advice on what you should do next.

If you have a query relating to your individual circumstances please call us on 0333 400 8222 and ask to speak to a member of your local Customer Accounts team.

Alternatively, you can call the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) national helpline (open 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday): 

Telephone:        0345 605 7064

Textphone:        0345 608 8551

 

CHANGES TO THE LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE (HOW MUCH HELP YOU MIGHT GET TOWARDS YOUR RENT) 

If you live in general needs accomodation and are in receipt of Universal Credit the Housing element of Universal Credit that you may receive from 1 April 2019 could be restricted.

If you live in general needs accommodation, and you have signed a new or renewed tenancy from 1 April 2016 or later, the amount of Housing Benefit or the Housing element of Universal Credit that you may receive from 1 April 2019 could be restricted.

The amount of help towards the total rent and service charges that you will receive will be limited to the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household size.

This is because the relevant Local Housing Allowance rate for your household size is based on how many bedrooms you need, and not on the size of the property. This may mean that from April 2019 your benefit will not cover all of your rent, and you will have to pay any shortfall on your rent yourself.

You can find out how many bedrooms your household will be paid for by going to this bedroom calculator page.

http://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/bedroomcalculator.aspx

Once you know how many bedrooms you are entitled to be paid for, you can see what the Local Housing Allowance rate for you is.

http://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/Search.aspx

Then check what your weekly full rent and service charge is.  If your rent is higher than the relevant local housing allowance, you will need to pay the difference from the 1st April 2019. 

If you are under 35 years old and do not have any dependent children living with you, your eligible rent will be limited to the shared accommodation rate even if you do not share your home with anyone else. The rate for your area can be found at http://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/Search.aspx

Are You Under 21?

If you are under 21 and claiming universal credit you may not receive any help with housing costs from 1st April 2017.

If you are unsure if this applies to you, please contact us or your local authority.