Changes to Benefits

Over the last few years, our tenants have been affected by many changes to benefits. These include brand new benefits such as Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment.

We have also seen changes to existing benefits such as Housing Benefit that may mean you no longer qualify or get less benefit. . More changes will continue to be introduced in the future.

It is very important that you make sure you are equipped to deal with these changes. Our Rent and Payment Team are here to help you - please get in touch with our team on 0800 027 7769.

These changes do not affect single tenants who are beyond working age, that is, those people who are eligible for pension credit or state retirement pension .  If you are part of a couple where one is pension age and one is working age, you may be asked to claim universal credit as a couple which could make you worse off.

There is a limited time you can still make a joint claim for pension credit. We will update this information when we know more.

Important changes you need to be aware of:

Universal Credit from 16th May 2018

Universal Credit is a single benefit payment which will replace a number of existing benefits

From 16th May 2018 anybody claiming benefits in Rochdale, Middleton and Heywood aged between 18 and 60 will only be able to claim Universal Credit. You won’t be able to claim benefits like:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child and Working Tax Credit.

The only exception will be if you have more than three children. In this case you can’t claim Universal Credit until 2019 and should claim the benefits above if you need to.

Instead of Housing Benefit, an amount for your rent will be paid directly to you through Universal Credit if you are entitled This will be shown on your Universal Credit letter as a Housing Element.

This means you will have to make arrangements to pay your rent to RBH. Like Housing Benefit, certain charges in your rent such as water are not covered by Universal Credit. You will need to pay this yourself from your personal money.

You will receive Universal Credit monthly in arrears.

Some of our tenants are already claiming Universal Credit after a trial was introduced in Rochdale Borough.  If this applies to you, you will simply remain on Universal Credit if you are still entitled.

If you are claiming older benefits, you will remain on these until 2019. After this, the government plans to gradually move everybody eligible onto Universal Credit. This could take a few years and we do not yet have a clear timetable.

You will have to claim Universal Credit if you are claiming an older benefit which stops after May 2018. This could affect you, for example. If you have found work as a Jobseeker but lose your job after May.

For more information on Universal Credit including how to claim please click here.

What if I need to claim now?

If you are making a claim before May 2018, you will need to claim the older type of benefits. Click here for more information.

Universal Credit and help with rent for 18-21 olds

From 1st April 2017, people aged between 18-21 years old will generally not be eligible for help with their rent when making a new claim Universal Credit. If you are affected, you will also usually not be able to claim Housing Benefit...  (Recent amendments to regulation will mean that 18-21 will qualify for help with their  rent but we do not have a date yet)

Some people may be exempt from this such as:

  • If you are fleeing domestic abuse
  • If you are cannot live with your parents
  • If you are vulnerable
  • If the DWP decides you do not have to look for any work because you are severely ill or disabled

You can also be exempt if you are working or an apprentice, although this is dependent on you earning a minimum amount. Usually this is 16 hours work per week at the minimum wage.

Existing claims for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit

If you are aged 18-21 and already claiming Universal Credit or Housing Benefit before 1st April, you will continue to be able to get help with your rent. If your claim ends and you have to make a new claim, you will not get help with rent with your new claim.

Under Occupancy Reduction (‘Bedroom Tax’)

Whether you claim Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, since April 2013, all social housing tenants can only receive benefit for the size of home the government thinks they need.

Whilst this has been in place for some years now, our tenants may still find themselves surprised if somebody moves out of their home and they are suddenly affected...

Whilst your rent does not change if this happens, you will get less Housing Benefit or Universal Credit to help pay the rent. This means you will need to pay the difference yourself.

Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is reduced by 14% of eligible rent for households who under occupy by one bedroom and by 25% for those who under occupy by two or more bedrooms

How many bedrooms am I allowed?

You are allowed one bedroom for each of the following:

  • An adult (somebody aged over 18)
  • A couple (for example, if you have a partner, you and your partner would be allowed one room)
  • Any two children of different genders under 10 – for example a brother and sister would be expected to share until one of them reaches 10 years old
  • Any two children aged under 16 of the same gender – for example two sisters would be expected to share until one of them turned 16
  • Any children aged between 16-18 years old.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. You can ask the Council to allow you an extra bedroom if either of the following applies:

  • If two children cannot share a room due to disability (this can apply if the disability of one child would stop the other getting a proper night’s sleep)
  • If you are disabled and a carer has to stay over to provide care for you during the night.

The rules for this can be a little complicated. Our Money Advisors can help – please contact our Rents and Payments team to ask about this if you think this applies

What this means

You will get less Housing Benefit or Universal Credit towards your rent. Therefore you will have to pay more and this means you might struggle to pay your bills. .

What this doesn’t mean

You won’t be expected to move just because of the Bedroom Tax, but if you can’t pay your rent because of it, your home will be at risk. You may wish to consider moving somewhere smaller .

RBH will help people to move to a smaller home where they are no longer affected. You will get extra priority to move if you are under occupying.

What can I do?

In the short term, you may get help with a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). This is a payment made by the Council to top up your payments if you have a shortfall in your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

A DHP is not a guaranteed payment and is not a permanent solution. If the Council decides to pay a Discretionary Housing Payment, you will usually only get one for a short time.

As such, you will need to think about how you can afford the rent in the long term or whether you might prefer to think about downsizing.

For more information on Discretionary Housing Payments, go to the Council’s page by clicking here, or contact our Rents and Payments team on  0800 027 7769

Benefit Cap

The Benefit cap means you and your family can only usually receive £20,000 per year in total benefits, which is £384.62 per week. This limit usually affects larger families.

This includes the following Benefits:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (except when in the Support Group)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Reduced Earnings Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Universal Credit (except the Childcare Costs element)
  • Widowed Parent's Allowance, Widowed Mother's Allowance, Widow's Pension

How does it work and what does it mean for me?

Your total benefits from the list above will be added together and if they are higher than the weekly amount of £384.62 per week, either:

  • Your Housing Benefit will be cut until you are within the limit or
  • Your Universal Credit will be cut until you are within the limit.

Any element of Universal Credit for looking after children is not affected.

Are there any exceptions?

You will not be affected by the benefit cap if:

  • You, your partner or any of your children are disabled, and get a disability benefit like Personal Independence Payment or Disability Living Allowance.
  • You or your partner has the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity component for Employment Support Allowance or the same element of Universal Credit.
  • You or your partner is a carer in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.
  • There are other exemptions if you get less common benefits like Guardian’s Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefit, certain armed forces or widow’s benefits.

What can I do?

If you can find work for more than sixteen hours per week if you are single, or 24 hours if you are in a couple, you will no longer be affected by the benefit cap. You may still get less Universal Credit or Housing Benefit because of your wages, but will usually be much better off than by staying on benefits with the cap applied.

For couples, the 24 hours can be split between partners. For example, one could work 16 hours and one could work 8 hours per week.

You could also apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment, although these are not guaranteed and if you get one it will only be for a limited time.

You will also likely need to think about cutting your costs. See our budgeting advice page here for more advice.

Other Benefits

The Discretionary Crisis Fund

Rochdale Discretionary Crisis Fund (DCF) may be available to help people purchase essential household items when they are settling into the borough after leaving care or prison, or if they have had to leave their own home due to domestic violence.

The fund may be able to help people who are in a crisis and need emergency fuel or travel. There is limited funding and it is therefore to be used as the scheme of last resort for people suffering hardship.

Click here to apply for the discretionary housing fund.

Council Tax Support

Council Tax Support replaced the old Council Tax Benefit scheme in 2013. You can now only get help with a maximum of 80 per cent of your Council Tax bill, so everybody will have something to pay. This is important to understand as Council Tax is a priority bill and you can get into legal trouble or risk bailiff action if you do not pay.

Claiming Council Tax Support

Help with Council Tax is not included in Universal Credit or other benefits. It is a separate benefit you must claim directly through Rochdale Council.

Sometimes people believe that the Jobcentre has claimed for them when they claim Universal Credit or other benefits. This is not the case. Even if the Jobcentre tells the Council you are on benefits, you still have to claim through the Council.

Your claim cannot be backdated so do not delay this. You can claim Council Tax Support through the Council’s website by clicking here.

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for disabled people aged 16 to 64. However, Disability Living Allowance will continue for children up to the age of 16.

Entitlement is not based on your disability or illness.  It is based on your personal circumstances and what help you need to be able to live independently.  The only exception is for people who are terminally ill and who are not expected to live for more than six months. PIP is not means tested and you can still claim even if you are working.

If you are still getting Disability Living Allowance

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will write to you to ask you to make a claim for Personal Independence Payment. You will need to ring them to order a claim form and if the form is not returned within four weeks your claim for DLA will stop and you will not be allowed PIP.

Therefore it is important to move quickly. Even if your DLA award did not have an end date, this will still happen.

If you need extra time to fill in the forms, you can call the DWP who may allow a short extension.

More information about Personal Independence Payment, including how to claim, can be found by clicking here.

Benefits Calculator

Making sure that you are receiving all of the benefits you are able to claim can help you to manage your budget.

If you are a RBH tenant, private tenant or home owner you can use Rochdale Borough Council’s benefit calculator to find out how much rent you should pay and if you can claim housing benefit and council tax benefit.