The Government is introducing a range of reforms to Welfare Benefits, some of which have been introduced already and some have yet to be implemented. These changes do not affect people over the age of 61.
"Bedroom Tax" - underoccupation rules from 1 April 2013
- From 1 April 2013, tenants in council or HA properties who are of working age (under the age of 61) and who have a spare bedroom according to DWP rules will have their housing benefit cut by 14% if they have one spare bedroom and by 25% if they have two or more spare bedrooms.
- There are no exceptions to this unless you need an overnight carer or are over the age of 61.
- Children of the opposite sex up to the age of 10 are expected to share a room and children of the same sex up to the age of 16 are expected to share a room.
- There is no bedroom allowance for children of separated parents staying overnight.
- There is no bedroom allowance for people who have to sleep in separate rooms for medical reasons.
We are offering management transfers to those who wish to move to a smaller property, subject to certain conditions around arrears and the condition of their property and can offer some help with removal costs, again subject to certain conditions.
If you are affected, you will have to put arrangements in place to pay the balance of your rent arising from the shortfall in Housing Benefit.
If you are affected by this and are concerned, please contact your housing officer to discuss your options.
It may be possible to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (in effect a top up of Housing Benefit) in certain circumstances, for example if you have a carer; live in an adapted property or are 12 months away from a change in circumstances that mean you are no longer affected by the underoccupancy rules. You should note that this is only a temporary award, usually for up to six months. Please contact your housing officer to find out more.
Universal Credit – introduction anticipated in 2015
Almost all benefits will be grouped together into Universal Credit and will be paid into applicants’ bank accounts monthly in arrears, including the housing element that is currently paid direct to landlords as "housing benefit".
- This is not planned to be introduced in the Edinburgh area until 2015. From that point, it will be introduced gradually for new tenants and any existing tenants with a change in circumstances will move on to Universal Credit and the housing element of this will no longer be paid directly to the Association.
- At some point between then and October 2017, any other remaining cases will migrate over to Universal Credit.
- This means that tenants will, in time, need to have a bank account and have arrangements in place to pay rent direct to the Association, as your housing payment will no longer come direct to the Association.
There are also changes to other benefits such as Disability Living Allowance (replaced by Personal Independence Payment in June 2013), Council Tax Benefit, and a cap on the total benefits that a household can receive. For more information about help with this, see our section on Advice and Support, or visit the DWP website at www.dwp.gov.uk/universal-credit .