Help With Benefits 2017-04-05T10:57:46+00:00

Help With Benefits

welfare reform

Welfare Reform

The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill was passed through Parliament in March 2012 bringing with it a raft of changes to the whole structure of the benefits systems and the way payments are made.  We know that many of you will be worried about what this could mean for you and your family.  The Financial Inclusion Team will find ways to increase your income through benefit checks and help you to make claims.  We can also help you to challenge and appeal disputed benefits. You can speak to Marion on 01361 885965 ( or Sue on 01361 885968 (

For more information on Housing Benefit click this link

Scottish Welfare Fund

Community care grants and crisis loans from the social fund are no longer available from the end of March 2013, and are replaced from 1 April 2013 by the Scottish Welfare Fund, which consists of community care grants and crisis grants. Local authorities will administer these grants, which help to provide a safety net in an emergency, or to support independent living.

More information on applying to the Scottish welfare Fund can be found on the Scottish Borders Council website or by contacting Marion or Sue.

Welfare reform consists of many different elements and you can get advice on each element by clicking the links below:

From April 2013 if you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms in your property the maximum rent on which you can claim Housing Benefit may be reduced by:

14% if you have one spare bedroom or

25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms.

The rules allow for one bedroom for:

  • Each adult or couple Two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • Two children under the age of 10 regardless of sex
  • Any other child
  • A carer, who does not normally live with you, if someone in the household needs overnight care
  • Approved foster carers – a reduction for under-occupation will not be made in respect of one additional bedroom for the foster child or children
  • Parents of armed forces personnel – adult children who are in the armed forces but who continue to live with parents, will be treated as continuing to live at home when deployed on operations.

The rules will not apply to households in the following situations:

  • Shared ownership – the size criteria rules will not apply where the claimant part owns their property
  • Pension age – any claimant over qualifying age for state pension credit or with a partner over that age will be exempt from the size criteria rules
  • Temporary accommodation – any claimant accepted as homeless under Homelessness legislation and placed in temporary accommodation by the Local Authority will be exempt from the size criteria rules
  • Supported ‘exempt’ accommodation – claimants in certain types of supported accommodation will be exempt from the size criteria rules

Following a recent Court of Appeal judgment those whose children are said to be unable to share a bedroom because of severe disabilities will be able to claim Housing Benefit for an extra room.

The Local Authority will assess the individual circumstances of the claimant and their family and decide whether it is inappropriate for the children to share a room. This will include considering the amount of care needed during the night, and the extent and regularity of disturbance to the sleep of the child who would share the bedroom.

If you have a child who cannot share a bedroom with a brother or sister you should contact your GP, Social Work or support worker and ask for evidence to support your claim. This could be a letter stating the nature of the child’s disability including the amount of care the child needs during the night and also the impact on another child who would be expected to share a bedroom.

There will be some protection from these rules in the following cases:

13 week protection where the tenant could previously afford the rent and Housing Benefit has not been claimed in the last 52 weeks

For up to 12 months where certain members of the household have died

What next?
The Local Authority will write out to all our tenants who are under-occupying their home and in receipt of Housing Benefit. If you do not agree with their assessment, you should contact them immediately. Once you have received a letter from the council, you will be visited by a member of staff from BHA who will discuss your options and how we can help. If you did not get a letter and you think the under-occupation rules apply to you please contact either the council or your Financial Inclusion Officer immediately.

From late summer 2013, there will be a cap on the amount of benefits you can receive. The Government will add up the amount of money you get from Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credits, Child Benefit, and Carer’s Allowance. If the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed, your Housing Benefit payments will be reduced.

The maximum amount of benefit you will be able to receive from the date that this is implemented will be:

  • £500 per week for single parents
  • £500 per week for couples with or without children
  • £350 per week for single people without children

The benefit cap will not apply if you get Pension Credit or Working Tax Credit or if a member of your household claims Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance, the support element of Employment and Support Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefit or is a war widow.

Claimants who have been in employment for 52 weeks or more when they claim benefit will be exempt from the cap for a grace period of up to 39 weeks.

Personal independence payment (PIP) is a new benefit that will be introduced from April 2013, replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working-age people (aged 16-64).

When will it be introduced?
From 8 April new claims for PIP are to be introduced in most of Northern England (this excludes Berwick Upon Tweed for now) so there will be no new working age claims for DLA in this area. It is intended that PIP will be introduced for new claims throughout the rest of the UK from June 2013. Existing working age DLA claimants will be gradually transferred onto PIP between October 2013 and December 2016.

What are the disability conditions for personal independence payment?
Personal independence payment is divided into two components – the daily living component and the mobility component. It is possible for a person to qualify for both if they meet the entitlement conditions for both. Each component will have two rates, a standard rate and an enhanced rate. For both components, a ‘required period’ condition must also be satisfied, which means that claimants must have had the appropriate level of need for three months to qualify, and be expected to have those needs for a further nine months.

The only exception is if the claimant makes a claim because s/he has a terminal illness (which means that the claimant has a progressive disease and death from that disease can reasonably be expected within six months). Terminally ill claimants will not have to satisfy a required period condition; and will automatically receive the enhanced rate of the daily living component.

Universal Credit will be a single payment for working age people and will replace Income Support, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and Budgeting Loans.

Who is eligible to claim Universal Credit?
To claim Universal Credit you will need to:

  • be 18 or over
  • be under state pension credit age
  • not be in education
  • be in Great Britain
  • have accepted a claimant commitment

If you have a partner you will make a joint claim for universal credit. If one of you is over state pension credit age or in full-time education both of you will still have to claim universal credit unless either of you was already receiving state pension credit when Universal Credit is introduced.

The intention is that most claims will be made either online or by telephone (there may be alternative ways of claiming in exceptional circumstances).

How much is Universal Credit?
The rates that are to apply when universal credit is introduced in 2013 will be decided later this year. You will be awarded a universal credit maximum amount based on your level of income and other family circumstances.

Normally your Universal Credit will be paid in arrears, as a lump sum each month, to cover both daily and housing costs. You can choose who receives the benefit if you have a partner.

In exceptional circumstances you may be paid more frequently than monthly or else alternative payment methods may be arranged (such as if you cannot manage your affairs or if alternative payments are needed to safeguard the rest of your family). If your circumstances change in the middle of your pay month, for example if your earnings go up or down, this change will apply to the whole month.