The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu reputedly said that ‘life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow’.
That’s easy for you to say, Lao – you don’t have to worry about the sweeping changes to the benefit system that will come into force in just a couple of months.
It seems that the upcoming changes are causing little else but sorrow, frustration and worry – but is this justified?
We asked our loyal Facebook fans what was on their mind the most when it came to Universal Credit, hoping to set the record straight as much as possible. Here’s what they had to say…
“Who will the ‘bedroom tax actually effect? Is it just for people in council or housing association properties, or will it apply to those who privately rent too?” – Shona M
The bedroom tax isn’t so much of a ‘tax’ as a reduction in the housing benefit you may be getting to cover your rent. This change to housing benefit will affect people of working age who live in council or housing association properties.
Housing Benefit claimants who live in private rented property have a Local Housing Allowance limit which already takes into account the amount of rooms they are entitled to claim for.
“I’m worried that the changes will affect the tax credits we need to pay for our son’s nursery fees. Is there anything I can do? If they cut too much it won’t be worth going to work.” - Pete P
The government has pledged that Universal Credit will include an element of support to help with the costs of child care which is equal to the childcare element of working tax credits. For one child this can be up to 70% of what you pay in childcare to a maximum of £175 per week.
The government has also said that households, where circumstances have otherwise remained unchanged, will not be worse off under Universal Credit. If necessary they will top up the benefit to match the previous amount of benefit received, however this extra protection can be lost if there is a significant change in circumstances.
“I’m due to go on maternity leave to have my first baby. Will my maternity pay be affected by the benefit change?” – Andrea R
Absolutely not, Andrea. If you are paying your rent in full and receive no council tax benefit, then you will not be affected by the changes in April.
If you find that you need to claim housing benefit to top up your maternity pay temporarily, you may only receive housing benefit for one of the bedrooms in your house. Other than that, everything is the same as it was before.
“I live in a 2 bedroom flat so I’ll have to put aside extra money to pay the rent on my daughter’s bedroom. What’s the best way I can do this?” – Julie B
According to Community Money Advice, an ideal option would be to pop in to your local Credit Union as many are now offering ‘rent accounts‘. This is a type of account where clients can arrange for money to be transferred on a monthly basis. From this money they can pay the more important bills such as the rent and council tax, leaving the rest of their income separate for other expenses.
For a more extensive guide on Universal Credit and the changes it will bring, pop over to turn2us.
Do you have any burning questions about Universal Credit? Let us know in the comments.
Special thanks to Debt Advisor Sheree in Nottingham for her help in answering your questions!