If you’re on benefits, changes are coming in 2013

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The changes could leave you with less cash

The changes could leave you with less cash

There are some big changes to housing and other benefits that will come into effect in April 2013.

If you receive housing benefit to help you pay your rent it’s important that you understand these changes to see if you’ll be affected and what you should do.

Let us take you through the changes so you can start to plan now.

Do you have ‘spare’ bedrooms?

If you live in a council or housing association home and you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms, you’ll receive less housing benefit from April 2013.

Under the new rules you’re allocated one bedroom for:

  • Each adult couple
  • Any other person aged 16 or over
  • Two children of the same gender under the age of 16
  • Two children under the age of 10 regardless of their gender
  • Any other child
  • A carer (who doesn’t normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care.

For example, if you live in a three-bedroomed house and have a 12 year old daughter and 15 year old son, you won’t have any spare bedrooms. But, if you have 2 sons aged 12 and 15 and you live in a three-bedroomed house, your council will say you have one spare bedroom.

If you have a spare bedroom your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay every week. If you have two or more spare bedrooms you’ll lose 25%.

You won’t be affected if you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits (currently 61 years and 6 months).

2013 benefit caps

From April 2013 the overall amount of benefits you can receive will be limited. This could affect you even if you don’t have any spare bedrooms.

If you receive more than one benefit, they’ll be added up to calculate a total. This includes housing benefit, jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, child benefit, child tax credit and carer’s allowance.

It won’t apply to you if you receive pension credit, working tax credit or if someone in the household is claiming disability living allowance, attendance allowance or the support element of employment support allowance.

If your total is more than the maximum amount allowed, your housing benefit will be reduced to bring it under the threshold.

The maximum you can receive will be:

  • £500 per week if you’re a single parent
  • £500 per week if you’re a couple with or without children
  • £350 per week if you’re single without children

Changes to council tax benefit

Local councils run their own schemes; these differ from one area to the next. Some councils may have a reduced amount of funding available from April 2013, which could mean that your support is cut.

What should you do if you think you might be affected?

It’s best to get advice now rather than waiting until the changes come in. Here are some practical steps you can take now:

  • Use our benefits checker to ensure you’re getting all of the benefits you’re entitled to
  • Get more information by calling the Government’s DWP helpline on 0845 605 7064
  • Seek benefit advice from gov.uk or turn2us.org.uk
  • Contact your local council to find out what cuts are being made in your area
  • Speak to your housing provider to see if you can transfer to a smaller home

If the changes mean you’ll struggle with unsecured debts contact us for help and advice. We can also look at your entitlement to make sure you’re claiming everything you can.

Pavan Gata-Aura is a qualified debt advisor with 6 years of experience. She enjoys spending time with her two children, fundraising for charities, has spent time volunteering in Africa and takes part in organised races.

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