NIFHA is highlighting the Government’s plans to reduce the amount of housing benefit some people can claim. Through the information below housing association tenants can find out if they are affected.
If you claim housing benefit to help pay your rent you may be affected by changes some time from April 2013. The changes mean some people will get less housing benefit than they did before.
This information will help you find out what is happening and what you can do to prepare.
How many bedrooms do you have?
The government is introducing legislation some time from April 2013, which means if you live in a housing association home and have one, or more, ‘spare’ bedrooms your housing benefit may be reduced.
This could affect you:
- if you are 16 to 61 years old
- even if you only get a small amount of housing benefit – for example
- if you are working
- even if you are sick or disabled
You won’t be affected:
- if you live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit, or
- if you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits. In April 2013 the pension credit age will be around 61 years and 6 months
What is a ‘spare’ bedroom?
Under the new rules if you have more bedrooms than the Government says you need, you will lose part of your housing benefit. The new rules mean you will be allocated one bedroom, irrespective of the size of the room, for:
- each adult couple
- any other person aged 16 or over
- two children of the same sex under the age of 16
- two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
- any other child
- a carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care.
It does not matter how the ‘spare’ bedroom is used, the new rules will apply even if:
- You and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
- The main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you.
What happens if you have a spare bedroom?
If you have one ‘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, your housing benefit will be reduced by 25%.
If your benefit is cut you will have to pay your housing association the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.
Do you have a disability and need overnight care?
An extra room will be permitted for certain claimants who require an overnight carer. If you are of working age, have a disability and need a ‘spare’ bedroom so a carer can stay overnight contact your housing association or housing benefit office. The staff may be able to help you keep more of your housing benefit.
Limit on benefits
Some time from April 2013 the overall amount of benefit you can receive will be capped. The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits, including: bereavement allowance, carer’s allowance, child benefit, child tax credit, employment and support allowance and housing benefit. If the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced.
How much is the benefit cap?
The level of the cap will be around:
- £500 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)
- £500 a week for single parents whose children live with them
- £350 a week for single adults who don’t have children, or whose children don’t live with them
This will not apply to you if:
- You get pension credit or working tax credit
- A member of your household is claiming benefits such as, but not limited to, disability living allowance, attendance allowance, industrial injuries benefits or the support element of employment support allowance.
What should you do? Ask for advice
If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent when these changes are introduced. If you don’t pay your rent you could lose your home, so talk to your housing association about different ways to pay.
You can also:
- Talk to your housing association about transferring to a smaller home or taking in a lodger.
- Contact your housing association, housing benefit office or the social security agency to discuss if you can get extra help with money through the discretionary housing payment scheme.
- Get in touch with a debt advisor if you have worries or concerns about managing money or debt…
Debt Action NI provides a free, confidential, debt advice service across Northern Ireland they may be contacted on:
- Freephone 0800 917 4607
- Text ACTION to 81025*
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) has advice on its website this may be found on www.nihe.gov.uk/index/services/welfare_reform.htm.
Get more information on www.nidirect.gov.uk/index/information-and-services/money-tax-and-benefits
Download this information in PDF Format: Tenants Leaflet (Jan13)
*Local network charges may apply.