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Welfare Reform

A number of changes to benefits and the welfare system will be made in the next few years. This page gives you some details about the changes.

Council Tax Support

From April 2013, the standard Council Tax Benefit was replaced by a Council Tax Support Scheme, with the rules being decided locally.

City of Lincoln Council decided that they would not reduce the amount of Council Tax Support they would provide and plan to continue this for the 2014 to 2015 financial year. Council Tax Support pays out about £8million a year in City of Lincoln area and helps over 9,000 households.

For anyone getting Council Tax Support but not the maximum amount the Council also has a £5,000 exceptional hardship scheme available for those struggling to pay their Council Tax. To apply please email welfarereform@lincoln.gov.uk and ask for the exceptional hardship application form.

If you apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to top-up Housing Benefit you can also be considered for an exceptional hardship payment to top up Council Tax Support too. The same application form applies for both schemes. You can still get exceptional hardship payments to top up council tax support even if you are not getting Housing Benefit.

Other welfare changes

A number of other changes to the welfare system are being made nationally and are not in the control of local councils. These changes could affect you.

We aim to keep you updated with changes well before they are put in place. Wherever possible, we will contact people who are likely to be affected directly, but please keep checking this web page for information.

Benefit cap

From August 2013, the maximum amount of benefit and tax credit payments that a working-age household can receive will be capped at £350 a week for a single person, and £500 for a single parent, couple or family.

The benefit cap is implemented by cutting the excess income above the cap from Housing Benefit, for example, if a family gets £564 a week then £64 a week will be deducted from their Housing Benefit.

Some households in Lincoln have been affected by this change losing approximately £45,000 a year between them in total from their Housing Benefit If the benefit cap being applied would reduce the Housing Benefit to ‘nil’ then a minimum weekly amount of Housing Benefit is left in payment of 50p a week.

This table shows the number of households affected in Lincoln in November 2013:

Amount of money cut from Housing Benefit due to exceeding the benefit cap Number of households affected by the benefit cap Number of children living in the households affected.
£0.01 – £50.00 a week 13 60
£50.01 – £100.00 a week 5 33
£100.01 – £150.00 a week 1 6

Benefit cap does not apply to households where the claimant, partner or dependent children get Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or in work and getting Working Tax Credit.

If you are struggling to pay your rent when the benefit cap applies you can ask for a Discretionary Housing Payment to top up your Housing Benefit. This is not a permanent solution and payment cannot be guaranteed now or in the future as funds are limited but it might be a temporary solution if you are not able to afford to pay your rent. The Council can also offer money advice and help with finding cheaper accommodation.

If you are concerned about how the benefit cap may affect you, please contact the Benefits team on 01522 873355 or by email to welfarereform@lincoln.gov.uk.

Size criteria for Housing Benefit

The Government introduced new rules to restrict the number of bedrooms you can get housing benefit for if you are renting from:

  • A local authority,
  • A registered housing association
  • Any other registered social landlord

Claimants renting in the private sector already have their rent restricted based on the number of rooms they need.

Since April 2013, the number of bedrooms you are allowed housing benefit for will be based on the number of people in your household.

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • Every adult couple
  • Any person aged 16 or over
  • Any two children of the same sex under 16
  • Any two children aged under 10
  • Any other child
  • A carer (or team of carers) who do not live with you but provide you or your partner with overnight care
  • An approved/registered foster carer
  • A parent of armed forces personnel who are away from home on operations
  • Other people who normally live with you but are temporarily living elsewhere such as hospital inpatients, temporary respite care or students
  • An extra bedroom where children cannot share due to their disability

These rules are used to work out how many bedrooms you need to rent for both privately-rented tenants and also council tenants and other social sector housing tenants.

The under-occupation subsidy changes will affect you if you:

  • Live in a council or housing association property, and
  • Have more bedrooms than you need under the rules, and
  • Are below state pension credit age.

Pensioners will not be affected by the new rules.
If you are under-occupying (living in a house with more bedrooms than you need), your housing benefit will be reduced by:

  • 14 per cent of your rent if you are under-occupying by one bedroom
  • 25 per cent of your rent if you are under-occupying by two bedrooms or more

If you are under-occupying and your housing benefit is currently less than 14 per cent or 25 per cent of your rent as appropriate, your benefit will stop completely.

There are currently just over 800 households affected by this change in the City of Lincoln Council area. Most have one spare bedroom but over 100 households have two or more spare bedrooms.

If you are struggling to pay your rent because of the ‘bedroom tax’ changes you can consider any of the following

  • Apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from us to top up your Housing Benefit
  • Consider taking in a lodger – consult your landlord and the Housing Benefit Office before doing this in case it affects your tenancy and the amount of Housing Benefit you get
  • Seek a mutual transfer by registering on the Homeswapper website so you can find smaller accommodation
  • Discuss your housing needs with the Property Shop at City Hall
  • Speak to our welfare advice team who will be able to help you with budgetting and making sure you have claimed all the benefits that you are entitled to receive

If you are concerned about how the size criteria for Housing Benefit may affect you, please contact our Benefits team on 01522 873355 or by email to welfarereform@lincoln.gov.uk.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit will replace Housing Benefit, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-based Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. It will be paid on a monthly basis, and in most circumstances will be paid directly to claimants in a similar way to a monthly salary.

Universal Credit will be administered by Jobcentre Plus, and the national roll-out starts between October 2013 and 2017. If someone moves from a pilot area they will remain on Universal Credit and will not be able to claim Housing Benefit.

What if I want to talk to someone about these changes?

Email welfarereform@lincoln.gov.uk, telephone 01522 873355, or visit City Hall in person.