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Benefit changes

Find out about changes to Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support and other benefits, including changes that have already been made, and that are coming up.

The Government has set in motion a number of changes to Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support and other welfare benefits. You may be significantly affected by the changes and you may find considerable reductions in the amount of help you can get with your rent.

On this page

See also

Housing Benefit changes

Changes to Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

  • April 2014 - LHA rates will be recalculated from 1st April 2014. See our LHA rates page for more information. For our latest LHA leaflet see our LHA leaflets page.

Under occupation rent restrictions for social rented sector tenants

From 1st April 2013 we are no longer be able to pay for extra bedrooms that working age customers have been allocated by their registered housing association or registered provider of social housing.

We have included links to some of our major housing association and registered providers welfare reform web pages for benefits and welfare reforms on our landlord page.

Please also see our Housing Benefit changes page for more details of all changes affect HB over the next few years

Changes to other benefits

Universal Credit - 28 October 2013

In this section:

Universal Credit Pathfinder Pilot areas

At present Universal Credit (UC) is being tested by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in other parts of the country, but not in Merton. So it is not yet rolled out nationally yet. The current Universal Credit Pathfinder Pilots are in these four areas in April and July 2013 onwards:

  • Ashton-under Lynne
  • Wigan (1 July 2013)
  • Oldham (29 July 2013)
  • Warrington (29 July 2013)

Starting from the end of October 2013, six new UC Pathfinder Pilots will be added to the four above in these areas:

  • Hammersmith (28 October 2013)
  • Inverness (25 November 2013)
  • Rugby (25 November 2013)
  • Bath (24 February 2014)
  • Harrogate (24 February 2014)
  • Shotton (24 March 2014)

The outcomes of the ten UC Pathfinder Pilots will be assessed by the DWP.

Moving from a UC Pathfinder Pilot area to Merton

It is unlikely, but possible, that you could have claimed UC in one of the Pathfinder Pilot areas above and then moved to Merton. The DWP will usually continue to pay you UC. Under the "once in, stay in" principle, your UC will continue to be paid, if you still qualify. For example you may become a partner of a Housing Benefit claimant in Merton. If this is the case, please alert us to this fact. For more information on what happens in this scenario go to our pages:

The elements of Universal Credit

UC can be claimed by an in or out of work single person, lone parent or a couple, who make a joint claim. UC is made up of up to seven elements that build up to make a maximum UC amount. These are as follows:

  • Standard Allowance
  • Child element for dependants
  • Disabled child element
  • Capability for work element
  • Carer element
  • Childcare costs element
  • Housing costs element

If you claim UC, your maximum UC amount is then compared to your household assessed income, after disregards have been deducted. Your unearned income is deducted £1 for a £1 from your maximum UC amount. Child Benefit and Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment is ignored. Any earned income from employment or self employment has disregards based on your circumstances, called your work allowance. Only 65 pence of every £1 of the resulting net earned income is deducted from your maximum UC amount. What you are left with after these deductions is your actual UC award. The minimum award of £0.01 can be paid.

Universal Credit and what is does and does not replace

Working age people who are in or out of work claim a housing cost element, instead of Housing Benefit as part of their Universal Credit, in the Universal Credit Pathfinder Pilot areas only. At this stage the Government has not decided to roll out UC nationally, but they do intend to transfer and replace existing claims for the means tested benefits below by December 2017. Similarly, in the UC Pathfinder Pilot areas, working age people do not claim the following benefits below, if they fit the eligibility criteria:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit (except if you live in Supported Exempt Accommodation)
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit

UC does not replace the following benefits:

  • Child Benefit
  • Council Tax Support
  • Housing Benefit if you live in Supported Exempt Accommodation
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

So you will continue to claim local Council Tax Support from us, even if your Housing Benefit stops when your UC starts. You will continue to claim Housing Benefit for Supported Exempt Accommodation only, but your UC will not have a Housing costs element.

Claiming Universal Credit and living in Supported Exempt Accommodation

Supported Exempt Accommodation (SEA) is accommodation where the landlord is a:

  • Housing Association
  • Provider of social housing
  • Registered charity or
  • Voluntary body, where that landlord or someone on their behalf provides:
  • Care or
  • Support or
  • Supervision to it's tenants.

If you live in SEA you will continue to claim Housing Benefit for your rent, even if you claim UC. You must not also claim it as the housing costs element of UC, otherwise you will be overpaid. It is important that you make it clear to the DWP that you live in SEA. If you are claiming UC for the first time or change address and move into SEA you need to claim Housing Benefit if you are liable for rent and Council Tax Support if you are liable for Council Tax. If you need to check whether you live in SEA or are moving into SEA with us, please see contact us below.

More information about Universal Credit

For more information on Universal Credit see the GOV.UK Universal webpage or use the links below to the Universal Credit factsheets:

Benefits cap - July 2013

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rolled out new rules on 15th July 2013 to place overall benefit caps on certain working age benefits. If you are a:

  • working aged couple, with or without children or
  • lone parents, you will only be entitled to get total benefits to a maximum of £500 per week.

If you are a single person, the maximum total benefits you will get is £350 per week.

There is limited grace period of protection of up to 39 weeks if you or your partner has worked at least 50 out of the last 52 weeks before claiming. To find out more go to the GOV UK Benefits Cap webpage.

Please also see our Housing Benefit changes page for more details of how you can be exempt from the Benefit Cap.

Personal Independence Payment June 2013

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for new claims only made on or after 10th June 2013. However, children aged under 16 will still claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA). People of State Pension Credit age can continue to claim Attendance Allowance. If you are a working age person claiming DLA at the moment s it will continue until you are told it will be reassessed. This may not be until 2015. For more information about PIP see the GOV.UK PIP webpage.

Social Fund - April 2013

From 1st April 2013 Crisis loans and Community Care Grants stopped and Local Authorities have discretion to use the fund in the local area. This is called Local Welfare Support in Merton.

Planning for the changes

Keeping customers up to date
We will be writing to claimants over the next year to tell them how they may be affected by the welfare reforms through publications like our Customer newsletter April 2013 and targeted mail shots. Claimants should take note of when the changes will affect them and by how much. See Housing Benefit changes for more details.

Tips for customers affected by the change
On our Housing Benefit changes page you can find advice about what action you can take if you find out your HB will be reduced.

See also

Contact us

Merton Benefits Service
PO Box 610
Merton Civic Centre
London Road
Morden
SM4 5ZT

Email: housing.benefits@merton.gov.uk
Telephone: 020 8274 4903
Fax: 020 8545 3960

This page was last updated on Friday 30 January 2015

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