How benefit changes may affect you

The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill was passed through Parliament in March 2012 bringing with it a number of changes to the entire structure of the benefits systems and the way payments are made to claimants.

We know that many of you will be worried about what this could mean for you and your family. Information on the main changes is provided below but if you have any queries or concerns about the changes and how they will affect you please contact our Welfare Benefits Officer now on 01750 724444.

Scottish Welfare Fund

Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans from the Social Fund are no longer available and are replaced by the Scottish Welfare Fund, which includes both community care grants and crisis grants. Scottish Borders Council award these grants, which help to provide a safety net in an emergency, or to support independent living.

You can apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund via this link on the Scottish Borders Council website, or find out more by contacting SBHA’s Welfare Benefits Officer on 01750 724444.

Under occupation

From April 2013 if you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms in your property the maximum rent you can claim Housing Benefit for may be reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom or
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

Currently Scottish Borders Council are paying Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to all household that have a ‘spare’ bedroom. If you are not claiming DHP to cover the reduction in your Housing Benefit please contact SBHA’s Welfare Benefit Officer now on 01750 724444. You are entitled to this benefit.

Exceptions from under occupation

Your Housing Benefit will not be affected if you are in the following situations:

  • Pension age – you are over qualifying age for state pension credit or with a partner over that age will be exempt from the size criteria rules
  • Temporary accommodation – you have been accepted as homeless under Homelessness legislation and placed in temporary accommodation by the Local Authority so you will be exempt from the size criteria rules
  • Supported ‘exempt’ accommodation – you are in a certain type of supported accommodation so you will be exempt from the size criteria rules
  • Shared ownership – the size criteria rules will not apply if you part owns your home

Universal Credit

Universal Credit will be introduced to new claimants in the Scottish Borders in April 2015.

Universal Credit will be a single payment for working age people and will replace Income Support, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and Budgeting Loans.

Who is eligible to claim Universal Credit?

To claim Universal Credit you will need to:

  • be 18 or over
  • be under state pension credit age
  • not be in education
  • be in Great Britain
  • have accepted a claimant commitment

If you have a partner you will make a joint claim for Universal Credit. If one of you is over state pension credit age or in full-time education both of you will still have to claim Universal Credit unless either of you was already receiving state pension credit when Universal Credit is introduced.

The intention is that most claims will be made either online or by telephone (there may be alternative ways of claiming in exceptional circumstances).

Your Universal Credit will be paid in arrears, as a lump sum each month, to cover both daily and housing costs.  SBHA will no longer received your Housing Benefit direct from Scottish Borders Council so you will need to set up a payment arrangement for your rent to prevent your rent account from going into arrears.

Benefit Cap

There is a cap on the amount of benefits you can receive.  The Government will add up the amount of money you get from Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credits, Child Benefit, and Carer’s Allowance.  If the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed, your Housing Benefit payments will be reduced.

The maximum amount of benefit you will be able to receive from the date that this is implemented will be:

  • £500 per week for single parents
  • £500 per week for couples with or without children
  • £350 per week for single people without children

The benefit cap will not apply if you get Pension Credit or Working Tax Credit or if a member of your household claims Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance, the support element of Employment and Support Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefit or is a war widow.

Claimants who have been in employment for 52 weeks or more when they claim benefit will be exempt from the cap for a grace period of up to 39 weeks.

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced from April 2013, replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working-age people (aged 16-64).

What are the disability conditions for Personal Independence Payment (PIP)?

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is divided into two components – the daily living component and the mobility component. It is possible for a person to qualify for both if they meet the entitlement conditions for both.  Each component will have two rates, a standard rate and an enhanced rate.  For both components, a ‘required period’ condition must also be satisfied, which means that claimants must have had the appropriate level of need for three months to qualify, and be expected to have those needs for a further nine months.

The only exception is if the claimant makes a claim because s/he has a terminal illness (which means that the claimant has a progressive disease and death from that disease can reasonably be expected within six months).  Terminally ill claimants will not have to satisfy a required period condition; and will automatically receive the enhanced rate of the daily living component.