Housing Benefit changes
Other Welfare Reform changes which may affect you:
Backdating a Housing Benefit Claim
If you are under “Pension Credit age” and you ask for a Housing Benefit claim to be “backdated” this can only be allowed for up to one calendar month from the date you ask for it. A backdate is when you haven’t claimed in time and you want the Housing Benefit office to pay your Housing benefit from an earlier date. If you are under “Pension Credit age” you have to show that you had a very good reason for not claiming earlier. This new rule came in from April 2016, before that a backdate could be for up to six months.
If you are making your new claim because your previous claim was terminated, it is worth checking to see whether you can challenge the decision to end your previous claim. If your previous claim can be reinstated, there will be no gap in entitlement. Contact us for advice.
If you are “Pension Credit age” you can still request a backdate of up to 3 months.
If you are on Universal Credit and go abroad for longer than a month, you won’t get any Universal Credit while you are away and the whole UC award will be ended. You’ll have to make a completely new claim when you return.
There are extensions to the 4-week (HB)/ one-month (UC) limit: 26 weeks / 6 months for certain people who are abroad due to a particular type of work as listed in the Regulations, or people undergoing medical treatment /convalescence. The time limit can be extended by up to a further 4 weeks / one month if you are abroad due to the death of a close relative and it’s unreasonable to expect you to return within 4 weeks / one month. If you go to Northern Ireland, this counts as abroad under the new rules: they affect anyone away from Great Britain. When you go abroad you must intend to return within the time limit and actually be back home within that time period to be able to receive Housing Benefit / Universal Credit for the period you are away. These new rules have been in place since 28th July 2016.
If someone who normally lives with you is going to be staying in the property they might be able to claim Housing Benefit instead – contact us for advice.
Bereavement Support Payment
If your husband, wife or civil partner has died on or after 6th April 2017, there is a new bereavement benefit called Bereavement Support Payment which you may be able to claim on top of other benefits.
For more information go to our Bereavement Support Payment page.
Two Child Limit for Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit
The government has introduced a two child limit into Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit.
This does not affect entitlement to Child Benefit.
Generally, if you already have 2 or more dependent children in your family and you have a new baby who was born on or after 6 April 2017 (or you become responsible for a child on or after 6 April 2017 and this means you are now responsible for 3 or more children and one was born on or after 6th April 2017), your Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit will only increase if that child is disabled and you get Disability Living Allowance for them and/or you have to pay for registered childcare for them, or if an ‘exception’ applies.
The Housing Benefit rules are changing in the same way. But note that if you get Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance (or Universal Credit and you are claiming Housing Benefit because you are living in ‘specified’ or ‘temporary’ accommodation)you will already be getting your maximum Housing Benefit entitlement – so this change will not affect your current Housing Benefit award.
Gerry and Sonia claim Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit to top up Gerry’s wages. They have 4 children aged between 10 and 3. They have a new baby, born in May 2017. The baby has no health conditions or disabilities and Sonia does not work, so they do not pay for any childcare. They will not get any extra Child Tax Credit for the new baby nor any extra Housing Benefit. But they can get extra Child Benefit.
There are some exceptions to the rules. For children who would otherwise be likely to be in local authority care, ie. living with a family under adoption, non-parental caring arrangements, exceptions will be applied. In certain circumstances relating to multiple births, and where a child was conceived as a result of non-consensual sex, extra money for a 3rd, 4th, 5th etc child could be included.
So, for example, if you have no dependent children but then give birth to triplets on or after 6 April 2017, or if you already have one dependent child, then you give birth to twins on or after 6 April 2017, you will receive extra Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit for all those children. If you are an existing Universal Credit claimant, you will receive extra Universal Credit.
If you think an exception should apply, it will be up to the Tax Credit Office or Universal Credit Department to decide whether extra benefit can be paid for a 3rd, 4th, 5th etc child.
The Housing Benefit Office must follow the decision of the Tax Credit Office and, until the Housing Benefit Office have seen the Tax Credit award letter, they cannot include any extra child allowance for a 3rd, 4th, 5th etc child. This is because the information they receive by computer from the Tax Credit Office shows the total amount of Tax Credits being paid, but not which children are included in the award.
Changes to Housing Benefit and Universal Credit from 2019
Claiming Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit when unfit for work?
New rules came into effect from 3rd April 2017 that may affect you.
If you make a new claim for ESA on or after 3rd April 2017 (either Contributory or Income-Related), and you are put in the Work Related Activity Group, you will not receive the Work Related Activity Component, which is worth £29.05 per week.
If you are claiming Universal Credit and you become sick on or after this date, similar rules mean you cannot have the Limited Capability for Work Element included in your award.
BUT it is still worth making a claim – or perhaps even challenging a previous ‘found fit’ decision.
The amount of help you get towards your rent may be capped at the Local Housing Allowance rate that applies to you. If the amount you are entitled to under the Local Housing Allowance rules is less than the amount you would get under the ‘Bedroom Tax’ rules, the help you get will be based on the lower amount. So if the Local Housing Allowance rates in your area are lower than the amount of help you are entitled to at the moment, you may see a reduction in the help you can get from April 2019. You can check The Local Housing Allowance rates for your area can be found at http://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/Search.aspx
Will this apply to me?
You could be affected by this change from April 2019 if:
- You live in ‘general needs’ housing, you are claiming help with your rent via Housing Benefit and you took on your tenancy on or after 1st April 2016.
- You live in ‘general needs’ housing and you are claiming help with your rent via Universal Credit. (It does not matter when you took on your tenancy).
- You live in supported or sheltered accommodation. (It does not matter when you took on your tenancy). The lowest ‘Shared Accommodation Rate’ of the Local Housing Allowance will not apply to anyone in supported accommodation.
Will anyone not be affected?
- You will not be affected by this change if all the following apply on 1st April 2019:
- You live in ‘general needs’ (ie not supported) accommodation and
- You took on your tenancy before 1st April 2016 and
- You are still receiving help with your housing costs through Housing Benefit – ie you have not yet had to make a claim for Universal Credit
Don’t forget - if the changes do apply to you, but the amount of rent can get help towards under the ‘bedroom tax’ rules is less than the Local Housing Allowance rate for you, the help you get towards your rent will not change due to this new rule.
Changes for people who have a Limited Capability for Work
In April 2017 new rules were introduced for Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.
If you make a new claim for ESA on or after 3 April 2017 (either Contributory or Income-Related), and you are put in the Work Related Activity Group, you will not receive the Work Related Activity Component, which is worth £29.05 per week. However, if you are put in the Support Group, you will receive the Support Component of £38.55 per week (from April 2018).
There is a similar rule for Universal Credit if you make a new claim for Universal Credit on or after 3 April 2017 because you have become too sick to work, or you have been claiming Universal Credit, but you have become ill, so you make a request to be referred for a Work Capability Assessment on or after 3 April 2017. If you are found to have a ‘Limited Capability for Work’, the Limited Capability for Work element will not be included in your award. However, if you are found to have a Limited Capability for Work Related Activity you will receive the LCWRA Element.
There is protection if you were already on these benefits with a limited capability for work when the new rules came in: If your ESA award includes the Work Related Activity Component, or you already have a LCW element included in your Universal Credit award, this will continue and will only end if you are found fit for work, or there is a break in your claim.
Also, if your ESA claim was made before 3 April 2017 and are in the Support Group, and, when you are next re-assessed, you are moved to the Work Related Activity Group, you will be paid the Work Related Activity Component. Similar rules apply to Universal Credit claimants; if when the rules came in on 3 April 2017 you had the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity Element included in your assessment. If, following your next Work Capability Assessment you are found to have Limited Capability for Work but not a Limited Capability for Work Related Activities, you can have a LCW element included in your Universal Credit assessment.
If you are or have been found fit for work following a Work Capability Assessment and you do not think you are fit for work, get advice about challenging the decision. Many people who take their challenges to appeal stage are successful. If the decision that you were fit for work was made less than 13 months ago, it is still be possible to challenge it. If you win your challenge, this could mean that your period of limited capability for work started before 3 April 2017, so you will be paid the relevant component / element.
Susan has been getting ESA for 4 years, but in June 2018 after a re-assessment, she is found fit for work. She claims Universal Credit. She decides to challenge the decision, she asks for a Mandatory Reconsideration and then she appeals. In December 2018 she wins her appeal and is found to have a limited capability for work. A LCW Element gets added into her UC claim back to June 2018 as her current period of limited capability for work started when she claimed ESA back in 2015.
I get Universal Credit as a jobseeker, but now I have some health problems. Is it worth requesting a Work Capability Assessment? The new rules mean it is unlikely I will get any extra money.
As a jobseeker, you can be expected to spend up to 35 hours in job seeking activities every week. If you fail to meet the requirements in your Claimant Commitment, you may lose benefit through a sanction. If, after your Work Capability Assessment, you are found to have a limited capability for work, you will no longer be required to look for work as a condition of receiving UC.
While you are waiting for your Work Capability Assessment you will remain in the ‘All Work Requirements’ group, but your work coach can adjust your work search requirements. Remember that you can ask for your Claimant Commitment to be reviewed at any time (whether you request a Work Capability Assessment or not) – so if you have health problems, discuss these with your work coach. It is important that your Claimant Commitment is realistic, to avoid the risk of being sanctioned.
And if you are found to have a limited capability for work related activities through the Work Capability Assessment, you will get the LCWRA element included in your UC assessment.