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Changes to benefits Welfare reform changes 2013 Special Cascade briefing for staff September 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Changes to benefits Welfare reform changes 2013 Special Cascade briefing for staff September 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Changes to benefits Welfare reform changes 2013 Special Cascade briefing for staff September 2013

2 Changes to benefits The UK government is changing the benefits system. This is known as welfare reform. Some changes have already been made but even bigger changes to the benefits that people receive have taken place since April 2013. These changes are affecting the whole country but it is important for you to know how they will have an impact on people in Argyll. The people you work with may need to know where to find help and advice.

3 What has changed? The main changes are to: Housing benefit – under occupancy restrictions Benefits cap – limits to the amount of money that people receive Council tax benefit Disability Living Allowance Crisis/community care grants Universal Credit will replace a number of benefits There will be other changes – for example, claiming benefits online and being paid monthly. The amount of money that people receive may also reduce. Each of these changes is covered in more detail in the following slides.

4 Housing benefit restrictions

5 Housing benefit The changes to housing benefit are sometimes referred to as ‘the bedroom tax’, ‘spare room subsidy’ or under-occupancy. Some of the changes to housing benefit have been in place for some time. For example, the amount of money available to people living in private rented homes has been limited to £400 per week for a four-bedroom property. However, from April 2013, there will be even more changes due to under occupancy restrictions, sometimes called ‘the bedroom tax’. Depending on circumstances, this may affect how much money people receive towards their housing costs. These changes will now also apply to people who rent their homes from registered social landlords (RSLs).

6 Housing benefit – what has changed? From April 2013, there are new rules about occupancy for people living in social housing. If people live in a house that is considered to be bigger than they need, the amount of housing benefit they can claim will go down. For one spare bedroom, housing benefit has reduced by 14 per cent. For two or more spare bedrooms, it drops by 25 per cent. This has been the case with private rents for some time. For example, if someone is paying rent of £70 per week and is considered to have two spare rooms, they will lose £17.50 per week or £910 per year. People will have to make up the rent shortfall from benefits or other income. Registered social landlords have contacted their tenants who are affected. They tell us that many are falling into rent arrears.

7 Housing benefit – what are the new rules? Households are allowed one bedroom each for the following: A couple A single person over 16 Two children of the same sex who are under 16 years old Two children aged under 10 of either sex Any other child, other than a foster child or a child whose main home is elsewhere A carer providing overnight care Anyone who is hoping to start a family will not qualify for an extra room until the child is born.

8 Housing benefit – who is affected? There are many different situations where people could be affected by the under occupancy restrictions and it is important that they are aware of the how the changes could affect the amount of money they receive to help with housing costs: Separated parents who share the care of their children Parents whose children visit and may stay overnight but who do not live at home permanently Couples who use a spare bedroom when one person is recovering from illness or an operation In some situations, foster carers or disabled people living in specially adapted homes

9 Housing benefit – how will it affect people? Case study 1 Mr and Mrs McLean are in their mid-40s and do not work. They live in a three-bedroom housing association home which costs £70 per week. After assessment, they are considered to have two extra rooms and will lose 25 per cent of their housing benefit - £17.50 per week or £910 per year. Case study 2 Mark is 36, single and unemployed. He has separated from his partner and rents a two- bedroom flat from a housing association for £40 per week. His ten-year-old daughter comes to stay with him one weekend a month. The new rules mean that he has a spare bedroom and will lose nearly £6 per week (£312 per year). He gets benefits of £72 each week. In both cases, the rent shortfall will have to be met from benefits or other income.

10 Housing benefit – where can people get help? Many people who lose some of their housing benefit as a result of the new rules will find it very difficult to meet the rent shortfall from their remaining income. But it is very important that people do make every effort to pay their rent and don’t run into arrears. People can contact their registered social landlord direct to talk things over and see if there is anything that can be done to help. There are contact numbers in the ‘Useful Contacts’ slide at the end of the presentation. It is important to encourage people to get in touch as soon as possible if they are concerned about paying their rent. The Argyll and Bute Housing Information and Advice Line can also offer support – 0800 731 8337

11 Housing benefit – what are the options? People may have some hard choices to make if they are unable to pay all of their rent following the housing benefit changes. As well as keeping in touch with landlords, there are a number of options to consider: Moving into work or increasing hours if possible Have family members contribute more Moving home, either with landlord’s help or to a private let Take a boarder or lodger, with landlord’s agreement – it’s important to note that this may have an effect on other benefits If people are unable to cover any rent shortfall, they may be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). This is covered in detail in the next few slides.

12 Discretionary Housing Payments

13 Who can get help? People who are facing financial difficulties may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from the council if they are unable to meet any rent shortfall from the housing benefit they receive. These payments are available to people who are claiming benefit, who have a shortfall between their benefit and rent amounts, and who are finding it difficult to meet the rest of the rent themselves.

14 Discretionary Housing Payments How can people apply? The council is responsible for dealing with claims for DHP, for making decisions about who can get help and for making payments. Claims will have to be carefully prioritised as the money available to the council for these payments is limited. Financial circumstances, the risk of homelessness, the impact on children and any medical issues are taken into account when making decisions. Payments can last between 13 and 26 weeks, and exceptionally for longer if moving is particular difficult, but this may vary depending on individual situations. People in difficulty who are already claiming housing benefit should be told about DHP and how to apply. Application forms are available online, from Customer Service Points or by calling 01546 605512.

15 Discretionary Housing Payments Case studies: Dorothy is 50 years old and lives alone in a two-bedroom housing association flat. She had a stroke last year and now receives direct payments for care, aimed at helping her to live independently in her own home. Her housing has been adapted to support her disability. She is affected by under-occupancy and her housing benefit has been reduced. She is going to find it difficult to meet the rent shortfall and makes a claim for DHP. Because her house has been adapted for her disability, she is likely to be a high priority for DHP.

16 Discretionary Housing Payments Case studies: Eddie is 36 and unemployed, renting a two-bedroom house from a local housing association. His housing benefit is reduced under the new rules and he is finding it difficult to make up the difference from his jobseeker’s allowance. He is of working age and is fit/available for work, so he is not a high priority to receive a payment. He can get budgeting advice from the council and/or Citizens Advice Scotland.

17 Discretionary Housing Payments Where to get help – and useful contacts People can contact Argyll and Bute Council’s Benefits Enquiry Line on 01546 605512. There is more information about DHPs at www.argyll- Staff at Customer Service Points are also available to assist.www.argyll- Anyone in difficulty should be advised to speak to their landlord as soon as possible – they may be able to help and stop a problem growing worse. Contact numbers for registered social landlords in Argyll and Bute can be found in the Useful Contacts slide at the end of the presentation.

18 Council Tax Reduction Scheme

19 What has changed? From April 2013, Council Tax Benefit has been replaced by the Scottish Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS). This means that people who are eligible now receive a discount on the amount of council tax that they pay, instead of receiving a benefit. For the first year, the ‘discount’ amount is roughly the same as the amount of council tax benefit previously awarded. People should still make applications to the council, but these will no longer be automatically transferred from the Department of Work and Pensions. We are still waiting for more details on how the scheme will work in the longer term.

20 Council Tax Benefit In Argyll and Bute: People who previously receive council tax benefit automatically transferred to the new scheme. They will already have received details about their ‘discount’ entitlement in this year’s annual council tax bills. It is shown as ‘Council Tax Reduction’. If there is any change in circumstances, they will receive updated council tax bills. First-time applications should be made to the council. Forms are available at Customer Service Points, online at government/housing-benefit-and-council-tax-benefit or by calling the council’s CTRS and Benefits Enquiry Line on 01546 government/housing-benefit-and-council-tax-benefit

21 The benefits cap

22 What will change? From July 2013, people of working age who receive benefits will have their money limited. This is done by restricting the amount of housing benefit paid. For couples or lone parents, the limit is £500 per week and for single people it is £350. These limits reflect an average annual salary of around £26,000. The cap does not apply to people who receive working tax credit, Disability Living Allowance/Personal Independence Payment, attendance allowance, industrial injuries benefits and war pensions. Initially there are only four households affected in Argyll and Bute.

23 The benefits cap Case study: The Scott family have four children all aged under 16. They are not working at the moment and get weekly benefits totalling £530. The benefits cap means they will now have £30 less each week to live on - £1,560 over the whole year. Where can people get help? The Department for Work and Pensions has contacted everyone who will be affected. Our welfare rights service can help – call 01546 605517. There is also budgeting and debt advice at Also they are encouraged to apply for DHPs for help in the short Citizens Advice Scotland and the Money Advice Service can also help – find their contact details in the Useful Contacts section later.

24 Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

25 Disability Living Allowance What is changing? From June 2013, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) starts to be replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP). There will be a new assessment process and this may involve a medical examination. People who already receive DLA will be advised when they need to make a claim for the new benefit, PIP – but not everyone who receives DLA will automatically be entitled to PIP. Where DLA had three payment rates, PIP has only two, and there will be regular assessments. Some people may find that their money is reduced. There may also be other changes – for example, how PIP affects entitlement to other benefits like blue badges. These details are still being discussed.

26 Disability Living Allowance Timescale From October 2013, anyone receiving DLA and reporting a change in their condition will have to apply for PIP. Anyone whose benefit award is due for renewal will also have to apply for PIP. Between January 2014 and March 2016, people who receive DLA will be invited to apply for PIP. If people do not apply, their benefit will stop. Entitlement will not transfer automatically. Where can people get help? Our Welfare Rights Service can offer advice – people can call them on 01546 605517.

27 Universal Credit

28 What will change? Universal Credit is one of the most significant welfare reforms. It replaces a number of existing benefits and will see changes in the way people make claims and receive their money. From around April 2014, Universal Credit will start to replace the following benefits in Scotland: Income support Income-based jobseeker’s allowance Income-related employment and support allowance Housing benefit Child tax/working credit

29 Universal Credit Other changes Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears – meaning that people applying for the first time will not get any money until four or five weeks after they first make a claim. Payments will be made to one person in the household. For example, a couple will be assessed jointly and only one person will receive the money. This will mean big changes to how many people manage their money. The new benefit will have to be claimed online, so people will need to have some computer skills and access to the internet in order to apply. They will also need to have a bank account in order to receive their money. People can use computers and the internet in our libraries and Customer Service Points. We can also provide advice and support to anyone who is finding it difficult to manage their money or who needs help in applying for benefits.

30 What to do in a crisis The Scottish Welfare Fund

31 The Scottish Welfare Fund – ‘a crisis hit out of the blue’ Sometimes people need help in a crisis. From 1 April 2013, the way that people get help in an emergency has changed. The Social Fund has been replaced by the Scottish Welfare Fund. This will provide crisis grants (safety nets in the case of disaster or emergency) and community care grants (to support people who are about to leave care and live independently). In Argyll and Bute, applications and payments are dealt with by the council. There is a limited amount of money to use for crisis and community care grants. At present, we are receiving only about half the number of applications previously received by DWP and are well able to support most cases.

32 Who might be most vulnerable when trying to cope with benefits changes? Could the person in front of you have... literacy or numeracy issues, or dyslexia? a disability, or a mental health problem? difficulty travelling, or affording a bus? no broadband or access to the internet? no computer, no mobile, or no IT skills to use these? caring responsibilities, or other time pressures?

33 read forms or understand information pay bills on time, or budget efficiently travel to other services reach appointments on time easily understand, or tell you, what they need find information for themselves, or afford a phone call, a bus fare, or a stamp If people are suffering from one or more of those stresses, they may not be able to:

34 take time to pay attention quietly, with an open mind, and make it clear that you are listening carefully. a little empathy can go a long way – imagine yourself in their situation for a minute. clarify with them what you think they’re saying, to make sure you understand them correctly, as often as possible. discuss and agree the next steps (however small) with them. if you undertake to do anything on their behalf, tell them when you can do it, and how they will know whether you were successful. take care of yourself too – real listening can sometimes be upsetting, so regular support and supervision is vital. People suffering stress or hardship may ask you for help... so what can you do...?

35 Useful Contacts Home Argyll is a partnership between Argyll Community Housing Association, Dunbritton Housing Association, Fyne Homes, West Highland Housing Association and Argyll and Bute Council. More information, including telephone numbers for each landlord can be found at ;- Citizens Advice Scotland can offer links to budgeting and debt advice on 0808 800 9060 or Money Advice Scotland can be reached on 0141 572 0237 or by email and at adviser adviser The council has information on all of these changes on its website at http://www.argyll- Argyll and Bute Council Benefits and DHP enquiry line 01546 605512 Argyll and Bute Council Welfare Rights enquiry line 01546 605517 Argyll and Bute Housing Information and Advice line – 0800 731 8337

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