Welfare Reform

Housing Benefit Changes

Are you clued up on Welfare Reform and changes to the benefits system?

The government has made a number of changes to the welfare benefit system. Do you want to know more about these?

The following page will guide you through some of these changes and how they may affect you. 


Changes from April 1st 2013

If you claim housing benefit to help pay your rent you may be affected by changes from April 2013. The changes mean that some people will get less housing benefit than they did before. 

From April 2013, if you live in a housing association home and you have one or more 'spare' bedroom your housing benefit may be reduced. 

This could affect you:
-  if you are 16 to 61 years old.
- even if you only get a small amount of housing benefit- for example, if you are working.
- even if you are sick or disabled.

You won't be affected if:
- You live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit, or
- You or your partners are old enough to receive pension credits. In April 2013 the pension credit age will be around 61 years and 6 months. 

What happens if you have a 'spare' bedroom?

If you have one spare bedroom your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay every week. If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%. If your benefit is cut you will have to pay your landlord the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.

It does not matter how the 'spare' bedroom is used, the new rules will apply even if you and your partner need to sleep apart because of medical condition, or if the main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you. 

How will this affect me?

It is possible that the amount of Housing Benefit you get to pay your rent could go down. If your Housing Benefit is paid directly to your landlord, the amount your landlord gets could go down. If you are getting or thinking of claiming Housing Benefit, you need to consider these changes before you renew or make a new tenancy agreement with a private landlord.

Capping of overall benefits

From April 2013 the overall amount of benefit you can receive will be capped. The Government will add up how much money you get from a range of benefits like housing benefit, jobseekers allowance, child benefit, child tax credit and carers allowance.

If the total comes to more than the maximum amount that your allowed your housing benefit payments will be reduced. The maximum amount of benefit you will be able to receive from 1st April 2013 is expected to be:

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

This will not apply to you if:

  • you get pension credit
  • a member of your family is claiming disability living allowance, attendance allowance, industrial injuries benefits or the support element of employment support allowance. 

October 2013- Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. Universal Credit will help claimants and their families to become more independent and will simplify the benefits system by bringing together a range of working-age benefits into a single streamlined payment. 

It will be launched in 2013 and will replace:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit

The main differences between Universal Credit and the current welfare system are:

  • Universal Credit will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work
  • Most people will apply online and manage their claim through an online account
  • Universal Credit will be responsive, as people on low incomes move in and out of work, they’ll get ongoing support – giving people more incentive to work for any period of time that is available
  • Most claimants on low incomes will still be paid Universal Credit when they first start a new job or increase their part-time hours
  • Claimants will receive just one monthly payment, paid into a bank account in the same way as a monthly salary 
  • Support with housing costs will go direct to the claimant as part of their monthly payment.

The national launch of Universal Credit will take place in October 2013: 

New claimants: They will be able to make claims for Universal Credit from October 2013, while claims for existing benefits and credits will be gradually phased out. From April 2014, all new claims will be for Universal Credit.


Existing claimants: They will move onto Universal Credit in line with a phased approach that we expect to have completed by the end of 2017


What does 'Direct Payment' mean?
The Government wants people to be more responsible for the management of their income and so Universal Credit will be paid directly to each person or family making a claim. The direct payment will be paid at the end of each month and will include the amount you are entitled to towards your housing costs and rent. In order to receive Universal Credit you will need a bank account for the benefit to be paid into. You may however prefer to use a Credit Union service as an alternative to the traditional bank account. Find out about the services offered by Gateway Credit Union.


You Benefits are Changing


Gateway Credit Union