Watch out! Benefit changes about!
1. Two child limit
Parents who already have two children will not receive additional Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit or Universal Credit Child Element for new children born on or after 6 April 2017. Families will still be able to claim Child Benefit for additional children. Although there will be no reduction in benefits there will be less financial support to cover the cost of bringing up three or more children on a lower income. With inflation increasing above wage rises this will cause real strain on family budgets.
If you are making a new claim for Housing Benefit after 6 April 2017 and you have three or more children your local authority will automatically assess you on two children until you provide proof of a Child Tax Credit award showing the three or more children. This could substantially reduce or even stop a family’s Housing Benefit if no action is taken. Make sure you seek advice immediately if you don’t understand your Housing Benefit award.
2. Benefit Cap
Since November 2016 any family of three or more children must manage on a reduced maximum total weekly benefit limit of £384.62. Any benefits over this amount are taken from Housing Benefit, which puts tenancies at risk if they cannot afford the rent shortfall. There are exemptions, for example, disabled parents on Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/Personal Independence Payment (PIP), disabled child in the household, parent claiming Carer’s Allowance or working and claiming Working Tax Credit. Finding work of 16 or more hours per week means the cap will not apply. Evidence shows that particularly single parent families with children under two are finding it difficult to find work due to the associated childcare costs.
You can claim a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local authority to cover the rent shortfall for a temporary period. If you do not show you have taken steps to improve your situation financially, for example, by finding work, any further DHP may be refused. Our Progress Futures service can help our tenants back into work (see page 15 for further information) and the Financial Inclusion Team can help you apply for a DHP. A High Court judge ruled on 22 July 2017 that the Benefit Cap was unlawful and causing ‘real misery’ to single parents with children under two years old. The Department for Work and Pensions has said they will appeal…
3. No help towards rent costs for many 18-21 year olds on Universal Credit
From 1 April 2017 - this already affects people under 22 years old claiming Universal Credit for help towards their housing costs for the first time, who live in a ‘Full / Digital Service Area’. Although most Progress Housing Group tenants are not yet affected, Universal Credit Full Service Areas are being rolled out nationally across all local authorities from April 2017 to complete by September 2018. Most vulnerable young people will not be affected (for details check www.gov.uk/guidance/housingcosts-for-18-to-21-year-olds).
Even if you are currently excluded from this rule (or will be when Universal Credit fully rolls out in 2017/18) there is no guarantee this exemption will continue until you turn 22, seek advice if you are unsure. If a young tenant becomes unemployed in future their rent arrears could rapidly increase until they find work again. Remember, if you are not eligible for Universal Credit towards housing costs you will not be able to apply for a DHP. Think carefully before leaving the family home and signing up to a tenancy!
Our Financial Inclusion Team is available to support you with any queries you may have. You can contact them on 03333 204555 or email enquiries@ progressgroup.org.uk