Support and benefits

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced a wide range of reforms that may affect you. The main elements of the Act are:

  1. Universal Credit
  2. Under-occupation cap
  3. Benefit cap
  4. Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Universal Credit

What is universal credit?

Universal Credit is a single benefit which replaces a range of existing benefits and tax credits for people of working age. If you’re of pension age these changes don’t apply to you.

Universal Credit replaces the following benefits: 

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support

If you are currently claiming any of the benefits stated above you cannot claim Universal Credit, unless you've had a change of circumstances. 

Universal Credit will be paid directly to your bank account on a monthly basis and it will be your responsibility to pay your rent and charges to the landlord.  
 

What options are available?

Applications for Universal Credit can be made online on the government website (opens new window).

When the application has been submitted, an interview is arranged at your local Jobcentre Plus, where supporting documents such as your tenancy agreement and copies of any rent increase letters should be provided. 

If you have any questions about your claim please contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644

Under-occupation cap

The Under-occupation cap affects tenants who are of working age currently in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and are under occupying their home. Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced based on the number of unoccupied bedrooms in your home and you will have to pay the shortfall in rent. 

There will be a reduction in Housing Benefit if you have: 

  • one spare bedroom - your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced by 14% of the rent
  • two spare bedrooms or more - your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced by 25% of the rent

Under the new rules, one bedroom is allowed for each of the following:

  • a married or cohabiting couple
  • a young person aged 16 years or over 
  • two children of the same sex aged under 16 years old
  • two children aged under 10 years old, regardless of sex
  • any other child aged under 16 years old
  • a non-resident carer (the claimant or their partner has a disability and needs overnight care)

What options are available?

Downsizing

The best course of action is to move to a smaller property which matches your current household size. If you do decide to move, we recommend you act quickly, as you will still be required to pay the shortfall in rent until you move. Find out more about moving home. 
 

Pay the difference

If you’re unable to move, you can make up the difference in rent from other benefits or contact your local income team for support. We can also make an appointment for you to see a specialist adviser, who can give budgeting, debt and benefits advice.

The Money Advice Service provides a useful online budget planner (opens new window) to help you manage your finances. 

Benefit cap

The Benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of benefit you can get. It applies to working age households.

The cap limits the amount of money these households can receive to:

  • £442.31 per week (£23,000 a year) for couples
  • £442.31 per week (£23,000 a year) if you’re a single parent and your children live with you
  • £296.35 per week (£15,410 a year) for single adults

The Benefit cap will limit the total income you can get from the following benefits:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit and Guardian’s allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance, except where it is paid with the support component
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance / Mother’s Allowance / Widow’s Pension
  • Universal Credit

Which households are exempt from the cap?

The cap only affects working age households. Working age claimants are normally aged over 16 and under the qualifying age for State Pension Credit.

If you are entitled to the following benefits you will also be exempt from the cap:

  • Working Tax Credit
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • the support component of ESA
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • War Widows and War Widowers Pension

Personal Independence Payment

Personal Independent Payment (PIP) has replaced Disability Living Allowance for people aged between 16-64 who have extra care needs or mobility difficulties due to their disability. If you are under the age of 16 or over 64 and receive Disability Living Allowance you will not be affected.

The amount of money you receive depends on how your condition is affecting your everyday life. This assessment will be made by a health professional. For further information visit the government website (opens new window).

If your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit has been reduced and you think you will have difficulty in paying your rent on time, you need to contact a member of our income team straight away so we can help. We can book an appointment for you to see a specialist adviser who can give budgeting, debt and benefits advice. 

We currently have support services from the following: 

  • Citizen Advice Bureau
  • Employment Services 
  • HELP- The Homelessness Employment and Learning Project
  • Shelter 
  • Westminster Floating Support 
  • Specialist welfare reform adviser

We also have a specialist welfare reform adviser who can assist and support during the transition of benefits by helping apply for Universal credit, assisting with a Personal Independent payment applications and many more.

In addition, our dedicated employment team will help you find work in and around Westminster. If you are looking for work, the team can support you in the following ways:

  • help writing your CV
  • help completing application forms
  • support in preparing for interviews
  • job searches

If you would like further information about our employment services please contact the employment team:

Telephone: 020 7245 2242 

Email: residentengagement@westminster.gov.uk