In April 2013 the government introduced some major changes to the UK benefit system which may have affected your benefit payments.

We want to make sure you are well informed about how you can reduce the impact of the changes and tell you about any help and support on offer.

Universal credit

Universal Credit is a monthly payment for working-age people who are on a low income or out of work. It replaces the following benefits:

  • Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Income-based Employment and Support allowance
  • Income support
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Housing benefit.

What does it mean to me?

The biggest change is that you will receive one single monthly payment, including your housing cost. This means it’s your responsibility to pay your rent.

It is paid monthly, in arrears, direct to a bank account and must be managed online.

Universal Credit will not affect everybody straight away. The scheme is being gradually rolled out across the country. You can see whether Universal Credit is available in your area by checking your postcode on

However, it is now being rolled out so that if you are making a new claim for one of the benefits listed above, you will instead be directed to make a claim for Universal Credit.

How do I prepare for Universal credit?

  • Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears, so you'll have to wait 1 month and 7 days before your first payment. Therefore it's a good idea to make extra payments on your rent accounts to build up a credit.
  • Open a bank account with a direct debit facility. You'll need a bank account to receive Universal Credit. Direct debit enables you to pay your rent automatically each month.
  • Get help and advice on how to budget each month.
  • If you're still unsure, get help and advice from our Money Advice Team by emailing or calling 01772 666446. 

Bedroom tax

If you rent and have too many bedrooms for the size of your family you may lose up to 25% of your housing benefit.

Under the new government rules you're entitled to 1 bedroom for:

  • Each adult couple
  • Any other person aged 16 or over
  • 2 children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • 2 children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
  • Any other child
  • An overnight carer (who does not normally live with you).

You're also allowed an extra room if:

  • You've fostered a child or become an approved foster carer in the last 12 months
  • You have adult children in the armed forces (as long as they intend to return).

Disabled children and couples may be eligible for their own room if:

  • They are eligible for the highest or middle-rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Daily living component Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance higher rate or Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Your local authority is satisfied that sharing a bedroom would pose significant disruption or disturbance.

The bedroom tax will apply if:

  • Your children live elsewhere - but you have a spare room for when they stay with you
  • You are of working age (16 upwards to your pension credit age. You can check your state pension age on the website) 
  • You only get a small amount of housing benefit
  • You are sick or disabled.
  1. I have a spare bedroom. How will it affect me?

If you have 1 spare bedroom your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay every week. If you have 2 or more spare bedrooms you'll lose 25%.

Give me an example

If you get £70 per week in housing benefit - and have 1 spare bedroom - your benefit will be cut by 14%. This means you'll end up with £60.20.

Contact our money advice team

You can contact our money advice team by emailing or calling 01772 666446.

Benefits cap

The government has set a limit on the amount of benefit people can receive so that you will never receive more in benefit than you would if you were in work. The cap applies to all people claiming benefits who are of working age but are not currently in work.

The government says that the average amount of benefit lost is around £83 a week. If the cap does apply to you then any extra benefit you receive above the cap will be taken from your Housing Benefit. When you move to Universal Credit it will be taken from that.

Who is exempt?

  • Single people or couples who are of pension age (unless on Universal Credit)
  • Households where one or more members receive Working Tax Credit or in Universal Credit and earnings are £430 net or more for the month which is being assessed
  • Households where at least one member receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Constant Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payments
  • War widows and widowers
  • Households where you, your partner or a dependent child receive carers allowance or guardians allowance
  • People in receipt of industrial injuries disablement

What is the cap?

The benefit cap levels for Greater London are:

  • £350 a week for single adults with no children
  • £442 a week for couples and lone parent

The benefit cap levels for outside Greater London are:

  • £258 a week for single adults with no children
  • £385 a week for couples and lone parent

Which benefits are included?

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

What can you do?

  • Look for work. If you are able to work, getting a job may bring in enough money so you don’t need to claim benefits, or you may be able to increase the number of hours you already work to claim working tax credits
  • Get budgeting advice. If you’re getting less benefit and need some help with budgeting, contact the Money Advice Team by emailing or calling 01772 666446

Pension credit

Once you have reached state pension age, you may be eligible to claim Pension Credit to top up your income.

Even if you are only entitled to a small amount of Pension Credit it is worth doing so as it can help you to access other benefits.

State pension age is increasing year on year. Use this calculator to find out whether you qualify for Pension Credit.

According to Age UK, about 4 million older people are entitled to Pension Credit, yet about 1 in 3 of those are still not claiming it. Make sure you are claiming all you are entitled by contacting our Money Advice Team by emailing or calling 01772 666446

Changes to Housing Benefit

If you are of Pension Credit age, the way in which you claim your housing benefit is changing.

Housing Benefit is being abolished. When the Government introduces changes to Housing Benefit in 2017, you will need to be claiming Pension Credit to qualify for the new Housing Credit.

Need some advice or help?

There are plenty of support services available nearby that would be happy to assist you. Why not try popping into a branch of:

You could also try search on Google using key words relating to your query (for example: benefits advice).