Universal Credit – How does is affect you?
PHA Homes is seeing more and more people transferring from the former six top benefits onto Universal Credit (UC). Universal Credit is causing problems for some of our tenants because when a claim is made you will have to wait five weeks before you get your first UC payment. You will still need to cover your bills during this time.
PHA Homes has put together a simple checklist below for all tenants who are, or may be, in receipt of UC. You will need to think about what you spend over the month and plan how you will spend and save.
Whilst on Housing Benefit, or before transitioning to UC, ensure your rent account is not in arrears and there is at least one month’s credit on your rent account.
Ensure you include your rent element in your claim and make sure the information you give to UC is up to date and accurate.
You can apply for an advanced payment; however, you will need to pay this back within 12 months.
You will need to apply for a council tax reduction to see if you are eligible.
Seek budgeting advice from Citizens Advice or the Money Advice Service if you are concerned how to prioritise and budget your monthly payment.
You can request Personal Budgeting Support from your work coach by telephone, online or face-to-face.
Ensure your rent is paid before anything else, your rent is your main priority bill and is the roof above yours and your families head.
If you have other debts, ensure that you advise those companies that you are in rent arrears and these need to be paid before setting up arrangements with other companies.
You can ask UC for your payments to be paid directly to PHA Homes if you have any of the following: –
1) rent arrears,
2) learning difficulties,
3) mental health issues,
4) suffer from domestic abuse or addiction problems,
5) are a Care leaver or have complicated issues affecting your family,
7) have debts or fines already being taken out of your benefit,
8) have a disability, etc.
Please note, none of these are a long-term option.
You can request with UC to be paid between two payments per month, as opposed to one payment per month.
You may be entitled to a Discretionary Housing Payment via Housing Benefit if the changes to your benefits mean you receive less money.
You can contact PHA Homes if you are struggling to get essentials such as food.
Keep UC updated with any changes to your household
Contact UC: 0800 328 9344, or through your work coach on your online journal, or in person at the job centre.
Work out how much you could be entitled to via the universal credit benefit calculator:
You should note that PHA Homes will not stop any of its arrears processes and action may be taken against your tenancy if payments are not made in advance. We are happy to work with you to help you avoid falling into arrears. Should you fall into arrears, we are happy to discuss mutually acceptable arrangements to clear your arrears over an agreed period. You can call our Housing Team on 01730 263589 for more information.
Welfare reform will have a real impact on the way people receive benefits and the money you have in your household budget.
If you are entitled to housing benefit, this will be included in your total amount of benefit and this may have to be paid directly to you, as the claimant. It is then your responsibility to pay your rent from this income. You must ensure that you pay your rent on time to avoid falling into arrears and putting your home at risk.
Under the benefit cap, the total amount of benefits that can be received by any individual or family will be limited to a maximum amount of:
- £500 per week for single parents and couples with children
- £350 per week for single people
You will probably be affected by the benefit cap if you are out of work and claiming benefits such as income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance. Housing benefit counts towards the maximum amount of benefit that can be paid.
There are currently four local authorities trialling the Welfare Reforms. This is to enable testing of the systems, processes and claimant information and aims to allow for lessons to be learnt and put right before the national roll out. The date of this is still to be confirmed
Before you are effected by the Welfare Reforms you should start to budget for other household expenses and if you do not already have a bank account, open an account which allows you to set up Direct Debits, you can then ensure that your rent is paid on the day you receive your benefits to avoid falling into arrears.
Please contact our Housing Team on 01730 263589 if you require any further information.
Under Occupation Charge (Bedroom Tax)
If you are of working age (i.e. below Pension Credit age), new rules are being introduced by the Government that may affect you and you may need to pay some or more rent.
If you are seen as living in a property that is too big for you, your Housing Benefit will be reduced.
Housing Benefit will only pay for one bedroom under the following rules:
- each adult couple
- any other person aged 16 or over
- two children of the same sex aged under 16 will be expected to share a bedroom
- two children under 10 regardless of their sex will be expected to share a bedroom
- any other child
- a carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care.
It does not matter whether your extra room is actually ‘spare’ or in use, the new rules will apply even if:
- you and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
- the main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you
- you are sick or disabled
- you have foster children
How much could I lose?
You could lose an amount equal to 14% of your Housing Benefit for one ‘extra’ bedroom and 25% of your Housing Benefit for two or more ‘extra’ bedrooms. You will need to pay the difference between your Housing Benefit and your rent.
You won’t be affected if:
- you live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit or
- you and your partner are old enough to receive pension credits. In April 2013, the Pension Credit age will be around 61 years and six months.