This page covers welfare benefits and includes:
- Universal Credit
- Benefit cap
- Bedroom tax
1. Universal Credit – How does it affect you?
PHA Homes is seeing more and more people transferring from the former six top benefits onto Universal Credit (UC). The former benefits were (Child Tax Credits, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Job Seekers Allowance, Income -Related Employment Support Allowance, Working Tax Credits).
You will likely be rolled onto UC if you are directly contacted by the Department of Working Pensions, or if you report a change of circumstances. You may be eligible if you are aged between 18-65, you are on low income or out of work, and you have less than £16,000 in savings.
You will be assigned a work coach and have access to a journal to update your information and see the breakdown of your entitlement. Your payments will usually be monthly and are for you to manage yourself, however, if you are struggling with this you should contact UC directly to adjust the payment frequency.
To find out if you are eligible you can use the benefits calculator available at Benefits calculators
Typically, there is a 5-week wait before you will receive your first payment, so it is important your budget accordingly. However, if you are struggling you can ask for an advance payment with UC to help with living costs, and they will deduct this from your ongoing entitlement.
It is your responsibility to keep UC updated with any changes to your circumstances, e.g. rent increases, increase/decrease in wages, etc, and to pay your own rent. UC may sanction you if you do not keep them updated. You must also always keep PHA Homes full updated and ensure your rent payments are met in accordance with your tenancy agreement.
For further assistance you can contact the Universal Credit helpline on:
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Online: Through your work coach or journal
In person: At the job centre
PHA Homes 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.
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 budgeting throughout 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 and we can issue foodbank vouchers.
Keep UC updated with any changes to your household
2. Benefit Cap
The benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of benefit you can get and is applicable to most people aged 16-65. It affects most benefits including Universal Credit and Housing Benefit. With UC you might not be affected by the benefit cap for a 9-month grace-period.
Currently the benefit cap outside of London is:
- £384.68 per week (or £20,000 a year) if you are in a couple, or if you are a single parent and your children live with you.
- £257.69 per week (or £13,400 a year) if you are a single adult.
To see how much your benefit might be capped you can use the benefit cap calculator available at Benefit cap calculator
Please contact our Housing Team on 01730 263589 if you require any further information.
3. Under Occupation Charge (Bedroom Tax)
You may receive less in Housing Benefit or Housing Costs Element in a UC claim if you are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms. The maximum rent that can be covered is reduced by:
- 14% for 1 spare bedroom
- 25% for 2 or more spare bedrooms
The shortfall amount would fall as your responsibility to pay each week.
You can challenge bedroom tax decisions with Housing Benefit or UC if you can evidence your need for the spare bedroom (e.g. live in carer).
You can also consider downsizing your home which PHA Homes may be able to help with if you contact 01730 263589.
You should also notify your local authority to advise them as they will be able to assist you with downsizing as well.