Benefit changes- welfare reform

Temporary absence rule changing

With effect from the 28 July 2016 the 13 week temporary absence rule is reducing to 4 weeks. This will apply only to cases where the absence is outside Great Britain. As Northern Ireland is outside of Great Britain the new rules also apply to people who travel there.

In certain circumstances the local authority may be able to use their discretion and extend the period  by a further 4 weeks if they feel it is reasonable to do so. Exceptional circumstance rules may apply, for example, for members of the armed forces or offshore employees. 

New Living Wage

From April 2016, all workers aged 25 or over must be paid the new living wage of £7.20 per hour. This compares with the current national minimum wage (NMW) for this age group of £6.70 per hour.

Workers under 25 years old must continue to be paid the NMW. The current rates are:

  • Apprentices £3.30 per hour
  • Under 18s £3.87 per hour
  • 18-20 £5.30 per hour
  • 21 to 24 £6.70 per hour

To avoid being overpaid customers must let us know about any increase in their earnings this change may cause as soon as possible. You can do this online.

Reduced backdating period for working age claimants

From the 1 April 2016 the maximum period for which Housing Benefit claims can be backdated for working age claimants is reducing from 6 months to one month.

Customers must still have good reason for not having made their claim earlier and further information or supporting evidence may be requested before a backdate is allowed.

The backdating period for persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit remains at three months.

Please note Council Tax Reduction is unable to be backdated.

Removal of the family premium from the calculation of housing benefit

With effect from the 1 May 2016 the family premium will no longer be used in the calculation of a person's Housing Benefit. It will also affect existing claimants who from that date would otherwise have received the family premium because of a change in circumstances.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to be frozen for 4 years

The current Local Housing Allowance rates came into effect on the 1 April 2016. These rates will now remain frozen as they are for a further 4 years. Therefore a customer's LHA rate will not be reviewed or change unless they have a change of circumstance mid year that would affect their LHA rate  such as a new child joining the household or a non dependent moving in. You can view the current Local Housing Allowance Rates on our website.

Benefit and Tax Credit Rates

Working age benefits and tax credits are frozen for 4 years from the 1 April 2016. Pensioner benefits will be excluded from the freeze and will be protected.

Benefits included are:

  • Jobseekers Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Benefit
  • Applicable amounts for Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit

Tenants renting in the social sector (Bedroom tax)

If you are a working age tenant who rents from a housing association or other registered social landlord you may have your Housing Benefit reduced if you have one or more spare bedrooms.

The amount allowed for rent and any service charges will be reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one extra bedroom
  • 25% if you have two or more extra bedrooms
To work out how many bedrooms your household needs for Housing Benefit purposes we use the following size criteria:

One bedroom allowed for each:

  • Every adult couple or single adult
  • Any other adult aged 16 or over
  • Any two children of the same sex
  • Any two children who are younger than 10
  • Any other child (other than a foster child)
  • A carer providing overnight care

There are some exceptional circumstances that we may need to give further consideration to such as:

  • If you are an approved foster carer and have foster children living with you or will be in the near future
  • If you have an adult child in the armed forces who is currently deployed on operations but will live with you when they return home
  • If you have a disabled child who is unable to share with their sibling due to the severity of their medical condition.
If you think any of the above exceptional circumstances apply to you please contact us by email at or apply online for a Discretionary Housing payment.

If you feel you will be unable to afford the shortfall in your rent please contact your housing association who will be able to discuss what options are available.

Please remember

If you or your partner are of pensionable age and rent from a housing association we will continue to use the amount of rent you are charged to calculate the amount of benefit you receive.

Things to consider

  • Talk to your landlord and discuss what options are available such as moving to smaller accommodation or accessing money management advice to help you meet your increased housing costs
  • Will you qualify for a Discretionary Housing Payment?
  • Maximise your income by seeking employment or increasing your hours worked if possible
  • Ensure you have claimed all the benefits that you are entitled to

Benefit cap

The government cap the total amount of benefit that working age people can receive. 

The cap is calculated by adding up all the benefits you receive. The following benefits are all included as income when determining whether the benefit cap should apply:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Employment Support Allowance (except with the support component)
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance
  • Widowed Mother’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit – unless living in supported accommodation
  • Widow’s Pension
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Widow’s Pension Age-Related

If you have children or are a couple your benefit cap is £384.62 per week (£20,000.24 per year).

The cap for single people with no children is £257.69 per week (£13,399.88 per year).

Any amount you have coming in over this will be deducted from your Housing Benefit which means some households will not receive any help towards their rent at all.

The benefit cap only applies to working age people. Claimants in work  who qualify for working tax credit are not be subject to the cap.

The cap does not apply to households where a person, their partner or any children they are responsible for and who live with them qualify for:

  • Working Tax Credit (a claim for WTC must be made)
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Employment Support Allowance if paid with the support component
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • War Widows or Widower’s Pension
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Benefit
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Payments
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Guardian's Allowance


Things to consider

  • People affected by the benefit cap should be receiving personal support where possible to find work from Jobcentre plus or  local work programmes.
  • Is there cheaper alternative accommodation available?
  • Open a bank account so that you can pay your rent by standing order direct to your landlord
  • A DWP benefit cap helpline is available to offer support and information to affected customers
For more information, telephone 0345 605 7064.

The telephone lines are open Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm.

If the DWP have offered as much support as they can to customers but feel they may still need extra housing support they will sign post customers to us and a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) could be an option.

Customers will still have to go through an income and expenditure check, benefit maximisation and debt advice or money management where necessary.

Additional advice is available at GOV.UK