Advice Services

Welfare Reform and Benefits

Changes to your benefits

Welfare reform is the term being used to describe recent changes to welfare benefits. Here are some of the key elements of welfare reform which may affect you:

Bedroom Tax (official name is the Social Sector Size Criteria)

Bedroom tax reduces the Housing Benefit or Universal Credit entitlement of tenants of working age who live in social housing.

You will be asked to contribute towards your rent if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and your property has more bedrooms than your household requires.

Under Bedroom tax, the eligible rent used to calculate your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will be reduced by 14% if you and your household under-occupy your home by 1 bedroom or 25% if you and your household under-occupy your home by 2 bedrooms.

For more information about how many rooms you and your family are entitled to visit the UK Government website.

If you are struggling to pay your rent because you are affected by Bedroom tax, there are some things that you can do:

  • Rent the bedrooms with your landlord’s permission, although this is likely to negatively affect your welfare benefit entitlement

  • Ask for help- Your local council may help with the cost of these bedrooms for a limited time if you make a successful Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) application. Your family may also help to pay for the cost of these bedrooms if they visit and stay with you from time to time.

  • Downsize – You may look for a smaller property to move to. Register on HomeSwapper to look for a smaller home or ask us about a transfer. Talk to us about our downsizing cash incentive of £1,000.

We can also discuss your options if your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is not paying your full rent and you live in a property that exceeds your needs.

Benefit Cap

Since November 2016, a limit has been placed on how much a welfare benefit a claimant may receive on an annual basis. The cap is based on the total amount of out of work benefits that you and your partner are entitled to. The latest Benefit Cap amounts can be found on the UK Government website.

You can find out whether you are affected by the Benefit cap by using the Benfit Cap Caluclator. (excludes Universal Credit claimants)

Benefit Cap exemptions can be found on the UK Government website.

If you need help and support with budgeting, please contact Customer Services on 02078 607 7777 or

Limited welfare benefits payment for children

Your Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, or Tax Credits may be capped If you have a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017.

Universal Credit and Tax Credits

From 6th April 2017, if you become responsible for a child born on or after 6 April 2017 you may not receive any further payments if you already receive Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit for two or more children. This does not apply if you have multiple births or specified exceptional circumstances.

From 6 April 2017, new claims for Child Tax Credit will not be eligible for the ‘family element’ of £545 per year.

Universal Credit claimants will not receive the “first child premium” if the eldest child was born on or after 6 April 2017.

Housing Benefit

If you make a new claim for Housing Benefit from 6th April 2017, your personal allowance will be restricted to two children.

If you have an existing Housing Benefit claim any new children born or moving into your household on or after 6 April 2017 will also not be included in your personal allowance for Housing Benefit.

Also, from 6 April 2017, Child Benefit is no longer disregarded as income, so your Child Benefit payments may affect how much Housing Benefit you receive.

Employment and Support Allowance

From 6 April 2017, if you claim Employment and Support Allowance and you are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group, you will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance because the Work-Related Activity component is being abolished.

You will not be affected by this change if you are placed in the Support Group.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has been replaced with Personal Independence Payment for all claimants of working age (aged 16-64)

You, your partner or adult child should apply for Personal Independence payments if you suffer with an illness or disability that severely affects your daily living.

To make a claim for PIP, telephone the DWP PIP claims on 0800 917 2222 or text phone 0800 917 7777 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. When you call, make sure that you have the following personal information ready:

  • Contact details, for example telephone number

  • Date of birth

  • National Insurance number

  • Bank or building society account number and sort code

  • Your doctor or health worker’s name, address and telephone number

  • Dates and addresses for any time you’ve spent abroad, in a care home or hospital

  • Contact details for any authorised representative who will act on your behalf

Following your call you will be sent a form to complete titled ‘How your disability affects you’. There will also be notes about how to complete this form. Usually you must return the completed form to the DWP within one month of the date of their letter.

Please ensure that you keep a copy of your completed PIP application and confirm with the DWP that your application has been received.

If you need help to complete your PIP application, please Contact Us.

Council Tax Support

Council Tax benefit was abolished in April 2013. This benefit paid some or all the council tax for persons on benefits or a low income.

Council Tax benefit was replaced by Council Tax Reduction (CTR). Each council manage their scheme.

Your income, council tax liability, immigration status, right to reside, habitual residence status and capital all determine how much CTR you receive.

Your council may decide to reduce or cancel your council tax bill even if you are not exempt from paying council tax, nor entitled to a discount or reduction.

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

You must be in receipt of Housing benefit to be eligible to make an application for DHP.

For your DHP application, you will have to provide proof of your income, state your expenditure, the reasons why you are unable to pay your rent and provide supporting documents.

Universal Credit in my area

Universal Credit will eventually be introduced in an area where you live.

In order to check whether Universal Credit is in your area, visit the UK Government website.

Universal Credit Frequently Asked Questions

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit replaces:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • Housing Benefit

  • Working Tax Credit

  • Child Tax Credit

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Income Support

Your Jobcentre Plus or Tax Credit office will let you know the date that you will be moving to Universal Credit.

When you apply for Universal Credit, all the benefits it replaces will stop. You must tell us and your benefits office that you have applied for Universal Credit.

How do I prepare for Universal Credit?

  • Learn how to use a computer and the internet

  • Ensure that you have an account which can accept Universal Credit payments

  • Use your bank or savings account to manage your money now

  • Manage what you receive now so that it covers your monthly expenses

  • Begin making payments for your rent now and aim to get your rent account into credit

  • If you have a partner, discuss how you will manage your joint universal credit income

Get help with budgeting, and debt management if you need it

Who can apply for Universal Credit?

Anyone aged 18 and up to pension age, that is on a low or nil income.

Where do I make an application for Universal Credit?

All Universal Credit claims must usually be made online.

To make a Universal Credit claim and find out more, visit the UK Government website. If you have difficulty making a Universal Credit claim online, please telephone Universal Credit helpline, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Telephone: 0345 600 0723

Welsh language: 0800 012 1888

Textphone: 0345 600 0743

You will be asked to attend an appointment at your local JobcentrePlus once your online Universal Credit claim has been successful.

Your Universal Credit claim may be cancelled if you do not attend your appointment at the Jobcentre..

Please contact us when you apply for Universal Credit so that we can provide a rent statement and any other documents or details you require to support your claim.

Your Universal Credit payment may be delayed, not paid or you may receive a reduced entitlement if you provide incorrect details or documents to the DWP.

What is included in Universal Credit?

  • Housing costs (rent). As your rent is included in your Universal Credit payment, you must pay your rent to your landlord.

  • Basic standard (personal) allowance

  • Child element

  • Disabled child element- if you are responsible for a disabled child with care needs; you may receive a lower or higher rate

  • Help with child care costs

How much can I get on Universal Credit?

Universal Credit Allowances can be found on the UK Government website.

Can I work and still get Universal Credit?

Yes, you can. When you are employed you are eligible for a Work Allowance. You will get the lower rate Work Allowance if housing costs are included in your maximum Universal Credit allowance or the higher rate if housing costs are not included in your maximum allowance.

Can I work and still get Universal Credit?

Yes, you can. When you are employed you are eligible for a Work Allowance. You will get the lower rate Work Allowance if housing costs are included in your maximum Universal Credit allowance or the higher rate if housing costs are not included in your maximum allowance.

Work Allowance - Age, circumstances and rates

Age and circumstances

Higher rate

Lower rate

Single or part of a couple and responsible for one or more children

£ 397.00


Single or part of a couple with limited ability to work



Single and no restrictions on ability to work



A deduction or taper will also be applied to your Universal Credit award if your net monthly income exceeds your Work Allowance. This taper is £0.63 pence for every £1 that you earn. So, for every £1 that you earn above your work allowance your Universal Credit will be reduced by £0.63 pence.

Universal Credit - looking for work

When you apply for Universal Credit you must sign a claimant commitment.

This is a signed declaration stating what you will do to ensure that you find or get ready to begin work.

Your Universal Credit payments may be stopped or reduced if you fail to keep your Claimant Commitment or fail to do take an action that you ought to have done, for example attending a work focus interview.

You will be assigned a work coach who will provide support and advice regarding your Universal Credit claim and help with finding employment.

Your job searches will be completed online via your online Universal Jobmatch account.

If you have children, you will be expected to begin making plans about returning to work when your child is aged between 1 and 2. When your child is aged 3 you must actively prepare to return to work. This will involve attending meetings and training.

You can limit your availability for work to normal school hours if you have a child aged under 13.

My Universal Credit payment has stopped or been reduced, what should I do?

Contact Universal Credit on 0345 600 4272 or 0345 600 0723 to find out why your payments have stopped.

If you disagree with the reason for stopping or reducing your Universal Credit payments, you may ask for the DWP to review their decision. This is called Mandatory Reconsideration. Usually, you must apply for Mandatory Reconsideration within one month of the date of the decision to reduce or stop your Universal Credit payments.

If you do not agree with the Mandatory Reconsideration decision you receive you may submit an appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. Usually, this appeal must be submitted within one month of the date of the Mandatory Reconsideration decision.

Financial help when you receive less Universal Credit?

When you receive a sanction, you may be able to get help to pay your essential expenses but you must pay it back. You may ask the DWP for a hardship payment but it will be repaid by making deductions from your future Universal Credit payments.

When will Universal Credit come into effect in my area?

You may be asked to make a Universal Credit claim when there is a change in your circumstances.

I am under 21 years old, how will I be affected by Universal Credit?

Persons aged between 18 and 21 will not be automatically entitled to help to pay their housing costs. There are exceptions for parents, vulnerable groups and persons who previously needed help to afford their rent.

For the first six months of your Universal Credit claim you will be required to participate in a structured programme to help you to develop the skills that you need to gain employment. This is called the Youth Obligation.

At the end of six months, if you have not yet found employment, you must apply for an apprenticeship, trainee-ship, gain work-based skills or complete a mandatory work placement.

You may be given some exemptions if you are vulnerable or were employed for at least six months prior to making your Universal Credit claim.