Changes to benefits

Government welfare reform

The Government has started a major programme of welfare reform. If you claim benefits you will be affected.

Some changes have already been introduced, but there are more to come.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is the new welfare benefit that replaces working-age income-related benefits. These are:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit

It has been introduced across the country, including in Kensington and Chelsea. You can find out more here.

Housing Benefit

We can only backdate a Housing Benefit claim from a working age person for a maximum of one month. You have to show good reason why your claim needs to be backdated. For people of pension age, Housing Benefit can be backdated for three months. 

If you leave Great Britain to go abroad for more than four weeks, you cannot continue to receive Housing Benefit or Pension Credit. 'Great Britain' is defined as England, Scotland and Wales. Absences in the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland or the Channel Islands count as abroad.

If your absence abroad is in connection with the death of a close relative or other special reasons, we may be able to extend the period of absence.

If you receive Housing Benefit and plan to go away for more than four weeks, please contact the Council’s Benefits Service on 020 7361 3006.

Benefits limited to the amount for two children

If you have a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017, you will not be able to claim Child Tax Credit for that child. Instead, you will only receive the amount of Child Tax Credit for children who were born before 6 April 2017.

There are exceptions to this rule, for example:

  • a multiple birth
  • a child born as the result of rape
  • where there is a Special Guardianship Order

If your Child Tax Credit is restricted in this way, the Housing Benefit allowance for your third or any subsequent child will not be awarded. In practice, your Housing Benefit is unlikely to decrease or increase as a result of this change.

Local Housing Allowance caps

Local Housing Allowance is the name for the Housing Benefit that most tenants who rent from private landlords receive. The Government has placed a cap on the amount of Local Housing Allowance that people can get. Find out more about Local Housing Allowance.

Council Tax Reduction

Council Tax Benefit is localised. This means each local authority designs its own scheme to help people on low incomes pay their Council Tax.

Find out more about our Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

Your entitlement to Council Tax Reduction may change if you move to another local authority area.

Local Support Payments

The Social Fund is to help with living costs that are not covered by your regular benefit payments.

Some parts of the Social Fund are still operated by the DWP. These are:

  • Budgeting Loans
  • Funeral Payments
  • Sure Start Maternity Grants
  • Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
  • Short Term Advances (previously known as Crisis Loans)

The Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans to cover other expenses or situations no longer exist. Instead, local authorities may choose to design their own discretionary scheme. In Kensington and Chelsea the scheme is Local Support Payments.

Housing Benefit: spare bedroom restrictions

If you claim Housing Benefit and are a council or housing association tenant, you may be affected by this. If you are under Pension Credit age and you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms, your Housing Benefit may be reduced. You can find out more here.

The benefit cap

The amount of benefit you can receive is capped. The Government adds up how much money you get from a range of benefits, including:

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

There are different rules if you live in supported housing.

The Benefit Cap reduced in 2016 to £441 per week for a couple or family, and £296 per week for a single person. These figures are for London; lower caps apply outside London.

If the total comes to more than these amounts, your Housing Benefit payments will reduce.

The council works with tenants affected by the cap, to offer support and advice.

Housing Credit

Pensioners in receipt of Housing Benefit will receive a new benefit. Housing Credit is distributed through Pension Credit instead of from the Council. The Government has not yet decided exactly how Housing Credit will work or when it will start. It is unlikely to be before 2023.

Personal Independence Payment

A new benefit for working-age adults has replaced Disability Living Allowance. It is the Personal Independence Payment .

If you are over 16 years old, you may be able to claim Personal Independence Payment. You can find out how to do this on the Government's website.

A restriction to the annual increase to benefits

Most working-age benefits will not increase until at least 2020.

The basic rates of the following benefits are affected:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Tax Credits
  • Child Benefit

This also applies to Universal Credit.

The disability and carer elements within these benefits, and the Support Component of ESA, will rise by the rate of inflation.