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Benefit changes and paying for housing

Changes to benefits may affect home owners as well as tenants

The housing crisis means it’s hard for people to find affordable homes and to keep up their payments.[1] Changes to benefits may be making things even harder, for home owners as well as tenants.

Lord Freud, the former Minister for Welfare Reform, said that the six week wait for Universal Credit payments is causing around one quarter of claimants to fall into rent arrears.[2]

According to the Chartered Institute of Housing, the lower Benefit Cap which started in November 2016 was set to affect 116,000 families[3], making it harder for them to afford their rent.

And for home owners, the help with mortgage interest, which helps around 170,000 families on low incomes stay in their homes, is now only available after a 39 week wait.

MPs are concerned about the effect of benefit changes and two inquiries have been launched to find out what the problems are. 

If you have been affected by Universal Credit or the Benefit Cap and you want Parliament to know about any problems you had, you can make a submission online.

Universal Credit Inquiry

The Universal Credit inquiry is open until 20 March 2017. 

The inquiry includes questions about:

  • How long did it take for you to get paid Universal Credit?

  • Did the wait cause you problems?

  • Did you get behind on your rent?

  • Do you think Universal Credit should be paid differently?

Go to the Universal Credit inquiry page of the Parliament website to put in your response.

Benefit Cap Inquiry

The Benefit Cap inquiry is open until 7 April 2017.

The inquiry includes questions about:

  • Have you started to work or to work more since your benefits went down under the lower cap?

  • Is there a reason that you haven’t?  What would help you to work more?

  • Have you moved house to somewhere more affordable since your benefits went down under the lower cap?

  • Is there a reason that you haven’t?

Go the Benefit Cap inquiry page of the Parliament website to put in your response.

Keep up-to-date on the changes that might affect you with our Benefit Changes Timetable and make sure you get advice if you’re not sure how you will be affected. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a benefits adviser near you.


[1] Shelter. (2014) What is the housing crisis. (Accessed: 28 February 2017)

[2] Butler, P. (2017) Universal Credit issues driving tenants into debt, ex-minister admits. (Accessed: 28 February 2017)

[3] Chartered Institute of Housing. (2016). The-likely-impact-of-the-lower-overall-Benefit-Cap-(PDF-file-size:-2.03mb). (Accessed: 28 February 2017).

Coronavirus Information

My child's school is closing due to the coronavirus outbreak. What can I do?

The government has announced that schools will be closing for the majority of students from 20 March 2020.

Children in the following groups will still be able to go to school if their parents choose to send them:

  • The children of key workers
  • Children receiving support from social services
  • Children with disabilities
  • Children with Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs​)
  • Young carers

If you need to take time off work to care for your children, you should check your employment rights on the ACAS website.

What if I am well but my employer tells me not to work because of the coronavirus outbreak?

This will depend on your contract and is an employment law issue. You may be able to get advice from ACAS on this. You will not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

What if I have been in contact with someone with coronavirus and don’t want to go to work and risk infecting my colleagues and customers?

You will only be able to get special help under the coronavirus rules if you are self-isolating in accordance with NHS advice. You can find the current NHS coronavirus advice on the NHS website

What if I am not getting any customers in my self-employed business because of the coronavirus?

You may be able to claim Universal Credit, but you will not be entitled to any special support because of the coronavirus outbreak. You may have the minimum income floor applied to your claim, or you may be required to look for full time-employment.

I’m on a zero-hours contract, will I get paid if I’m told to self isolate?

If you are self-isolating in accordance with NHS guidance and you usually earn at least £120 per week, you should get Statutory Sick Pay even if you are on a zero hours contract.

What if I am homeless with no income so can’t self-isolate and need funds for accommodation?

The government has not published any guidance for what you should do if you are homeless and develop coronavirus symptoms. It would be best to contact your local authority for advice. You should do so by telephone if at all possible.