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October 2016 Benefits Update

More details on the incoming Benefit Cap and what to do if your tax credits have been stopped by Concentrix

Benefit Cap

Our September 2016 update explained what the Benefit Cap is and how it is changing. 

This article gives more news about the imminent change.

The Benefit Cap is reducing on 7 November 2016.  Estimates of the number of people who will be affected by the new Benefit Cap have been increasing since the reduction was announced. In their impact assessment, Citizens Advice said an estimated 150,000 adults and 395,000 children will be affected by the lower Benefit Cap.

When is it changing?

The new Benefit Cap will apply to some people straight away on 7 November 2016 and it will apply to other people later on.  Read our Benefit Cap Benefit Guide to find out if the cap applies to you.

If your benefit entitlement is more than the current cap, the new cap will apply to you straight away from 7 November 2016 onwards, unless you are exempt.  You could become exempt from the Benefit Cap on 7 November 2016 if you or your partner is a carer or you receive Guardian’s Allowance.   

If your benefit entitlement is less than the current cap but more than the new cap, the new cap will apply to you when your local council implements it.  We are waiting for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to release exact dates for when the new cap takes effect in each area. 

What can I do?

If you are or will be subject to the Benefit Cap, you may struggle to meet your day-to-day costs when the cap is reduced.  Make sure you are receiving the right amount of benefits by using our free Benefits Calculator.  

Check whether you are eligible for benefits that are not included in the cap. You can check which benefits may be available to you in our "Your Situation" pages.

Make sure you are not missing out on an exemption or a grace period, which would mean the Benefit Cap does not apply to you. You can read more about exemptions and grace periods in our Benefit Cap benefit guide

If you are struggling to pay your rent because the cap reduces your Housing Benefit or the Housing Costs element of your Universal Credit, you can apply to your local council for Discretionary Housing Payment which may be awarded to top up your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit for a few months. Your council may also run a Local Welfare Assistance scheme to help people in emergencies.

If you’re not sure whether you can afford to make ends meet and you need advice about what to do next, you can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a benefits advisor near you.

Concentrix and tax credits

Concentrix is paid by HMRC to reduce fraud and overpayment in Tax Credits claims. Over recent months, hundreds of people have said that Concentrix stopped their Tax Credits without warning or for the wrong reason (1).  We know that some people have problems getting through to Concentrix to sort things out, and others say it is taking weeks to get their Tax Credits paid again.

HMRC has announced that they will not renew their contract with Concentrix which expires in May 2017.  In the meantime, HMRC has increased the number of staff available to help resolve any issues.

If your Tax Credits have stopped, check whether the claim is suspended or terminated.  If the claim is suspended, make sure you know why so that you can submit any evidence that is needed as soon as possible.  If the claim is terminated and you think that it shouldn’t be, you can challenge the decision to end your claim.  You can read more about challenging Tax Credits decisions in our Challenging a Tax Credits Decision benefit guide.  

If you are in hardship because your Tax Credits are not being paid, you can ask HMRC for a discretionary payment.  HMRC does not have to say yes but you can request the payment by calling the Tax Credits helpline on 0345 300 3900.  Our Advice Finder can find a benefits advisor near you who can help with the process.  Advisors can often get through to HMRC faster.

If your Tax Credits problem is taking too long to be resolved, raise a complaint. You can find out how to make a complaint to HMRC on the government website.  You could also ask your local MP to intervene.  You can find your MP’s contact details by entering your postcode on the Parliament website. A local adviser could help you with this too.

If you are struggling because your Tax Credits are not being paid, you may be eligible for a welfare assistance grant from your local council.  You can read more about them on our Emergency Assistance page.  

Your local Foodbank could help with food and perhaps advice.  You can find your closest one on the Trussel Trust website

Always get help and advice immediately if the problem is affecting your mental health, putting you at risk of homelessness or increasing your debt.  You can use our Advice Finder or contact these organisations.

Housing and Homelessness

Debt

Mental Health

(1)  BBC News. (2016). Tax credits firm Concentrix will not have contract renewed. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-37356646. Last accessed 10 Oct 2016.