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1. Benefit Changes Timetable 2018

Please note that information about some of these changes may be limited at present and also subject to further change. Although some will happen quickly, others may be introduced gradually over several years.

If you are worried about how you may be affected you should discuss this with a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find one in your area.

2018

January 2018

Universal Credit Advance

From January 2018, the amount a claimant could receive from an advance payment of Universal Credit will increase from up to 50% of their estimated entitlement to up to 100%. Claimants will be able to receive an advance payment within five days of applying. The period in which the advance is recovered will be increased from six months to 12 months

February 2018

Universal Credit

From February 2018, the government will remove the seven-day waiting period for Universal Credit, so that the claim starts from the date of application. This means that if Universal Credit is paid on time, claimants will wait five weeks for their first payment instead of six weeks.

April 2018

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) payments

From 6 April 2018, Support for Mortgage Interest will no longer exist as a benefit for new or existing claimants. Claimants will instead be invited to apply for a loan if they want to continue to be supported.  Loans will be repaid upon the sale of a claimant’s house; or on a claimant’s return to work if the borrower can afford it.

Universal Credit

From April 2018 those already on Housing Benefit will continue to receive their award for the first two weeks of their Universal Credit claim. This will be an unrecoverable payment.

The government will also make it easier for claimants to have the housing element of their award paid directly to their landlord

Claimants who live in privately rented properties who have their Housing Benefit paid directly to landlords have this option at the beginning of a claim for Universal Credit.  The government will also make it easier for claimants to have their housing element paid direct to their landlords.

Employer Childcare Vouchers will no longer be available to new claimants

New claims for Employer Supported Childcare (Childcare Vouchers) will not be accepted from April 2018.  Existing claims will continue until the child is 15 years old (or 16 years old if disabled) or the claimant starts claiming under another scheme (Childcare element of Working Tax Credit, Childcare element of Universal Credit or Tax Free Childcare), whichever is earliest.

Self-Employed National Insurance Contributions change

The government announced in the Budget 2016 that from April 2018, self-employed people will no longer pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions, which currently count towards entitlement to contributory benefits such as New State Pension. Clarification is awaited regarding how Class 4 National Insurance Contributions will count towards contributory benefit entitlement.

The proposed increase in the rate of Class 4 National Insurance Contributions announced by the Chancellor in the Spring Budget 2017 has now been reversed.  There will be no  increases to Class 4 National Insurance Contributions during the current Parliament. 

 

2019

July 2019

Universal Credit roll out

The phased introduction of Universal Credit has been pushed back numerous times. The government now expect to have Universal Credit available for all new claimants from July 2019. They expect that all claimants on existing benefits will be transferred onto Universal Credit by March 2022. See our Universal Credit Timetable to keep up with the progress of the roll out.

Universal Credit two child limit

From January 2019, families with more than two children who make new claims for Universal Credit will no longer be directed to claim Child Tax Credit instead. The two child limit will apply to those families. Families who have been awarded Universal Credit after April 2017 and have two or fewer children but who then have a third or subsequent child will have the two-child limit applied.

 

Updated November 2017

2. Benefit Changes Timetable 2017

Please note that information about some of these changes may be limited at present and also subject to further change. Although some will happen quickly, others may be introduced gradually over several years.

If you are worried about how you may be affected you should discuss this with a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find one in your area.

2017

During 2017

Tax Free Childcare

Tax Free Childcare is to be introduced as a replacement for employer supported childcare (childcare vouchers).

The government will contribute up to 20% of the first £10,000 of registered childcare costs per child, per year. This equates to a maximum of £2,000 per child, per year.

The scheme will be available to people who have an annual income under £150,000 and are not receiving help with childcare via tax credits. It is expected to reach more people than the current scheme. For further details see our Tax Free Childcare information sheet.

April 2017

ESA Work-Related Activity component abolished

From 3 April 2017, new ESA claimants who are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group will receive the same rate of payment as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and the equivalent in Universal Credit.  See our Summer Budget 2015 page.

Benefit Cap exemption for Universal Credit claimants changing

From 1 April 2017 the earnings threshold that applies to the Benefit Cap exemption for Universal Credit claimants will be changed from a fixed amount of £430 per month to the amount claimants would earn if they (or one of them, if a couple) was working 16 hours per week at national minimum wage.

The change means that for example, after April 2017 a working Universal Credit claimant aged over 25 in receipt of the Housing element (who is not otherwise exempt from the Benefit Cap) would have to earn £520 instead of £430 per month to be exempt from the cap. 

The same change will be applied to the earnings threshold for the 9 months grace period but will not affect people who have already started a grace period. Read more about how the Benefit Cap is applied in our Benefit Cap guide.

ESA permitted work limit removed

From 3 April 2017, ESA claimants who undertake permitted work and earn between £20 and £120 per week will no longer have to give up their work or stop claiming ESA after 52 weeks.

ESA sanctions reduced

From 3 April 2017, ESA claimants who are sanctioned will continue to receive 80% of their payments, instead of the current 60%. This change does not apply to ESA claimants who continue to receive the work-related activity component after 3 April 2017; they will remain subject to the 60% rate. 

Bereavement Support Payment

The current bereavement benefits (Bereavement Allowance, Bereavement PaymentWidowed Parent’s Allowance) will be replaced with the new Bereavement Support Payment (BSP). This will be introduced for new claims from April 2017.

Tax Credits and Universal Credit two child limit

In the summer budget 2015, the government proposed that support for children through Tax Credits and Universal Credit will be limited to two children from April 2017.

For Child Tax Credit, elements will not be included for a third (or more) child born on or after 6 April 2017 unless an exception applies. Elements will continue to be included for all children born before 6 April 2017.

For Universal Credit, elements will not be included for the third (or more) child who joins the family on or after 6 April 2017 unless an exception applies. Elements will continue to be included for all children who were part of the family before 6 April 2017. Families with more than two children cannot make a new claim for Universal Credit until November 2018, even if they are in a full digital service area. They will have to claim Child Tax Credit in the meantime.   

Equivalent changes will be made to the Housing Benefit rules. See our Summer Budget 2015 page

Tax Credit Family Element removed

People starting a family after April 2017 will no longer be eligible for the Family Element in tax credits. The equivalent in Universal Credit, known as the First Child Element, will also not be available for new claims from April 2017.

Universal Credit requirements for parents to look for work

Parents with a youngest child aged 3, including lone parents, are expected to look for work if they want to claim Universal Credit.

Universal Credit Youth Obligation

From April 2017, 18-21 year olds who have been claiming Universal Credit for six months will have to either apply for training/ apprenticeships or attend a work placements, unless they are exempt (considered to be vulnerable). 

Universal Credit Housing Costs Element removed for young people

It was proposed in the summer budget 2015 that single unemployed claimants aged under 22 would not have a Housing Costs Element included in their Universal Credit from April 2017 unless an exception applies. See our Summer Budget 2015 page.

Universal Credit taper to be reduced from 65 per cent to 63 per cent

From April 2017 the taper rate that applies in Universal Credit will be reduced from 65 per cent to 63 per cent. This means that claimants will be able to keep 37p for every £1 earned in work above work allowances rather than 35p for every £1 earned. See our Autumn Statement 2016 page.

Autumn /End of 2017

Free Childcare Extended

Free childcare entitlement will be doubled from 15 hours to 30 hours a week for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds from September 2017.

Change in Hardship Payments for mentally ill and homeless

The government proposed that hardship payments (of 60% of the benefit amount) be automatically payable to jobseekers who are mentally ill or homeless when they are sanctioned. These claimants currently have to wait two weeks before they can apply for hardship payments when they've been sanctioned, and may be refused. The proposal means to add them to the group of vulnerable people who can apply for hardship payments immediately (such as claimants with children or long-term health problems). The date of this change is yet to be announced.

3. Benefit Changes Timetable 2016

Please note that information about some of these changes may be limited at present and also subject to further change. Although some will happen quickly, others may be introduced gradually over several years.

If you are worried about how you may be affected you should discuss this with a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find one in your area.
 

Changes to benefits in 2016

Universal Credit (UC) - Roll out

Current plans will see new claims to existing benefits being replaced by UC during 2016. This will mean that all new benefit claimants across the country will claim Universal Credit instead of the benefits it replaces. Progress on these plans is still slow at present as not all areas are yet under the UC system.

Roll-out to the full UC digital service will also gradually take place which will allow new claims from all claimant types. The government expects this process to be completed in September 2018.

The Government currently believes that existing benefit claimants will be moved over to the full UC service from July 2019 and the process will be completed by March 2022. 
 

February 2016

Tax Credits Digital Update Service

HMRC have launched a new digital service for tax credits customers that allows them to check their next tax    credits payment details online.

HMRC will continue to update the service over the coming months to allow customers to report changes in their circumstances online instead of having to phone in. Future release date to be confirmed.

March 2016

PIP Assessment Change Announced in March 2016  Budget

The Government announced in the budget a proposed change to the assessment process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The proposed change would see a reduction in the number of assessment points that can be awarded for needing to use an aid or appliance to carry out two of the ‘daily living’ activities which are assessed.

The change is planned to be implemented for new cases and re-assessments from January 2017. It would mean that people who would have scored points for use of aids and appliances may in some cases no longer qualify for PIP.

UPDATE: Government confirmed on 21 March 2016  that it will not proceed with the planned change to  Personal Independence Payment.

 

April 2016 Changes

State Pension Age

Proposed Change: Plans to bring women’s pension age in line with men’s will be sped up from April 2016 so that women’s pension age reaches 65 in November 2018.

Pension age for men and women will then increase to 66 from December 2018 to April 2020.

Update: The Pensions Bill has been amended after concerns that some women would have to wait for up to an extra two years to collect their pensions. The proposed rise in the state pension age to 66 by 2020 is to be delayed by six months, from April 2020 to October 2020 capping the increase at a maximum of 18 months.

The Government has also proposed raising the State Pension age from 66 to 67 gradually between 2026 and 2028.

See the Turn2us State Pension age changes information.

New Single Tier Pension

The Government is introducing a flat rate (single tier) State Pension for people who reach state pension age from 6 April 2016.

The new single tier pension will be a flat rate without the additions and complexities of the current system, and without the right to inherit or get rights to a pension on the basis of your spouse or civil partner's contributions.

The rate will be £155.65 per week which is  more than the basic means-tested support currently available (the guarantee part of Pension Credit)

To qualify for the full single tier pension you will need 35 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions (NICs) or credits.

If you don't qualify for the full pension you can get a smaller amount based on how many qualifying years you have.

You will usually need ten qualifying years to get any new state pension.

If you qualify for the new single tier pension you will not be able to get the Savings Credit part of Pension Credit.

If you are already over State Pension age when the New State Pension is introduced you will continue to receive your Basic State Pension under the current system and can continue to get the Savings Credit part of Pension Credit if you are entitled to it.

The Savings Credit will not however be available to couples where one reaches pension age before 6 April and the other after this date, unless one of the couple was already getting Savings Credit immediately before 6 April 2016 and has been entitled to it at all times since 6 April 2016.

As part of a campaign to raise awareness of the single-tier state pension, the DWP says that a statement service will provide people with a personalised written estimate of what they can expect to receive under the new system based on their national insurance contributions and work history to date.

The statement service will initially be available to the approximately 2.5m people who reach state pension age in the first five years of the new scheme (April 2016 and August 2021).

For more information, see the Age UK information on What the new pension reforms mean for you.

Universal Credit - Childcare element

An additional £200m of support will be provided within Universal Credit, which is equivalent to covering 85% of childcare costs for households qualifying for the Universal Credit childcare element where the lone parent or both earners in a couple pay income tax.

This is planned to be phased in from April 2016 as childcare support moves from tax credits into Universal Credit. Details will be set out in future spending reviews.

Freeze on Working-age benefits

From April 2016 government plan to introduce a four-year freeze to working age benefits whilst still protecting pensioners, and benefits related to the extra costs of disability. See Summer Budget 2015 page 

New National Living Wage

From April 2016 New National Living Wage will be introduced- starting at £7.20 an hour for workers aged 25 and above. Rising to £9.00 an hour by 2020. See Summer Budget 2015 page 

Personal Tax Allowance Increased

The tax free Personal Tax Allowance, the amount you can earn before paying income tax, will be increased from £10,600 to £11,000 from April 2016. See Summer Budget 2015 page 

Reduction in Income Rise Disregard in Tax Credits

From April 2016 the amount by which a tax credit claimant’s income can increase in-year compared to their previous year’s income before their award is adjusted (the income rise disregard) will be reduced from £5000 to £2,500 as announced in the Summer Budget 2015. See Summer Budget 2015 page.

Cut to in-work Tax Credits

From April 2016, the income threshold limit - the level of earnings at which a household’s tax credits and Universal Credit award starts to be withdrawn for every extra pound earned will be reduced from £6,420 to £3,850. See Summer Budget 2015 page 
 
Tax credit taper – The rate at which a person’s or household’s tax credit award is reduced will be increased from 41% to 48% . See Summer Budget 2015 page 

Update - U-turn on cut to in-work Tax Credits:

On 25th November 2015  the Chancellor in the combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review announced that the tax credit income threshold and taper rate changes described above would in fact not go ahead. The u-turn was in response to strong public opposition and a House of Lords vote in October 2015 suggesting that the tax credit changes should be delayed and transitional protection considered for those affected.

From April 2016 the tax credit income threshold will remain at £6,420 and the taper rate will also remain at  41% of gross income.

Universal Credit Work Allowances

Universal Credit work allowances will be reduced to £4,764 for those without housing costs, £2,304 for those with housing costs, and removed altogether for non-disabled claimants without children. See Summer Budget 2015 page 

Limiting backdating in Housing Benefit

From April 2016, Housing Benefit claims will be backdated for a maximum of one month ( period was previously six months ). 

Reduction in Social Sector Rents

The government will reduce rents paid by tenants in social housing in England by 1% a year for 4 years from 2016.

Freeze to Local Housing Allowance

There will be a four-year freeze to Local Housing Allowance rates for 4 years from 2016-17 to 2019-20.

Support for Mortgage Interest(SMI) Waiting Period Increased

From 1 April 2016, the SMI waiting period will change from 13 weeks and will return to the pre-recession length of 39 weeks, but the capital limit will be maintained at the higher level of £200,000.

Removal of Pension Credit Assessed Income Period

From 6 April 2016 households on Pension Credit will now need to report all changes in their circumstances that will affect their benefit as they happen. Pensioners aged 75 and over who have an indefinite assessed income period in place will not be affected by the change unless the assessed income period would end under current rules. For more information see GOV.UK Pension Credit factsheet

May 2016

Removing Housing Benefit Family Premium

Housing Benefit family premium will be withdrawn for new claims in England, Scotland and Wales from 1 May 2016. See Summer Budget 2015 page .

Housing Benefit and Pension Credit: limiting temporary absence

The government will delay the ending of the payments of  Housing Benefit and Pension Credit to claimants who travel outside of Great Britain for longer than four weeks (with no gap). This will now come into force in May 2016.( rather than April) See Budget March 2016 guide

Benefit Cap

From 24 May 2016, the DWP is sending out notifications to tenants likely to be affected by the changes to the benefit cap levels to be introduced from Autumn 2016.  The letters are expected to detail the likely impact of the changes and the advice and support that is available from Job Centres and Councils.

The Benefit Cap will be introduced in Northern Ireland from 31 May 2016. Potentially affected households will be contacted in advance by letter.


Autumn 2016

Benefit Cap

The government in the 2015 summer budget put forward proposed plans to reduce the Benefit Cap for families to £23,000 in London (£15,410 single claimants) and £20,000 elsewhere (£13,400 single claimants).
The new benefit cap levels will come in from 7 November 2016 .

Exemptions from the benefit cap for more groups

The government also announced in the March Budget 2016 that it will introduce exemptions for people getting  Guardians Allowance, Carer’s Allowance and the carers element of Universal Credit from the benefit cap from autumn 2016.

See March 2016 Budget guide page

Removing Housing Benefit Family Premium in Northern Ireland.

Housing Benefit Family Premium will be withdrawn for new claims in Northern Ireland from 5 September 2016. This is in line with the rest of the UK. 

Reducing the Backdating Period for Housing Benefit Claims in Northern Ireland

From 5 September 2016, the maximum period for which Housing Benefit claims may be backdated for working age claimants in Northern Ireland has been reduced from six months to one month. This is in line with the rest of the UK.

November 2016

 Universal Credit to be a qualifying benefit for Healthy Start Food Voucher Scheme

From 1 November 2016, Universal Credit will be a qualifying benefit for the Healthy Start Food Vouchers scheme, if your family’s net earnings are £408 or less per month.  Healthy Start is a voucher scheme for women who have young children or who are pregnant and receiving  certain benefits.

Benefit Cap Reduction

From 7 November 2016, the Benefit Cap has been reduced for families to £23,000 in London (£15,410 single claimants) and £20,000 elsewhere (£13,400 single claimants).  People getting Guardian's Allowance, Carer's Allowance and the carer's element of Universal Credit are exempt from the Benefit Cap from 7 November onwards.

 

Last Updated: November 2016


 

4. Benefit Changes Timetable 2015

Please note that information about some of these changes may be limited at present and also subject to further change. Although some will happen quickly, others may be introduced gradually over several years.

If you are worried about how you may be affected you should discuss this with a benefits adviser. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find one in your area.

2015

January/February 2015

Personal Independence Payment

Since 28 October 2013 assessment for PIP has been carried out for some DLA claimants in certain areas:

  • If you have a fixed-term award of DLA which is due to expire

  • If you notify PDCS that there has been a change in your care or mobility needs

  • If you turn 16

  • If you choose to claim PIP instead of DLA

The reassessment areas were increased on 26 January 2015 and will be increased again from 30 March. See Gov.UK's Personal Independence Payment (PIP) postcode map for up-to-date details of the reassessment areas so far.
 

January 2015

Universal Credit

From 26 January Universal Credit became available to job seekers with children in 26 more areas across the country (6 jobcentre areas began taking claims from families in November 2014 (link is to Benefit Changes Timetable 2014)). These areas are Ashton-Under-Lyne, Wigan, Oldham, Hyde, Stalybridge, Stretford, Altrincham, Southport, Crosby, Bootle, Preston, Leyland, Prestwich, Bury, Eccles, Worsley, Huyton, Kirkby, St Helens, Newton-le-Willows, Hammersmith, Bath, Rugby, Shotton, Harrogate and Inverness.

Early 2015

Universal Credit

UC will be rolled out to 1 in 3 jobcentres by Spring 2015 rather than all jobcentres as was previously announced. This will still only be for simple new claims i.e. from single jobseekers with no children.

The areas that will see the introduction of Universal Credit between February and July 2015 have been released. Click on the link below for details of the areas and the dates they 'go live'.

See the Gov.UK information on the national expansion of Universal Credit

Welfare spending

Total welfare spending, excluding the State Retirement Pension and some unemployment benefits including Jobseeker's Allowance and Universal Credit for Jobseekers, will be capped for 2015/16 at £119.5bn.

If more spending is required on one area of welfare, cuts will have to be made elsewhere in the welfare budget, to stay within the overall cap.

April 2015

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

From 5th April 2015 Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay came into effect as part of the government’s policy package aimed at encouraging shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy and adoption.

For further details see the Turn2us Shared Parental Leave and Pay information guide.

Carer's Allowance

The government has announced that from April 2015, the earnings threshold for Carers' Allowance will be raised to £110 a week.

Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

From 27 April, all claimants in receipt of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) will require an Annual Verification check to confirm their circumstances.

The check reminds claimants of their responsibilities to provide the Department for Work and Pensions with up to date information about their circumstances so that they continue to receive the correct amount of benefit.

An Annual Verification letter will be sent automatically 12 months from the date they first received income-based JSA and repeated every year as long as they are in receipt of benefit. People who already have an annual check for housing costs, capital and occupational pension will find the JSA check included as part of this.

Local Welfare Provision

Government intends to remove the Local Welfare Assistance fund. Local authorities receive money from the fund to help people in emergency and crisis situations through their own Local Welfare Provision schemes. This will have a substantial effect on the level of support a local authority is able to provide to people when they are at their most vulnerable.

Update: Following a consultation to review the decision to abolish the Local Welfare Assistance fund, as a result of strong objections from charities and local authorities against the withdrawal of funding, the government from April 2015 has now committed to providing councils with £74 million in 2015-16, rather than nothing at all, to assist with local emergency welfare needs and to improve social care provision.
 
The new funding amount is still a cut of over fifty percent but at least some help can now continue to be made available to the poorest households facing a crisis.

For further details see Gov.UK Local welfare provision in 2015-16 : Consultation

May 2015

Genuine Prospect of Work assessment extended to older EEA National JSA claims

From 9 February 2015, the DWP began to notify EEA nationals who have an existing claim to income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) made before 1 January 2014 that they will now also be subject to a genuine prospect of work assessment(GPoW) starting in three months time.

The first GPoW assessment interviews will start to take place in May 2015. If, during the assessment interview, the JSA claimant is unable to provide compelling evidence that they have a genuine prospect of work, their current right to reside and consequently their entitlement to income-based JSA will cease. The JSA claimant will have the opportunity to provide evidence of an alternative right to reside in the UK for the DWP Decision Maker to consider.

The aim of extending the GPoW assessment is to ensure that all EEA nationals claiming income-based JSA are treated in the same way, regardless of when they made their claim to benefit

Universal Credit now available in more Scottish towns

From 25 May, Universal Credit arrives in Banff, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Falkirk, Grangemouth, Stirling and Alloa.

Click on the link below for further details of when other areas are due to 'go live'.

See the Gov.UK information on the national expansion of Universal Credit

June 2015

Universal Credit

From 15 June 2015 Universal Credit is available at Jobcentres in: Blaydon, Gateshead, Felling, Bodmin, Truro and Penzance.

From 22 June 2015  Jobcentres will start offering Universal Credit in:
Paisley, Johnstone, Renfrew, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Arnold, Brownhills, Walsall Bayard House, Walsall Bridle Court, Waltham Cross, Newport

From 29 June 2015 17 more Jobcentres start offering Universal Credit in:
Batley, Spen Valley, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Scunthorpe, Barton-upon-Humber, Grimsby, Immingham, Bridgend, Maesteg, Pyle, Porthcawl, Poole, Blandford, Bournemouth,Winton, Gloucester

Click on the link below for further details of when other areas are due to 'go live'.

See the Gov.UK information on the national expansion of Universal Credit

Independent Living Fund

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) - which provides money to help people with disabilities live an independent life in the community - is to close on 30 June 2015 (it has been closed to new applicants since 2010).

Funding will be incorporated into local social care arrangements through local councils in England and the devolved governments in Wales and Scotland will make their own arrangements.

People who already have ILF care packages will have to transfer to new local arrangements.

See the Independent Living Fund website for more information
 

July 2015

Scottish Independent Living Fund

In light of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) closing - see above - the devolved government in Scotland has proposed a new Scottish Independent Living Fund (SILF) to support those in Scotland who are currently receiving help from the ILF as well as being open to new applicants.

The new scheme will be run by the third sector from July 2015. Anyone eligible for help will be referred to the fund via local authority social services.

Mortgage support for benefit claimants to be reduced

Homeowners receiving Income Support, income- based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension credit can qualify for help towards their mortgage interest payments know as Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI)

The amount of help that such homeowners can receive will be reduced from the 6 July 2015

The government uses a standard interest rate to work out how much help can be provided through SMI . The current interest rate applied is 3.63% but from 6 July 2015, the rate will be reduced to 3.12%.

For further details see the Turn2us Support for Mortgage Interest guide
 

The Summer Budget – 8 July 2015

The government announced a number of welfare measures as part of the Summer Budget. These measures (which could be subject to change) will be phased in and will not affect any claimants until April 2016 at the earliest, with many changes affecting only new claimants.  The main changes include:

  • From April 2016 a four-year freeze to working age benefits whilst still protecting pensioners, and benefits related to the extra costs of disability
  • Lowering the Benefit Cap to £23,000 in London and £20,000 elsewhere
  • A package of reforms to Tax Credits and Universal Credit, including reducing some entitlements, key changes are ;
  • Support for children through Tax Credits and Universal Credit will be limited to two children from April 2017. Equivalent changes will be made to the Housing Benefit rules.
  • Family element withdrawn in Tax Credit and Universal Credit  - Those starting a family after April 2017 will no longer be eligible for the Family Element in tax credits and the equivalent provisions in Universal Credit. In Housing Benefit, the family premium will be withdrawn for new claims from April 2016.

Reducing income threshold from April 2016 – so the level of earnings at which a household’s Tax Credits  starts to be withdrawn for every extra pound earned will be reduced from £6,420 to £3,850. The equivalents in Universal Credit (work allowances) will be reduced to £4,764 for those without housing costs, £2,304 for those with housing costs, and removed altogether for non-disabled claimants without children.

Increasing Tax Credit taper  from April 2016 - the rate at which a person's or households tax credit award is reduced  - the taper rate will be increased from 41% to 48% 

Update: Changes to the tax credit income threshold and taper rate will no longer go ahead

  • Parents with a youngest child aged 3, including lone parents are expected to look for work if they want to claim Universal Credit
  • From 1 April 2017, new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group will receive the same rate of payment as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and the equivalent in Universal Credit. Existing ESA claimants will be unaffected.
  • Reform to housing and housing support - including removing the entitlement to housing support in Universal Credit for those aged 21 or under, lowering rents in the social rented sector, and social tenants on higher incomes (over £40,000 in London and over £30,000 outside London) being required to pay higher (market rate or near market rate) rents. Support for Mortgage Interest payments will be changed into a loan and there will be a four-year freeze to Local Housing Allowance rates.
  • National Living Wage will be introduced from April 2016 - starting at £7.20 an hour for people over 25. Rising to £9.00 an hour by 2020
  • Universal Credit youth obligation for 18-21 year olds to either apply for training or attend work placements from six months after the start of their claim, from April 2017
  • Free childcare entitlement will be doubled from 15 hours to 30 hours a week for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds from September 2017

For further information on the budget see our Summer Budget 2015 guide and the Gov.UK full Summer Budget 2015 document.
 

Maternity Allowance - Changes to the collection of Class 2 National Insurance contributions  for the self-employed

Payment of Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs) for 6 April 2015 onwards will be collected as part of the Self Assessment process from April 2016 by HMRC.

As a result, Maternity Allowance claims from self-employed women expecting a baby on or after 12 July 2015 may have insufficient NICs to be entitled to standard rate Maternity Allowance on the date of their claim.

However, claimants satisfying the work test will receive a lower rate and have the option of paying sufficient Class 2 NICs, to be entitled to the standard rate.

For further information see the Gov.UK Maternity Benefits Guidance
 

Personal Independence Payment final phase rollout brought forward from October to July 2015

The DWP on 25 June 2015 issued an updated timetable bringing forward the date when claimants with an ‘indefinite’ or ‘lifetime’ award of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will have to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Claimants in the areas stated below  will now start being assessed for PIP from 13 July 2015, instead of from October 2015.

Areas: Blackburn, Bolton, Derby, Leicester, Manchester, Oldham, Preston, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington; and  Wigan.

By late 2017 all existing DLA claimants (aged 16 to 64 on 8 April 2013) will have been invited to claim PIP.

For further details on DWP bringing forward PIP rollout see full statement from Minister for Disabled People


Universal Credit

From 14 July Universal Credit will be available in14 more Jobcentres in London, Cornwall and Wales;
Ealing, Southall, Acton, Edmonton, Enfield, Palmers Green, Barking, Dagenham, Rhyl, Helston, Launceston, Liskeard, Newquay, Penryn and Falmouth

Click on the link below for further details of when other areas are due to 'go live'.

See the Gov.UK information on the national expansion of Universal Credit


Autumn 2015

Tax Free Childcare

The new Tax-Free Childcare scheme due to be launched  in autumn 2015 has been delayed and will now be introduced in early  2017. When it is introduced, it will support parents' childcare costs and replace the existing Employer Supported Childcare Scheme.

Universal Credit

The Department of Work and Pensions has announced that the next phased roll-out of Universal Credit to remaining Jobcentre areas and local authorities will take place from;

As with the previous introduction of Universal Credit to areas this latest roll-out will only be for new claims from single people, who would otherwise have been eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Click on the link below for details of the areas and the dates they 'go live'.

National expansion of Universal Credit: Tranche 3 and 4 (link opens in a new window)


Winter Fuel Payment

Announced as part of the Spending Review in June 2013, it is planned that Winter Fuel Payments will be cut for those living in hot countries from Autumn 2015.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, said that the payment would be withdrawn from expats living in a European country with an average winter temperature higher than the UK.

The seven countries affected are: Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

This change would save the Treasury about £30m. Legislation needs to be passed before the change can be made.

MPs in the House of Commons have backed government plans to cut spending on tax credits from April 2016

The Chancellor’s flagship proposals announced in the Summer Budget to cut tax credits were approved on 15th September 2015 by MPs in the House of Commons, amid warnings help must be offered to the poorest working families.

The Commons approved plans from April 2016 to lower the earnings level above which tax credits are withdrawn from £6,420 to £3,850 and speed up the rate at which the benefit is lost as pay rises.

These cuts to tax credits could see some households losing out on more than £1,000 in annual income.
See Turn2us response to changes.

Universal Credit

From 21 September, Universal Credit became available to new single claimants in 24 jobcentres from Durham to Wales, covering 12 local authority areas:

Abergavenny, Andover, Bishop Auckland, Borehamwood, Caldicot, Chepstow, Chester-le-Street, Consett, Crawley, Crook, Durham, Haywards Heath, Hemel Hempstead, Holyhead, Horsham, Llangefni, Merthyr Tydfil, Newton Aycliffe, Peterlee, Reading, Seaham, Spennymoor, Stanley, Winchester

Click on the link below for further details of when other areas are due to 'go live'.

See the Gov.UK information on the national expansion of Universal Credit


October 2015

Current National Minimum Wage (NMW) Rises

From 1 October 2015, the adult rate of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rises by 20 pence from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour, as recommended by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) in March 2015.

the rate for 18 to 20 year olds increases by 17 pence to £5.30 per hour
the rate for 16 to 17 year olds increases by 8 pence to £3.87 per hour
the apprentice rate increases by 57 pence to £3.30 per hour

Pension Credit modified

Universal Credit is replacing Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit so if you are over Pension Credit age you will get help with your housing costs and costs of bringing up a child through a new modified Pension Credit.

If you are currently claiming Housing Benefit and are over Pension Credit age you will be moved onto the new modified Pension Credit, between October 2015 and October 2017.

Update: This has been delayed and may not take place until 2017

State Retirement Pension top-up scheme

A new top up scheme will be introduced to allow existing pensioners, and those who will reach State Pension age before 6 April 2016, to increase the amount of pension they get.

By making a lump sum Class 3A Voluntary National Insurance contribution, pension income can be boosted by up to £25 per week. The amount people will need to pay to receive the additional pension will depend on their age. For example, to get an extra £1 per week State Pension for life, the lump sum payment for a 65-year-old would be £890, compared to £674 for someone who is 75.

A State Pension top up calculator is available on the GOV.UK website  to show the lump sum contribution needed to increase pension income by between £1 and £25 per week.

Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payment

Claimants still receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will start to be contacted to claim Personal Independence Payment instead.

DWP will randomly select DLA claimants in receipt of an indefinite award or a fixed term award, and notify them about what they need to do to claim PIP.

DWP will invite claims as early as possible from recipients who have turned 65 after 8 April 2013, when PIP was first introduced. If you turned 65 before 8 April 2013 you will remain on DLA.

All DLA claimants will have been invited to claim PIP by late 2017.

See the Turn2us Personal Independence Payment (PIP) information


Changes to Jobseeker’s Allowance to benefit Armed Forces Families

Spouses and older children (up to age of 21) who live abroad in order to accompany service personnel working abroad, are to be allowed to claim income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) as soon as they return to the UK under new plans by the government. These groups will be exempt from the Habitual Residence test rule which requires them to be resident for three months before being eligible to claim income-based JSA.

For further details see GOV.UK guidance on changes to JSA for Armed Forces Families

November 2015

Autumn Statement and Spending Review 2015 – U-turn on Tax Credit Changes for working households.

The government announced a number of measures as part of the Autumn Statement and Spending Review on Wednesday 25 November 2015. The key welfare changes are that the tax credit income threshold of  £6,420 and taper rate of 41% of gross income  will no longer change from April 2016 .  However from April 2016 the income rise disregard will be £2,500 as announced in the Summer Budget 2015.

See our Autumn Statement 2015 guide for a summary of the main proposed welfare changes and other measures and see GOV.UK Autumn Statement and Spending Review 2015 report  for further information.  

Welfare benefit changes in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill was passed on 25 November 2015 making it an act of law. The new bill will result in changes to the benefits system in Ireland. Many of the current benefits will cease to exist and new benefits and payment systems will be introduced.

The Bill is intended to allow the delivery in Northern Ireland of reforms under Welfare Reform Act 2012 and those proposed in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2015, as well as the welfare‐ related flexibilities included in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) )

The Westminster government will introduce the regulations in the early new year, working with colleagues in Northern Ireland. Implementation of the changes will be for the Northern Ireland Executive to take forward.

See GOV.UK website for further information on Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Bill 

December 2015

Tax Credits - online change of circumstances

On 7 December, HMRC is introducing a new digital service for tax credits customers that will allow for the reporting of changes in circumstances online.

The service will be launched in phases. Phase 1 starting on the 7 December will allow customers to access the online digital service to view details of their next tax credits payment and view the people who are included in their award.

In early 2016, customers will be able to use the online digital service to report changes to their circumstances.

Update:    

Both phases of the above scheme have now been delayed by HMRC. We will advise of the revised 'live' date when details are announced.



 

 
 

5. Benefit Changes Timetable 2014

January 2014

Habitual Residence Test

Reforms around 'migrant access to benefits' have been introduced from 1 January 2014:

New Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) claims made by European Economic Area (EEA) jobseekers and retained workers will be time-limited to 6 months unless they can demonstrate they are actively seeking work and have a genuine prospect of work;

EEA jobseekers (or a British national returning from more than a short period abroad) will be unable to access JSA until they have been resident in the UK for 3 months.

For full details about these changes see our Habitual Residence Test information guide.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

From 13 January some people receiving DLA will have to claim PIP instead. This will apply to you if you are living in Southern Scotland or parts of the borders, your postcode begins DG, EH, TD or ML and:

  • you notify DWP of a change in your care or mobility needs; or

  • your existing award of DLA is to expire on or after 2nd June; or

  • you turn 16 years old (unless you have been awarded DLA under the Special Rules for terminally ill people)

  • You could also choose to claim PIP instead of DLA.

See our Personal Independence Payment (PIP) information guide

February 2014

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)/Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

From 3 February some people receiving DLA have to claim PIP instead. This applies to you if you are living in the north of England and your postcode begins CA, DL, HG, LA or YO and:

  • you notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in your care or mobility needs; or

  • your existing award of DLA is to expire on or after 23 June; or

  • you turn 16 years old (unless you have been awarded DLA under the Special Rules for terminally ill people)

You could also choose to claim PIP instead of DLA.

See our Personal Independence Payment (PIP) information guide

March 2014

Incapacity benefits

The Government is aiming to complete the transfer of existing claimants on incapacity benefits (i.e. Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support on disability grounds) to Employment and Support Allowance by Spring 2014.

See the Turn2us Incapacity Benefit changes information guide

Winter Fuel Payments

After 31 March you will no longer be able to claim for the first three years of the Winter Fuel Payments scheme - i.e. 1997/1998, 1998/1999 and 1999/2000.

If you were aged 60 or over in the qualifying week for those years and were living in Great Britain or Northern Ireland you needed to have claimed by the end of March.

See Winter Fuel Payments guide for further details.

April 2014

Child Tax Credit

At the moment if you confirm your child is staying on in full time non advanced education (FTNAE) at 16, your payment for that child automatically continues until the child turns 20 and is removed from the claim.

From April 2014, if you have a child aged between 16 and 19 included in your claim, each year by 31 August you will need to inform HMRC if they remain in FTNAE. If you fail to do so the child will be removed from your claim and your award will be reduced or will stop if there is no longer any entitlement.

Jobseeker's Allowance

As announced in the Chancellor's Spending Review in June 2013, the planned changes to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) include:

  • Extending the waiting period for first claims from three days to seven

  • Claimants must take positive steps to find work from day one. As part of this, online claimants must prepare a CV and there will be longer initial interviews for new claimants

  • Claimants with poor spoken English required to attend classes, or face sanctions (to be introduced in Scotland and Wales at a later date)

  • Weekly work search reviews with Job Centre advisers for those deemed not to be doing enough to find a job. To be phased in between 28 April and October 2014

  • Quarterly work search interviews to review the previous quarter’s activities, their skills and their Jobseeker’s Agreement/Claimant Commitment as well as to widen the scope of their work search.

Income Support for lone parents

If you are entitled to Income Support solely on the basis of being a lone parent two measures are being introduced from 28 April:

  • Work-focused interviews once your youngest child reaches the age of one. How often these take place will be determined by advisers on a case by case basis.

  • Mandatory Work-Related Activity (WRA) once your youngest child is aged three or four.

The activities will be flexible and will be tailored to you. They must also be reasonable and take your circumstances into account with any travel and childcare costs being covered for you. You can't be made to apply for or take up work as part of this.

Universal Credit (UC)

The original roll-out schedule planned for there being no new claims for the benefits replaced by UC from April 2014. Iain Duncan Smith has since said that there will be "significant volumes" of new claimants moving on to UC throughout 2014 but there will not be the full roll-out from April originally planned.

Instead, from April, couples and families will be able to claim UC in the ten areas that were previously only taking UC claims for certain single people.

The Welfare Reform Bill has not yet been passed into law in Northern Ireland but Universal Credit roll-out is expected to begin this summer.

Changes have been agreed about the way Universal Credit is paid in Northern Ireland:

  • Housing cost element of Universal Credit paid direct to landlords

  • Payment of Universal Credit may be split between two people in the household

  • Payment of Universal Credit may be payable twice each month.

See the Turn2us Universal Credit section.

July 2014

Child Tax Credit

Since January, EEA migrants who arrive in the UK looking for work face a three-month wait before they can claim income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. These rules limiting migrants’ access to out-of-work benefits will be extended to Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit from 1 July.

EEA migrants who arrive in the UK looking for work or not intending to work will need to live in the UK for three months before they can claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit. This will not apply to those who are employed or self-employed.  See the GOV.UK website/child benefit (link opens in a new window) and GOV.UK website/child tax credits (link opens in a new window)for full list of who else the change does not apply to

Evidence and information will need to be provided to HMRC to show they have been resident for at least three months, such as bank statements or tenancy agreements.

After the three month waiting period, EEA jobseekers will only be able to get Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for 6 months - after 6 months, only those who have a job offer or compelling evidence that they have a genuine chance of finding work will be able to continue claiming, and then only for a short period.

The new rules will apply to people arriving in the UK for the first time, and to those returning after an absence of more than 52 weeks.

Maternity Allowance

Changes to Maternity Allowance (MA) mean that if your baby is due on or after 27 July 2014, and you help your partner run their own business, you might be able to get a new lower rate of MA for 14 weeks.

To qualify you must not be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay or the higher amount of Maternity Allowance for the same pregnancy and for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your baby is due, you must:

  • be married or in a civil partnership with someone who is self-employed

  • not be employed or self-employed yourself

  • take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner

  • not be paid for the work you do for the business

Your spouse or civil partner must be registered as self-employed with HMRC and should pay Class 2 National Insurance.

6. Benefit Changes Timetable 2013

January 2013

Child Benefit

From 7 January 2013, a new income tax charge was introduced. It is payable if you have an individual income of over £50,000 and you or your partner get Child Benefit.

The amount of the charge will depend on how much over £50,000 your income is.

If your income is between £50,000 and £60,000, the charge applied to your income tax will be 1% of your Child Benefit for every £100 of income between £50,000 and £60,000. The income tax charge will never be more than the amount of Child Benefit you receive.

If your income is over £60,000 the charge will be equal to the full amount of your Child Benefit so you are no better off for receiving the benefit.

The amount of Child Benefit you can claim and receive is not affected. It can still be paid to you or your partner even if one of you will then be liable for the income tax charge.

You can decide not to receive Child Benefit if you or your partner do not wish to pay the new charge. You will remain entitled to Child Benefit, even if you choose not to have it paid. This is in order to protect your entitlement to national insurance credits, which will count towards your State Retirement Pension entitlement.

You can change your mind at any time, but the person who has an income above £50,000 will become liable for a charge when Child Benefit becomes payable again.

This new charge will affect single income and two income families differently:

  • If you are in a single income family where one person has earnings over £50,000 you will have to pay the new income tax charge if you get Child Benefit

  • If you are in a couple where both of you earn up to £50,000 (potential joint income of £100,000) you will not be affected

For more information, see the HM Revenue and Customs information on the Child Benefit income tax charge (link opens in a new window)

The Guardian has also published a useful guide to Child Benefit changes and what they mean(link opens in a new window)

April 2013

Appeals process

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is revising its appeals process for the benefits it administers. The aim is to make sure more appeals against DWP decisions are resolved without being referred to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

The changes were introduced in April 2013 for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment cases and from October 2013 all other DWP administered benefits will use the new appeals process.

See October 2013 Appeals process changes for full details

Benefit cap

The Government has introduced a cap on the amount of benefits a working-age household can receive, capped at the level of the average earnings of a working family.

This is being trialled in four London boroughs - Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey - with national roll out over the summer of 2013.

See our Benefit Cap information guide for further details

Benefits and tax credit rates

Most benefit rates will only be uprated by one per cent each April until 2015, as announced by George Osborne, the Chancellor, in his Autumn Statement 2012.

See the list of benefits rates for 2013-2014 published on the Parliament UK website (PDF file size 92.43kb opens in new window)

See Tax and tax credit rates/thresholds for 2013-2014 on the Gov.UK and HM Revenue and Customs website (PDF file size 100.73kb link opens in a new window)

Council Tax Benefit

Council Tax Benefit has been replaced by localised Council Tax Support. Local authorities have set up new schemes to support people in their own areas within a 10% reduced budget. This only affects people of working-age who currently receive Council Tax Benefit.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment

DLA has started to be replaced with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people aged 16-64.

This involves the introduction of ‘objective assessments’ to decide eligibility. The stated intention is to target support on those most in need through this new benefit. The government is hoping for a 20% reduction in expenditure by 2017 by bringing in this process.

The first stage of PIP started in April with people who live in the north-east and north-west of England who are claiming for the first time. This is the area covered by Bootle Disability Benefits Centre (link opens in a new window).

If you do not live in one of these areas you will still be able to claim DLA until June 2013.

See the Turn2us Personal Independence Payment (PIP) information guide

Housing Benefit (HB) - Bedroom size criteria

In England, Wales and Scotland size criteria will apply in the social rented sector (e.g. council and housing association properties) replicating the size criteria that applies to Housing Benefit claimants in the private rented sector under the Local Housing Allowance rules. This means that people living in houses larger than they need (under-occupiers) will have to move to somewhere smaller or make up the difference in rent because their Housing Benefit will be reduced. There will be:

  • A 14% cut in the eligible rent used to calculate your Housing Benefit if you under-occupy by one bedroom

  • A 25% cut in the eligible rent used to calculate your Housing Benefit if you under-occupy by two or more bedrooms

See Turn2us Housing Benefit information guide for more details.

In Northern Ireland, bedroom size criteria remains subject to approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive. Until then, current arrangements will remain in place. See NI Direct website for more information (link opens in a new window) on potential changes to Housing Benefit from 2013

Housing Benefit - Local Housing Allowance rates

LHA rates will be increased in line with the Consumer Price Index instead of the market rents in each area. The connection with actual rents will be lost.

Social Fund

Crisis Loans when waiting for benefit claims to be processed will be replaced by Short Term Benefit Advances
Budgeting Advances will be introduced for Universal Credit claimants

Crisis Loans for other reasons and Community Care Grants are to be abolished. A budget will be passed to Local Authorities in England and the devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to set up their own local welfare provision schemes.

Tax Credits

Any rise in income of £5,000 or more during the award year will be taken into account when finalising your Tax Credit award. Previously only income rises of £10,000 or more were taken into account.

Universal Credit

The current complex system of working-age benefits and Tax Credits is to be replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit. From April 2013, the Department for Work and Pensions, working with HM Revenue and Customs and selected local councils, will launch its Pathfinder project to introduce Universal Credit to claimants within certain areas of the North-West of England.

This “pathfinder” stage aims to ensure that Universal Credit is ready to go live across the rest of Great Britain later in 2013 and Northern Ireland in 2014.

See our Universal Credit information section

June 2013

Personal Independence Payment

All new claimants aged 16-64 will have to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead of Disability Living Allowance from the 10th June.

July 2013

Universal Credit

From 1 July 2013 single job seekers in Wigan will be able to make a claim for Universal Credit instead of claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

Single job seekers in Oldham and Warrington will be able to make claims for UC from 29 July.

To find out more about the UC roll-out see our Universal Credit timetable.

Benefit Cap

From 15 July local authorities with up to 275 households affected by the cap will begin the capping process.

From 12 August local authorities with 275 or more households affected by the cap will begin the capping process.

See the Benefit Cap information guide for details of which local authorities are within each stage.

September 2013

Local Housing Allowance

From 1 September there will be changes to how and when local housing allowance (LHA) rates are determined.

Rent officers will determine LHA rates by using the lower of either:

  • the 30th percentile of available rents (the amount at which 30% of the rents in an area are below it and 70% are above it); or

  • the previous year’s LHA rate increased by one per cent.

The new LHA rates will be determined on 15 January 2014.

From then on the rates will be determined on 15 January each year - if that falls on a Wednesday - or the first Wednesday following 15 January if it does not.

Winter Fuel Payment

From 16 September there will be a requirement - already being applied following a European Court of Justice application - for people claiming Winter Fuel Payments from Switzerland and European Economic Area (EEA) countries outside the UK, to have 'a genuine and sufficient link' with the UK.

October 2013

Appeals process changes

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is revising its appeals process to make sure more appeals are resolved without being referred to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). The following changes will be introduced:

From 28 October 2013 if you receive a decision from DWP that you don't think is right, you will have to ask for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ before being allowed to appeal. The aim is to resolve more disputes at an earlier stage and help ensure that people receive their correct entitlement earlier. If you want to appeal after the mandatory reconsideration you will need to send your appeal directly to HMCTS instead of DWP.

For more information see our Challenging decisions section

Universal Credit

The current complex system of working-age benefits and Tax Credits is to be replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit.

Starting from October 2013 Universal Credit will expand to 6 new Jobcentres by March 2014:

  • Hammersmith (from 28 October 2013)

  • Rugby (from 25 November 2013)

  • Inverness (from 25 November 2013)

  • Harrogate

  • Bath

  • Shotton

All Jobcentres will move to the new Universal Credit commitment regime and access to digital services will be improved so that jobseekers will become used to claiming their benefit online.

See our the Turn2us Universal Credit information guide

Personal Independence Payment

From 28 October 2013 some people receiving DLA will have to claim PIP instead. This will apply to you if you are living in Wales, East Midlands, West Midlands or East Anglia and:

  • you notify DWP of a change in your care or mobility needs on or after 28 October; or

  • your existing award of DLA expires on or after 17 March 2014; or

  • you turn 16 years old on or after 7 October 2013 (unless you have been awarded DLA under the Special Rules for terminally ill people)

You could also choose to claim PIP instead of their DLA.

See our Personal Independence Payment (PIP) information guide

December 2013

Housing Benefit and Universal Credit

Amendments to the size criteria rules for Housing Benefit and Universal Credit from 4 December 2013:

  • allow for an extra bedroom for a disabled child who is entitled to the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) if they would normally be expected to share a bedroom under size criteria rules but are unable to do so due to their disability;

  • for joint tenants, ensure that a bedroom is not treated as spare when it is occupied by another joint tenant’s overnight carer or child of a qualifying parent or carer; and

  • allow for an approved foster carer who is a single person under 35 to be exempt from the definition of a 'young individual' for the shared accommodation rate.

When considering whether a child’s disability makes it unreasonable for them to share a bedroom, the factors a local authority should consider include -

  • whether the child is currently sharing a bedroom without difficulty;

  • whether the frequency and nature of any overnight care causes prolonged and/or repeated disruption to another child;

  • whether the nature of the disability increases the likelihood that the child may behave disruptively during the night;

  • whether sharing a bedroom poses a risk of physical harm to either child; and

  • how long the situation is likely to last - to qualify for an extra bedroom the inability to share would be expected to be long term.

Local authorities will now need to review all cases awarded under previous guidance to see whether or not reassessment is required due to these amendments.

If the disabled child is not in receipt of middle or high rate care component of DLA but is still unable to share a bedroom due to disability, the Local Authority should consider whether a Discretionary Housing Payment award is appropriate.

See the Turn2us Housing Benefit information sheet for more details.

Habitual Residence Test

The government has announced the introduction of a new, 'improved' habitual residence test to be rolled out in Jobcentres in England, Scotland and Wales this week (w/c 16 December).

Claimants will have to answer more individually-tailored questions, provide more detailed answers and submit more evidence before having their claim accepted. They will also be asked about what efforts they have made to find work before coming to the UK and whether their English language skills will be a barrier to them finding employment.

The new test is part of a range of reforms around 'migrant access to benefits' which will come in over the next year including:

time-limiting new Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) claims made by European Economic Area (EEA) jobseekers and retained workers to 6 months unless they can demonstrate they are actively seeking work and have a genuine prospect of work;

EEA jobseekers will be unable to access JSA until they have been resident in the UK for 3 months;
introducing a test to check that someone isn’t claiming to have a job, or be self employed to access benefits.

 

7. Benefit Changes Timetable 2012

January 2012

Housing Benefit

Change: the age threshold for the shared accommodation rate of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will be increased from 25 to 35.

This means that single claimants up to the age of 35 will have their LHA based on a room in a shared property rather than a self contained one bedroom property. There will be exceptions for some disabled claimants, certain people who have previously been homeless, and ex-offenders who could pose a risk to the public.

This change will apply for all new claimants from 1 January

For existing pre April 2011 claimants this change will take effect when their 9 month protection period from the April 2011 changes ceases so they experience all relevant changes in one go.

Existing claimants whose claims were made between 1 April 2011 and 1 January 2012 will be moved to the shared accommodation rate on the anniversary date of their claim

For more information on Housing Benefit, see our Help with Housing Costs section.

Support for Mortgage Interest

Change: temporary changes to the Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme which were due to come to an end in January 2012 will be extended until January 2013. These include a reduced waiting period of 13 weeks and an increase in the eligible mortgage capital limit to £200,000.

For further information on Support for Mortgage Interest, see our Homeowner housing costs help page.

April 2012

Crisis Loans

Change: The maximum rate of a Crisis Loan, for single non-householders, will be 30% of the appropriate benefit personal allowance rate. The maximum rate for householders or people who are homeless will still be set at 60% of the appropriate benefit personal allowance.

Housing Benefit (HB) - Discretionary Housing Payments

A further £40million per year will be added to the Discretionary Housing Payment budget. £10 million was added in April 2011.

Further information on Discretionary Housing Payments.

Housing Benefit - Local Housing Allowance

Local Housing Allowance rates will be frozen ahead of the April 2013 change when rates will no longer be linked to market rents.

Tax Credits

Changes:

  • Further changes to the way Tax Credits are calculated so that the credit is withdrawn faster as income rises

  • 50+ element removed from Working Tax Credits (WTC)

  • If your income falls by up to £2,500 during the Tax Credit award year, the amount you get will not be revised to see if you are entitled to a higher Tax Credit payment.

  • You will only be able to backdate new applications and changes of circumstances for up to one month instead of three.

  • Increase of child element by £110. (Update: This change was scrapped as part of the Chancellor's Autumn 2011 Statement)

Couples with children must work at least 24 hours a week between them, with one working at least 16 hours to qualify for WTC. However, couples with children where one person works at least 16 hours and is entitled to the WTC disability element or is aged 60 or over will still qualify for WTC. Also, couples with children will continue to qualify for WTC if only one member of the couple works at least 16 hours per week and the other is incapacitated, an in-patient in hospital or in prison.

Update: Changes announced in the Budget 2012 will mean that a couple will also continue to receive Working Tax Credits as long as one partner works 16 hours a week and the other is entitled to Carer’s Allowance. In this circumstance they will also qualify for help with childcare costs.

For further details see Tax Credit Changes April 2012

May 2012

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance

Change: From 1 May people in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will have their claims limited to one year. They will have their family income and savings assessed to see if they qualify for the means-tested version of the benefit. Any time already spent in receipt of contributory ESA whilst in the work related activity group will count towards the one year time limit so some claims will end on 30 April.

Change: Contributory ESA in youth to be abolished. Existing claimants will have their entitlement limited to one year from the time their entitlement began, disregarding time in the support group so some claims will end immediately once this change comes in.

Income Support

Change: From 21 May 2012, if you are claiming Income Support as a lone parent and your youngest child is aged five or over, you will need to move from Income Support to Jobseeker's Allowance.

Those lone parents with a health condition or disability which limits their capability for work may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead.

October 2012

Automatic enrolment into pensions

Automatic enrolment into pensions starts. This is a new law that the Government has introduced to make it easier for people to save for their retirement. It requires all employers to enrol their workers into a qualifying workplace scheme if they are not already in one. For more information, see the Pensions Advisory Service website (link opens in a new window).

Civil penalties and overpayments on benefits or tax credits

From October 2012, a civil penalty may apply if you are overpaid a benefit and:

  • you have negligently given incorrect information or evidence, and

  • you fail to take steps to rectify the error, and

  • the error causes an overpayment, or

  • you fail to provide information or evidence or fail to notify a change in your circumstances without a reasonable excuse.

Read our Overpayments: benefits and tax credits information guide

Read our Fraud investigations: benefits and tax credits information guide

New payment system replaces benefits cheques

A new 'Simple Payment'(link opens in a new window) service was introduced on 8 October to replace the benefit cheques system for claimants who can't be paid by direct payment (link opens in a new window) because they are unable to open or manage bank or Post Office card accounts.

Under the new system, claimants will be issued with a reusable 'Simple Payment' card so that they can receive their benefits at 'PayPoint' outlets located in local newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets, garages and off licences.

Arrangements have been put in place for people who need someone else, such as a partner or relative, to collect their benefit for them. Either the claimant's card or an additional card can be used.

 

8. Benefit Changes Timetable 2011

January 2011

Health in Pregnancy Grant

Change: abolished

A one-off payment of £190 paid to pregnant women to help prepare for the birth. Not means tested so is available regardless of income and capital.

Abolition follows a move by the Government to restrict availability of universal benefits.

See also changes to Child Benefit discussed in this document.

Child Trust Fund

Change: abolished

The Child Trust Fund was a savings and investment scheme started in 2002 to encourage parents to save for their child’s future. The Government plan to introduce a Junior ISA scheme in Autumn 2011 but no money will be provided.

Educational Maintenance Allowance

Change: No new applicants in England. See our Education Maintenance Allowance information guide for more information.

Support for Mortgage Interest

Change: temporary changes to the Support for Mortgage Interest Scheme which were due to come to an end in January 2011 will be extended until January 2012. These include a reduced waiting period of 13 weeks and an increase in the eligible mortgage capital limit to £200,000.

March 2011

Employment and Support Allowance

Change: From 28 March new rules will apply to all assessments and the ESA50 form will be changed to reflect this. Those who had been sent an ESA50 based on the previous rules will be assessed using the previous rules as long as their form is received by 28 September 2011.

April 2011

Child Benefit

Change: Child Benefit rates frozen for three years

Disability Living Allowance

Change: there is a new qualification criteria for the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance to cover those with a severe visual impairment

Housing Benefit

Changes:

Baby element of family premium will no longer be available

Non-dependant deductions (NDD) to be increased (uprated) on the basis of prices using the Consumer Prices Index. The rate of deduction made from a claimant’s Housing Benefit award if they have a non-dependant living with them had been frozen since 2001. The plan is that by April 2014, by gradual increases, NDD rates will reach the level they would have been at if they had not been frozen.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) restricted to four-bedroom rate regardless of household size. About 8,000 households will be affected by this limit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Applies to new claimants. Existing claimant’s will have their LHA rate reduced on the anniversary of their claim.
£15 excess rule will be removed. This is the rule that if a person's LHA rate is higher than the rent they are paying, they can keep the difference up to a maximum of £15 a week.

An extra room will be allowed in the ‘size criteria’ used to determine LHA if a person has a disability and requires over night care from a non-resident carer.

New maximum LHA rate based upon property size – £250 for one bedroom, £290 for two bedrooms, £340 for three bedrooms, £400 for four bedrooms. This will apply to all new claimants. There will be up to nine month's transitional protection for most existing claimants to give them more time to find a new home if they cannot afford their existing one because of the benefits changes.

LHA rates are set at a value where 50% of the rents in an area fall below it, and 50% are more expensive. This is to be reduced so that LHA rates will be at a value where only 30% of the rents in an area are below it and 70% are above it. This will apply to all new claimants. There will be up to nine month's transitional protection for most existing claimants to give them more time to find a new home if they cannot afford their existing one because of the benefits changes.

Existing claimants and those who claim Housing Benefit before 1 April 2011 will receive transitional protection from the maximum rate and 30th percentile changes (see above) if they would be made worse off. This means the existing amount of Housing Benefit they are receiving won’t be changed until nine months after the anniversary date of their claim, or nine months after the date their rate is reviewed if they require more bedrooms after these changes come into force, but before the anniversary date of their claim. The protection doesn’t apply for people where their rate is reviewed because they need fewer rooms (except if due to a death) or those who move address.

Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) budget is to be £30 million for 2011/12 (an increase of £10 million) to offer some assistance to those most affected by the cuts to Housing Benefit.

For more information on Housing Benefit, see our Help with Housing Costs section.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Change: Some Jobseeker's Allowance claimants may have to do unpaid work, or work-related activity, for up to four weeks in order to continue receiving their benefit.  The Personal Advisers at Jobcentre Plus will decide which claimants will benefit from being referred onto this scheme which will be delivered by a range of organisations from the private, voluntary and third sector.

Pension Credit

Change: maximum Pension Credit Savings Credit award to be frozen for four years

State Retirement Pension

Change: the State Retirement Pension rate will be increased through a ‘triple guarantee’ – which means that the pension will be increased each year by the highest out of the earnings inflation rate, the prices inflation rate (using the Consumer Price Index) or 2.5%.

Sure Start Maternity Grant

Change: Sure Start Maternity Grant will only be available for the first child, unless it is a multiple birth or the new child is the only one in the family under 16.

Tax Credits

Changes:
There will also be a slight increase in the rate at which Tax Credits are withdrawn as a person’s income increases. They will lose 41p from their maximum entitlement for every £1 of income over the relevant threshold
If your income rose by £25,000 during the award year this would not affect your award, now they will only ignore increases of up to £10,000. This is likely to lead to more Tax Credit overpayments

The baby element will be removed from Child Tax Credit (CTC)

There will be some changes to the way the family element of Child Tax Credit is awarded, claimants with incomes over £40,000 will be affected

The child element rate is to be increased by £255

The percentage of childcare costs that parents can claim through the childcare element of Working Tax Credit (WTC) will be reduced from 80% to 70%

The basic and 30 hour elements of WTC will be frozen for three years

People aged 60 or over will be eligible for Working Tax Credit by working 16 hours, the rule had previously been 30 hours

Uprating

Change: Consumer Price Index (CPI) will replace Rossi and Retail Price Index (RPI) as the tool used to decide benefits increases in April each year (also known as uprating). The Government’s reasoning for this change is that CPI is a better measure of inflation and a more appropriate measure for benefit claimants as it does not take account of housing costs. This change is expected to result in £6billion savings per year by 2015.

Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) analysis found that only 23% of claimants will be protected by this change, the rest will be paying for things not covered by CPI so there will be a real loss of income over time. This change saves the Government the most money out of all things announced. CPI was just 3.1% in September 2010 and this is the figure that will be used for uprating benefits in April 2011, at that time RPI was 4.6%.

Income tax

Change: the tax-free personal allowance will rise from £6,475 to £7,475 for people under 65. The basic rate limit will be reduced so that higher-rate payers don’t benefit from the increased personal allowance. For 65-74 year olds the allowance will be £9,940 and for over 74 year olds it will be £10,090

October 2011

Income Support

Change: The government proposed to introduce a change this month which would mean to claim Income Support as a lone parent your youngest child must be under 5. Many lone parents would have to claim Jobseeker's Allowance unless they qualify for Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support for another reason. This would then affect existing claimants from April 2012.

This change did not come in to place in October 2011, a date remains unconfirmed. Check our benefit changes timetable regularly for updates.

November 2011

Junior ISA

To encourage parents to save for their children, the Treasury is to offer a tax-free children's saving account from 1 November 2011.

Available in cash or stocks and shares, the 'Junior ISA' will be a replacement for the Child Trust Fund, which was abolished on 1 January 2011. However, the Government will not provide any money to put in the account.

Winter 2011

Winter Fuel Payment

Change: Winter fuel payments will be reduced for the winter of 2011/2012.

The payments for people who have reached female state pension age were temporarily increased in 2008 from a maximum of £200 to £250 and, for people aged 80 and over, from a maximum of £300 to £400. This increase was renewed in subsequent Budgets until this year which means the payments will return to the £200 and £300 level.