There have been a number of changes to the UK benefits system. Some benefits are being replaced while others might have different rules for claiming them. Many benefit changes have already taken place in England, Scotland and Wales and are being gradually introduced in Northern Ireland. This page tells you more about what’s happening across the UK.
- Universal Credit
- The benefit cap
- Housing Benefit cuts for social housing tenants
- Housing Benefit if you’re aged between 18 and 21
- Changes to the Social Fund
- Benefit changes in Northern Ireland
- What you can do about the changes
Living in Northern Ireland?
Universal Credit works differently in Northern Ireland. Find out more on the nidirect website.
Universal Credit is a new simpler, single monthly payment for people looking for work or on a low income.
It is replacing some of the benefits and tax credits you might be getting now.
Whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances.
Personal Independence Payment replacing Disability Living Allowance
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has been replaced by a benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people aged 16 to 64.
If you’re already getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and your benefit is due to come to an end or you report a change in your needs, you’ll be contacted about reassessment for PIP.
If you have an indefinite or lifetime award for DLA you will be invited to claim PIP by December 2018.
The benefit cap
If you’re aged 16 to 64, there might be a limit on the total amount of benefit income you can get.
This is called a benefit cap.
The maximum amount you can now get in benefit income is:
- £23,000 a year if you live in London
- £20,000 a year if you live elsewhere in the UK.
Housing Benefit cuts for social housing tenants
If you’re renting from a local authority, housing association or registered social landlord, your Housing Benefit might be cut.
This is often referred to as the ‘Bedroom Tax’, the ‘under-occupation penalty’ or the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’.
Your Housing Benefit might be cut by:
- 14% if you are considered to have one spare bedroom
- 25% if you have two spare bedrooms or more
Housing Benefit if you’re aged between 18 and 21
The government will amend regulations so all 18 to 21-year-olds will be able to claim supports for housing costs as part of Universal Credit. The date for this has not been announced yet.
You will no longer be automatically entitled to Housing Benefit.
However, you will still be able to claim if you’re:
- a parent with dependent children
- classed as a vulnerable adult
- have worked continuously for six months before making a claim.
If you live in Scotland, the Scottish government has said it will continue to pay Housing Benefit to 18 to 21-year-olds through the Scottish Welfare Fund.
Changes to the Social Fund
Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans
Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans have been replaced with support provided by your local authority in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.
- If you live in England, see this interactive map on the Children’s Society website to find your local welfare assistance scheme.
- If you live in Scotland, find out more about the Scottish Welfare Fund on the Scottish Government website.
- If you live in Wales, the Welsh Government has introduced the Discretionary Assistance Fund.
If you need to borrow money for an emergency expense while you’re claiming certain benefits, you can ask for help from the DWP to help with the cost.
If you’re getting certain benefits you might be able to claim a Budgeting Loan.
Find out more about Budgeting Loans from the Social Fund
Budgeting Advances are replacing Budgeting Loans for people on Universal Credit.
If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you will need to ask for a Budgeting Advance.
Find out more about Budgeting Advances on the Citizens Advice website.
Benefit changes in Northern Ireland
Universal Credit is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland in September 2017.
Find out more about Universal Credit in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website
Personal Independence Payment
Find out more about Personal Independence Payment in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website
The benefit cap
The benefit cap was introduced in Northern Ireland on 31 May 2016.
Find out more about the benefit cap in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website
The ‘Bedroom Tax’
The ‘Bedroom Tax’ was due to be introduced in February 2017.
However, the Northern Ireland government has agreed funding to help people who will be affected by the changes.
If you are affected, you’ll need to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
To find out more, call the Independent Welfare Change Helpline on 0808 802 0020.
The helpline is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Calls are free from mobiles and landlines within the UK.
Find out more about the introduction of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ in Northern Ireland on the Housing Rights website
Changes to the Social Fund in Northern Ireland
Community care grants and crisis loans are no longer available.
If you need emergency short-term help you can apply for Discretionary Support, which is part of the Finance Support Scheme.
You can also apply to Finance Support for:
- Budgeting Loans
- Maternity grants
- Funeral payments
- Cold weather payments
- Short-term Benefit Advances.
Find out more Finance Support and Discretionary Support in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website
What you can do about the changes
If you’re affected by these benefit changes and you’re worried about managing on less money, the first step is to make sure you know exactly how much you have coming in and what you have to spend it on.
Every year your council is given a pot of money to help people in the short term who are having trouble paying their rent.
The council decides who should be given what they call ‘Discretionary Housing Payments’
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.