Changes to welfare benefits

MoneyThere have been a number of major changes to the Welfare Benefit Scheme since April 2013. The following information highlights the main changes and how they may affect you. We have listed contacts at Waltham Forest Housing and other organisations that can offer advice and support.

Further changed have been announced since the July 2015 Budget.


We have provided an explanation of the key changes below:

  • Universal Credit
  • Benefit Cap
  • Size Criteria.


Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is a new type of financial support for people of working age who are looking for work or on a low income. It was introduced to Waltham Forest in May 2015 starting with new single claimants who previously would have been eligible for Jobseekers Allowance, including those with existing Housing Benefit and Tax Credit claims.

For more information including details of how to make a claim online please visit the Gov.uk website or telephone 0800 055 6688 to make a claim in person. This process can take up to several weeks to get the payments sorted.


Benefit Cap

In April 2013, the Government introduced an upper limit, a ‘cap’, to the total amount of benefits that most households can get. This is £500 a week for families and £350 for single households and the capped amount includes Housing Benefit and Child benefit.

Households receiving Working Tax Credit and Disability Living Allowance will be exempt from the cap, as will income from contributory benefits that are paid to people who have made enough National Insurance contributions. This means that you should not be able to get more from claiming benefits than you would be able to earn by working.

If you want to calculate if your family will be affected, visit the Gov.uk webpages on the Benefit Cap.

If you think that you may be affected, please contact Income Maximisation team on 020 8496 4197 to find out more.

Size criteria/under occupation (Bedroom Tax)

The government decided that, if you and your partner are of working age, your Housing Benefit entitlement may be reduced if you are living in a property which is bigger than you need.

The changes may affect you if you have more bedrooms than the Housing Benefit rules say that you require. In deciding if you have ‘too many’ rooms Housing Benefit rules state that:

  • A child of 16 or under will be expected to share with another child of the same gender; and
  • A child of 10 or under will be expected to share with one other child aged 10 or under, regardless of gender.


Some examples of households who could be affected are :

  • A single person or a couple living in a 2 bedroom property
  • A couple with one child living in a 3 bedroom property
  • A couple with a 2 girls, both under the age of 16, living in a 3 bedroom property.


What can you do?

There are several options. For instance

  • You may want to move to a more smaller property
  • You may want to take a lodger in to your spare room. Download the 'Taking in a lodger' leaflet to find out whether this is suitable for you.
  • You may decide to make up the shortfall.

All of these are important decisions though.

If you would like more information about moving to a smaller property or the other options in dealing with the size criteria, please contact the Income Maximisation team on 020 8496 4197 or email income.maximisation@walthamforest.gov.uk


If you have any concerns about being able to pay your rent it is very important that you contact our Income Maximisation Team and speak to an advisor as soon as possible. We will offer you as much help as we can. To contact the team call 020 8496 4197.

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