Agenda item


An Officer from Revenues and Benefits will be present to discuss benefit changes with residents.


Karen Wenlock, Revenue and Benefits Manager, delivered a presentation on the Welfare Reform changes to come, and the presentation is attached to the minutes for information, accompanied by a booklet on Advice Services and poster highlighting important government changes to housing benefit and council tax benefit. Karen highlighted the following points from the presentation:


·         The Welfare Reform will save £20 billion welfare benefits bill. A further £10 billion benefits cuts are planned.

·         The reforms will simplify the benefits system and there will be one point of contact for people claiming.

·         The changes will not affect pensioners, at present from 62 years of age, but the age limit will increase.

·         Income related benefits will be affected, and income support / incapacity benefits will be reassessed.

·         Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) and will no longer be lifelong. There will be two levels of assessment instead of three, and the numbers of people eligible will reduce.

·         The new Universal Credit (UC) covers both in/out of work claimants, and covers Housing Benefit and Council Tax Credit.

·         Mainly an online service, payments will be made directly to tenants.

·         Claimants will lose some existing premiums, for example, disability and carer credits.

·         Changes come into force on October 2013 for new claimants and change of circumstances.

·         25-34 year single people are no longer eligible for the one bedroom rate other than shared accommodation, which will be reduced from £91.15 to £58.00 per week. The new rate applies to new claimants and those coming up for a review. No payments will be made to people under 25 years.

·         Consultation on the new scheme will complete on 30th October 2012.

·         Council Tax Support will replace Council Tax Benefit from April; 2013. Pensioners will be protected, but the contribution from working age people will increase.

·         Benefit Income Capping will commence from April 2013, (£500 per week for families / lone parents, £350 per week for singles), regardless of the number of children in a household.

·         Any other ‘benefit income’ above £500 will not be paid, for example, Housing Benefit. This will affect the public and private rented sector. Council Tax Benefit is not affected.

·         Exemptions will apply if people are in receipt of:

o   Disabled Living Allowance

o   War widow / widower

o   Support element of ESA (and Universal Credit when in)

o   Working Tax Credit

o   ‘Grace period’

·         The cap will not be applied for 39 weeks if people who have worked continuously for 12 months lost their job through no fault of their own.

·         Housing Benefit restrictions or the ‘bedroom tax’ affects working age claimants in social housing:

o   14% reduction for one extra bedroom

o   25% reduction for two or more extra bedrooms

o   No allowance if a claimant has children part-time.

·         There are exemptions to the Housing Benefit restriction:

o   Claimant is of pensionable age

o   Shared ownership property

o   Non-mainstream rental, e.g. caravan site

o   Temporary accommodation, e.g. statutory homeless provision

o   Supported ‘exempt’ accommodation.

·         Local Authorities will have a Discretionary Housing Payment fund to cover some of the Welfare Reform changes, though not at a level to cover all who experienced cuts, and each case would be considered on its own merits.

·         Welfare Assistance responsibility would be passed to Local Government with £178 million nationally to distribute in the form of grants, at the discretion of the Local Authority.


Karen then referred to the presentation which provided a list of organisations that could offer advice and assistance to claimants. The meeting was informed that the Revenue and Benefits service on Leicester City Council’s website had details of the changes that would take place. She added that money advice could also be obtained through the service.


A resident raised the issue that if Housing Benefit was paid directly to tenant instead landlords, people might not pay the rent but use the money elsewhere, also there were a lot of people unable to take control of their finances for example, people with mental health issues. Karen stated that ways for people to take on responsibility for their rent payments would be looked at, for example, Direct Debit payments. The Government anticipated that only 20% of claimants would not manage and would have assistance, but Karen said that the Housing Benefits and Revenue Section were concerned over the collection of rents. The meeting was informed that there would be pilot schemes at six different authorities to trial direct payments and find any pitfalls. There would also be exemptions for direct payments, for example, people in sheltered accommodation and hostels. Karen said a separate scheme would be run outside of the Universal scheme by the Department for Work and Pensions.


Councillor Kitterick asked if people had questions, or were aware of anyone needing help, it would best be sought sooner rather than later, and if information could not be found online or by phone, then where could they find help? Karen reported that there would be articles in link, but information was changing all the time, and up-to-date information on where to go for help would be sent to every household. Also, the Welfare Advice Partnership Group linked up advice available around the city. Karen reported that some agencies were funded by legal aid which would be cut in April 2013, and it was planned to hold a money advice session once a week at the City Council. Karen stated that the main problem was that until the changes in benefits came into effect people did not know they would be affected. People who would be affect by the ‘bedroom tax’ and banding changes had been written to, and a mailshot in January 2013 would warn people of the changes.


Members thanked Karen for the presentation.

Supporting documents: