Changes to your benefit entitlement

With legislation changing all the time, it can be difficult to keep up to date with just what benefits you are entitled to. This could mean that you’re missing out on money owed to you – and you could make money by claiming for the correct amounts – or that you could be facing a dip in your financial assistance.

There are a number of changes that have been made to the benefit system in 2013. This could mean that even if your family situation, income or living circumstances haven’t changed since last year, you could be losing out on money that you are entitled to. Similarly, if your set-up is different between this year and last year, it’s important you make sure you are claiming the right tax benefits for your new lifestyle or location.

It also works the other way round – changes can have a negative impact on your benefit entitlement, so it’s important to be aware of any developments in legislation that may result in you being poorer.

2013 benefit changes are only eligible for those of working age, which means anyone born before 5th October 1951 will unfortunately not be entitled to any additional income as a result of these changes as you are considered of pension age. However, if you are of working age, here are a few system changes that might be of interest to you:

Housing benefit

From 1st April 2013, housing benefit will be reduced if you have a spare bedroom in your house, even if your property is rented from your local council or a housing association. A bedroom allowance allocates one room for each single adult or adult couple, one bedroom for each child aged 16 or over and one bedroom for either two children of the same gender under 16 years old or two children of opposite genders under 10 years old. A bedroom can also be granted to an overnight carer.

Anyone who has an additional spare bedroom over and above these allowances will have their housing benefit reduced by 14% for one bedroom and 25% for two or more empty bedrooms.

Benefits cap

All people who receive housing benefit and universal credit – a new single payment system for the unemployed or low income earners – will have a maximum entitlement cap placed on the amount they receive, totally £350 per week for a single person and £500 for a couple or single parent.

Benefit capping will begin in London and will be rolled out across the UK during the course of the year. More information is available through the government’s website or Entitledto, a useful source of unbiased financial information regarding claiming the correct benefits and credits for your situation.

Council tax changes ahead

Council tax is undergoing a major rehaul in 2013 and will cease to exist as we currently know it. Instead, your local council will design a scheme for your area to cover costs, which could result in high council tax payments.

Universal credit

As mentioned earlier, the government is in the process of introducing a new universal credit for those in need of financial support. This will consolidate your existing entitlements, so that you receive one payment rather than a number of benefits and tax credits such as income support, jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit.

Initially only new applications will be granted universal credit, however exisiting benefit claimants will be migrated over to the new system in 2014. Please note that the criteria for receiving universal credit may differ to the current individual regulations for each type of benefit, which may effect whether you can claim financial support and how much you are entitled to.

Disability allowance

If you claim disability living allowance for the first time after summer 2013, you will actually be offered personal independence payments. This is a new credit designed to offer a more tailored financial package for your individual needs. The new payment can be split into two parts, one for daily living costs and the other for mobility, which together determine how much you are entitled to.

To make sure you receive the correct benefit or tax credits for your financial and family arrangement, regularly check the government website so see if welfare policies have changed. That way you can avoid a nasty surprise if your entitlements are cut, or you can make sure you claim a higher sum if relaxation on certain measures impacts positively on your situation.

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