Borders Welfare Reform awareness campaign launch
Published on Monday 4th March 2013
Are you ready for changes to benefits?
A Borders wide campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the changes to the welfare benefit system being implemented by the UK government between now and 2017 under the Welfare Reform Act.
Where to get help
Benefit claimants are being encouraged to make sure they are aware of the forthcoming changes and how they might be impacted. They are also being given contact details of where they can get more information, including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Scottish Borders Council (SBC) and local branches of the Citizens Advice Bureau. Housing association tenants can also contact their landlord. For further details please visit our Welfare Reform pages.
Why is it changing?
The Welfare Reform Act became law in March 2012 and represents the biggest change to the welfare benefits system for the past 60 years. It aims to:
- simplify the benefit system,
- protect the vulnerable,
- reduce benefit dependency
- and get more people into work.
The government is implementing the changes on a phased basis with the main changes due to begin in April 2013. Full implementation is to be completed by 2017.
What will change?
There will be changes to what benefits are called, the way they are claimed and what people are eligible for. In the main, these changes will only affect working age claimants and not pensioners at this stage.Some of the changes are already under way. Employment and Support Allowance, for people unable to work because of illness or disability, has been replacing Incapacity Benefit since October 2008. Private sector tenants in receipt of Local Housing Allowance have been experiencing rate reductions since in April 2011. In addition, deductions for non-dependents have increased while the shared room rate is being extended from under 25s to under 35s. In January 2013, Child Benefit was withdrawn for anyone with an individual income of more than £50,000.
Some of the most significant changes are due to take effect from 1 April 2013. These include the introduction of the Benefit Cap and changes to Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and the Social Fund.
The Benefit Cap will limit the total amount of benefits that working age claimants can receive. This will be £500 a week for couple and single parent households and £350 a week for single adult households. The DWP is contacting everyone likely to be impacted by the changes and expect to complete implementation by the end of summer 2013.
New under occupancy rules will mean that all working age Housing Benefit claimants in a housing association property who have more bedrooms than they need will have their benefit reduced by 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms. All claimants in the Borders likely to be affected are being contacted by the Council and their housing association to explain what the changes will mean and suggest possible solutions.
Council Tax Benefit will be replaced by the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, a new system of localised support funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by SBC. Claimants will be transferred automatically to the new scheme and for the time being will continue to receive the same level of assistance as they currently do.
The Social Fund, which currently delivers Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans, will be replaced by the Scottish Welfare Fund. The Fund will be administered by SBC who will receive an agreed allocation from the Scottish Government. From 1 April, claimants will apply directly to the Council and not the DWP as is currently the case. They will be able to do this by telephone or online via the Council's website. Face to face interviews will be possible at local CABs with more vulnerable clients able to access support at Social Work offices or through SBC's Welfare Benefits Service.
Further changes include the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment and the introduction of the new Universal Credit benefit.
Personal Independence Payment, for disabled adults aged 16-64, will replace Disability Living Allowance on a phased basis, starting with new claimants in the north of England and nationwide from June 2013. Existing claimants are not likely to be affected until 2015, although if their condition changes or they reach the end of their existing award, they may be affected earlier. The DWP is writing to everyone affected during 2013 to advise them of the changes.
From October 2013, the UK Government will begin to introduce Universal Credit, a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. It will replace and combine Job Seeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits and Housing Benefit. Being introduced on phased basis, the DWP intend that in East and SE Scotland, new claims for Universal Credit will go live from October 2013, beginning with non-householders initially.
Further information and advice
For further information and details of how to get advice please visit our Welfare Reform pages.