Understanding the benefit system isn’t easy.

Knowing what you’re entitled to and filling in forms can be daunting and complicated.
Our money advice team are on hand to help.
They can check which benefits you are entitled to and help you claim them.

You can find out more about current benefits and how they’re changing below. You can also discover which benefits you could be entitled to by using out benefits calculator.

Universal credit is a single monthly payment, for those in or out of work. For new claimants, it will replace the following benefits and tax credits this year;

  • housing benefit,
  • income support (IS),
  • jobseeker’s allowance (JSA),
  • employment and support allowance (ESA),
  • child tax credit and
  • working tax credit, will all be replaced by universal credit.

If you currently claim any of the above benefits, you will continue to receive them until you are transferred on to universal credit. (We expect these transfers to start in 2020.)

The full digital service of universal credit will start in the local area this year.
This means if you wish to make a new claim for any of the benefits above, you will have to claim universal credit instead.

  • Stoke on Trent City Council – June 2018
  • Staffs Moorlands – June 2018 (if your local Job Centre is Buxton or Glossop it is September 2018)
  • Staffordshire Borough Council – November 2018
  • Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council – December 2018
  • Cheshire East – Universal Credit has already replaced current benefits.

Universal credit will not replace the following benefits;

  • attendance allowance
  • carer’s allowance
  • child benefit
  • disability living allowance
  • industrial injuries benefits
  • local council tax support schemes
  • local welfare provision
  • pension credit
  • personal independence payment
  • state retirement pension
  • contributory jobseeker’s allowance
  • contributory employment support allowance
  • bereavement benefits
  • maternity allowance
  • statutory sick pay
  • statutory maternity pay
  • statutory paternity pay
  • statutory adoption pay

To find out more about universal credit, and how to claim click here.

Your universal credit payment may include an amount to help with rent and other housing costs.
It will be paid into your bank account which means you will now have to pay your landlord directly.*

We recommend that you pay your rent by direct debit as soon as you receive your monthly payment. This prevents the temptation to spend the housing costs and falling behind on rent payments.
Why not contact your Income Officer who will be able to help you set up a direct debit or advise on other payment methods.

*Some people may be able to get their housing costs paid directly to their landlord.

If you live in a property with empty bedrooms, you might be asked to move to a smaller property or pay a ‘bedroom tax’.
At the moment, if you have one spare bedroom your housing benefit will be cut by 14%. If you have two or more bedrooms it will be cut by 25%.

You won’t have to pay ‘bedroom tax’ if your bedrooms are used by the following;

  • an adult couple
  • a person over 16
  • a disabled child who cannot share a bedroom with another child because of their disability
  • two children of the same sex under 16
  • two children under 10, regardless of their sex
  • any other child.
A discretionary housing payment is a one-off payment, to help with your housing costs.
You can apply for a DHP if you can’t afford your rent due to bedroom tax or benefit caps. You can also apply if you need help with a deposit, advanced rent or removal expenses.

DHP is usually offered short-term and is not a permanent benefit.

Bereavement support payment is a single payment of £2,500, and 18 monthly payments of £100, after the death of a spouse.
If you have children the single payment rises to £3,500 with monthly payments of £350.
If you are struggling to pay your council tax you might be eligible for a ‘council tax reduction’.
The council tax reduction is available to those on a low income or claiming benefits. It could reduce your council tax by up to 100%.

To find out more, select your local area below;

Stoke on Trent

Newcastle under Lyme

Staffordshire Moorlands

Stafford Borough Council

Cheshire East Council

From 3 April 2017 new ESA claimants, who are put into the work related activity group, won’t receive the extra £29.05 per week.
They will receive the same level of benefits as JSA claimants which is £73.10 per week.
Universal credit claimants between 18 and 21 years old, will now have to apply for an apprenticeship, gain work experience or take part in  a work placement.
They must start their training at least six month after their claim.
Tax Credits

Thresholds and Taper

The Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement 2015 that the Government would no longer be making cuts to the thresholds for Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and the taper used will remain at 41% instead of increasing to 48%.

This will mean if your income is above £6,420 a year (for CTC only £16,105 pa) your maximum tax credit entitlement will be reduced by 41p for every £1 your income is above the threshold.

Cut to the income rise disregard from April 2016

The income rise disregard is to be reduced to £2,500 from April 2016. At present if claimants have an increase in income of less than £5,000 in a tax year, this increase is disregarded and will not lead to a Tax Credit overpayment. Decreasing this disregard to £2,500 will lead to decreases in entitlement and increasing numbers of overpayments of Tax Credits.

Cut to Family Element from April 2017

From April 2017 the Family Element part of Child Tax Credit (£545 a year) will no longer be awarded to CTC claimants following the birth of their first child. Families claiming CTC for the first time after April 2017 will also not be awarded the Family Element. Families who were receiving CTC prior to a new claim and the break in the claim is less than 6 months will still be entitled to the Family Element.

Cuts to Child Tax Credit for families with more than 2 children from April 2017

From 2017 families not be able to claim Child Tax Credit for a third or subsequent child born after April 2017. Protection will be given to:

  • families who have been receiving CTC or UC with and have a breaks in in their claim of less than 6 months;
  • families with children with disabilities will continue to receive the disabled child element and severe disabled child element of CTC or UC;
  • children born as multiple births will be protected;
  • a woman who has a third child as a result exceptional circumstances.

Changes to Pension Credit from April 2016

The DWP has published legislation to make two key changes to Pension Credit from April 2016.

Phasing out of Savings Credit

From April 2016 Savings Credit will no longer be paid to new claimants in mixed aged couples where one of the couple is above Pension Credit age and the other is below.

Phasing out of Assessed Income Periods

Pension Credit claimants over the age of 65 currently have an assessed income period applied to their claim of up to 5 years, and those over 75 have an indefinite assessed income period during which they do not have to report any changes in their retirement provision such as increases in pension or increases in capital.

From April 2016 new claimants will no longer have an assessed income period applied to their claim. Assessed income periods which are due to end between April 2016 and March 2019 will be allowed to run their course. Assessed income periods due to end after April 2019 will end before March 2019. This does not affect those claims with indefinite assessed income periods.