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How welfare cuts will hit Wiltshire

December 1, 2012 8:02 PM

idsThe Welfare Reform Act 2012 is the biggest change to the welfare system for more than 60 years. It will affect just about everybody - you'll take a direct hit if you are in receipt of benefits; you'll be affected if you are an employer; and the local economy will be depressed by a general reduction in spending. Here's Wiltshire Council's analysis of the changes, and below that is a link to a video explaining the impact in simple terms.


Council tax support
Wiltshire people receive £27 million in council tax benefit, currently funded in full by central government. It is a national benefit scheme which households receive if they pay council tax, and their income and savings are below a certain amount. From April 2013, the government is stopping this and asking councils to run a new scheme known as council tax support. When this is introduced the government funding will be replaced by a grant. The reduction in funding will be between 10% and 14% . The WC scheme will prevent those with savings of more than £10,000 claiming. Working age families currently in receipt of council tax benefit will see an average reduction in their weekly benefit of around £4.

Under occupancy and housing benefit - the 'bedroom tax'.
If you receive housing benefit, are of working age (16 to 61) and have one or more spare bedrooms, your housing benefit will be reduced from April 2013. You will either have to find the money to pay the difference between your housing benefit and your rent, or look for a smaller property that is appropriate for your family's size. Children of the same sex who are under 16, or two children aged under 10 regardless of their sex, can share a bedroom. A disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom. The reduction will be a fixed percentage of the amount of housing benefit people receive. The government has set this at 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
The government plans to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which will have a new structure and new assessment process. From 2013 the government will reassess those who are already on DLA and begin to transfer people to the PIP. Existing DLA claimants will have to apply for the new benefit and evidence will be gathered from a range of sources on their condition.

Universal credit
Universal credit will be phased in from 2013. It will replace most existing welfare benefits, including housing benefit. This is intended to simplify the benefit system and give people more control over how their money is budgeted. It will be paid monthly direct to claimants. People who are vulnerable or over 61 may still be able to have the benefit to cover their rent paid directly to their landlord.
Couples living in the same household will make a joint claim for the benefit payment, meaning they will no longer receive individual payments of money for different needs.
From October 2013, when Universal Credit is introduced, if either member in a couple is under the qualifying age for Pension Credit then the couple will be treated as working age.

Benefit cap
From April 2013, the government will introduce a cap on the total amount of benefits working-age people (16 to 61) can receive. This means households where no one is in work should not get more in benefits than the average wage paid to people in work. A household includes you, your partner, and any children you are responsible for, and who live with you.
If you already receive benefits and could be affected by the benefit cap you'll be contacted by staff from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). From April 2013, your housing benefit may go down to make sure the total amount of your benefit is not more than the cap level. If this happens you may have to use money from your other benefits to pay the rent.

Help and support
The changes will particularly hit those working families who are already suffering through low wages. For more information, contact customer services on 0300 456 0100 or customerservices@wiltshire.gov.uk. Tenants in social housing should contact their landlord about changes related to housing.
Enquiries about benefit and benefit cap issues should be directed towards the local Job Centre plus, or the DWP helpline 0845 6057064. Advice can also be given by Wiltshire Citizens Advice on 0300 456 8375 (from a mobile) or 0844 375 2775 (from a landline).