Category Archives: Benefit Changes

Welfare Reform Champions

Welfare Reform Community Champions

Future Welfare Benefit Changes

As you may be aware the Government are making radical changes to the amount of benefit people will receive and how their benefit entitlement will be paid.  In April 2013, the introduction of the benefit cap and the under occupation charge will affect many of the tenants and residents of Kirklees.

Why be a Community Champion?

KNH are looking to recruit local tenant reps and people who attend the achievers course to become Welfare Reform Champions. The Champions will also be more knowledgable about the changes than the average tenant and will be able to tell people on their estates who to contact if they are having problems when the changes come into effect. 

Training Session

If you are interested in becoming a champion, there will be a training course at Dalton Library and Childrens Centre, Ridgeways Dalton. The session will be held on Thursday 24th October and run from 10.00am – 4.00pm. Lunch will be provided. (COURSE FULL)

If you would like to book a place on future training events then please contact Beverley Waterworth at KNH on 01484 416409 who will book a place for you.

There are only 8 places left and these will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. (THESE PLACES HAVE NOW BEEN TAKEN – but to book a place on a future course please contact Bev Waterworth tel 01484 416409))

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Council Housing Tenants will pay for empty bedrooms from April 2013

Do you have an unused bedroom?

If you are a council housing tenant who is below retirement age and receives housing benefit are you aware that you will receive a reduction in the housing benefit you receive from April 2013?

Housing Benefit is reducing for people living in homes too large for their needs; a situation known as ‘under occupying’ a property. This change will affect tenants who:

• rent their home from a social landlord eg. Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing or a housing association, and  have at least one spare bedroom in their home, and  are of ‘working age’ ie. under pension credit age.

For full details of all the Welfare Benefit Changes and how they will affect you, please follow the link below.

http://www.kirklees.gov.uk/answers/benefits/welfarebenefitchanges.pdf

Cameron to announce new cuts to welfare benefits

cameron-tories-slash-benefits

David Cameron: ‘We have been encouraging working-age ­people to have children and not work.’ Photograph: Carl Court/PA

David Cameron will on Monday launch a scathing attack on what he calls the “culture of entitlement” in the welfare system, as he warns that claimants with three or more children may start to lose access to benefits, and almost everyone aged under 25 will lose housing benefit.

The prime minister will claim there is now a damaging and divisive gap in Britain between those enjoying privileges inside the welfare system and those resentfully struggling outside. It is likely to be seen on the left as the death knell for Cameron’s brand of compassionate conservatism.

He will also single out lone parents of multiple children as a focus for cuts and insist the welfare system should be a safety net available only to those with no independent means of support. The reforms could see a range of benefits targeted, including income support payments.

The speech represents a shift in the prime minister’s political management of the coalition because he will openly acknowledge that some of the proposals cannot be delivered in concert with the Liberal Democrats, and will have to wait for a Conservative majority government after 2015.

He says he hopes the Lib Dems will co-operate on some of the proposals, but “given the scale of change I’ve suggested, and the long time-frames involved, I am exploring these issues not just as leader of a coalition but as a leader of the Conservative party who is looking ahead to the programme we will set out to the country at the next election”.

The Lib Dem Treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander, gently rebuffed this, saying the focus should be on introducing universal credit in this parliament.

In the single most controversial passage of the speech, Cameron will assert: “We have been encouraging working-age people to have children and not work, when we should be enabling working-age people to work and have children. So it’s time we asked some serious questions about the signals we send out through the benefits system.”

He will say: “If you are a single parent living outside London, if you have four children and you’re renting a house on housing benefit, then you can claim almost £25,000 a year. That is more than the average take-home pay of a farm worker and nursery nurse put together. That is a fundamental difference. And it’s not a marginal point. There are more than 150,000 people who have been claiming income support for over a year who have three or more children … and 57,000 who have four or more children. The bigger picture is that today, one in six children in Britain is living in a workless household – one of the highest rates in Europe.”

Cameron will admit this is difficult territory, but will say that at a time of austerity, “It is right to ask whether those in the welfare system should not be faced with the same kinds of decisions that working people have to wrestle with when they have a child.”

Calling for a national debate on welfare, he will insist that compassion should not be measured by the size of a welfare cheque. He will also turn his fire on young people aged under 24 on housing benefit. He will say: “For literally millions, the passage to independence is several years living in their childhood bedroom as they save up to move out; while for many others, it’s a trip to the council where they can get housing benefit at 18 or 19 – even if they’re not actively seeking work.”

Cameron is targeting the current 210,000 people aged 16 to 24 who are social housing tenants, although it is not clear if all of them will be single. He says the measure could save £1bn, but will not apply to victims of domestic violence.

The government has already capped housing benefit for anyone aged under 35 renting from a private landlord, so the maximum is the same as renting a single room in a shared house. The government is forecasting that housing benefit expenditure will peak in 2012/13 at £23.2bn, before falling back to £21.4bn in 2016/17.

But ministers have signalled that they are looking for a further £10bn in welfare cuts, mainly after the next election.

In other measures, Cameron may also announce plans to tighten the definition of homelessness, a shift to regionally set benefits, and measures to tighten the requirements to actively seek work before receiving jobseeker’s allowance .

For those that have not found work after two years on jobseeker’s allowance, he will say they must undertake some form of compulsory community work, such as tidying parks.

As part of a broader argument about a welfare divide in the UK, he will claim: “We have, in some ways, created a welfare gap in this country – between those living long term in the welfare system and those outside it. Those within it grow up with a series of expectations: you can have a home of your own, the state will support you whatever decisions you make, you will always be able to take out no matter what you put in. This has sent out some incredibly damaging signals. That it pays not to work. That you are owed something for nothing. It gave us millions of working-age people sitting at home on benefits even before the recession hit. It created a culture of entitlement. And it has led to huge resentment amongst those who pay into the system, because they feel that what they’re having to work hard for, others are getting without having to put in the effort.”

Cameron will also say his crackdown will apply only to those of working age and not to pensioners. He will say: “Two years ago I made a promise to the elderly of this country and I am keeping it. I was elected on a mandate to protect those benefits – so that is what we have done.”

What to do if you are struggling with council tax payments

Council tax benefit is claimed by 5.9 million low income families, more than any other means tested benefit or tax credit in the UK.

The number of people falling behind with their council tax rose by more than a quarter in 2011 despite council tax freezes across England.

The average amount owed in council tax arrears also increased, from £675 in 2010 to £717 in 2011.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies warns that coalition plans to scrap the existing council tax benefit system from 2013, which provides discounts for those on low incomes, and to cut the amount spent on such benefits by 10% while ring fencing benefits for pensioners means that there will be higher cuts to benefits for working-age households, particularly in areas where there was a high proportion of older claimants. It added that the 10% cut would force councils to choose between making significant cuts to working-age claimants’ benefits, cutting services or increasing council tax.

Council tax benefit is claimed by 5.9 million low income families, more than any other means tested benefit or tax credit in the UK.

What to do if you are struggling with council tax payments

• Contact your council to discuss the problem – it may let you spread your payments over 12 months instead of 10 to reduce the amount due each month

• Check if you qualify for a discount or exemption: a full council tax bill is based on at least two adults living in the household, but many people get exemptions, including student nurses, full time college and university students and live-in carers looking after someone who is not their partner, spouse or child. Even if you are not eligible for a regular discount, your council may be able to award you a one-off discount in cases of extreme hardship.

• If you have already missed payments, work out how much you of the arrears can afford to repay each month and offer to make regular payments to the council. Only offer what you know you can keep up with: if you renege on these payments or fail to come up with an offer, the council can ask the local magistrates court for a liability order – a demand for the full amount you owe, plus costs.

• Do not ignore a liability order – this could lead to deductions from your wages, the use of bailiffs, bankruptcy or repossession of your home. In extreme cases, it could even lead to a prison term.

• Contact one of the free debt counselling services, including the CCCS,Citizens Advice or National Debtline, for advice.

Retirement Pension Changes

Good News for stay at home mothers and carers.

At present you have to work in paid employment for 30 years to qualify for the full state retirement pension. But under pension reforms announced in the Queens speech, people who have taken a break from work to look after dependents or children will be treated as if they had worked.
If that period either alone or with time at work meets the 30 year rule, they will be entitled to the new flat rate pension of £140 per week. This change will apply to people who retire from 2015 onwards.

It’s good to see some notice of the importance of caring and family ‘work’ being taken by the government and that the people who take on this role will have this recognised in their pension entitlement.

Community Health Care

Community Health Care

District nurses and health visitors are facing job cuts, rising workloads and less time to care for patients, despite pledges by ministers that NHScommunity services would be boosted to relieve the pressure on overstretched hospitals.

A dossier of evidence assembled by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which represents the UK’s 400,000 nurses, reveals that NHS services outside of hospitals are struggling to cope with growing demand brought on by the ageing population, hospital bed shortages and staff cutbacks.

The union claims that a total of 61,113 posts in the NHS across the UK have been lost or placed at risk since April 2010, as the service undergoes a financial squeeze, including a £20bn efficiency savings drive in England by 2015.

According to the UK-wide RCN survey, almost nine out of 10 NHS community nurses (89%) have seen their caseload rise over the last year, while 59% said they were spending less time with their patients than this time last year.

Some 68% said staffing levels had fallen where they worked, while 86% reported that patients were being discharged from hospital more quickly than before.

“These results raise major concerns about the capacity of community services to deal with an increasing number of acutely ill patients,” the RCN document says.

“The acute sector may be getting smaller but the community sector is not expanding to ‘take up the slack’ and is vulnerable to short-term cuts.”

Dr Peter Carter, the RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, said NHS community services were “overburdened, under-invested and at risk from cutbacks”. In England, the NHS community nursing workforce fell in 2011, with 1,995 fewer nurses, midwives and health visitors employed, official NHS statistics show.

Fuel Poverty

 

Nearly eight million people in England – 2.7 million households – both had low incomes and faced high energy costs in 2009, the most recent year with available data.

With average bills having risen by around 20 per cent since then, the scale of the problem could be much higher, the fuel poverty gap – already three-quarters higher than in 2003 – will rise by a further half, to £1.7billion by 2016.

The households affected face costs to keep warm that add up to £1.1 billion more than middle or higher income people with typical cost

Some £30m earmarked to help vulnerable families cut heating bills is set to be unclaimed because of Treasury rule changes.

The Warm Front scheme pays energy-efficiency improvements of up to £3,500 for those in fuel poverty. But last year’s scheme changes mean that only those on certain disability or income-related benefits qualify – so £30m of the £366m fund will be unclaimed by the end-March deadline, says consumer group, Consumer Focus. Jonathan Stearn, an energy expert at the government watchdog, said: “This could have helped some of the poorest households to keep warm, well and cut their energy bills.

Earlier this week, (10/05/12) The Independent revealed that annual deaths related to fuel poverty total almost 8,000, three times the previous estimates.

 

Housing Benefit Cuts Affect London Tenants

‘The social cost is immeasurable, lives are being wrecked,’ says Marylebone landlord

Officials at the central London county court have started granting eviction orders to a number of landlords in housing benefits cases, allowing them to begin eviction proceedings against tenants who are no longer able to afford their rents as a result of the new cap on the amount the government will contribute to rent payments.

During a busy rental repossessions hearing, one Marylebone landlord was there to evict a woman and her three children, the youngest aged seven, from the flat they have rented from his property company for the past two years.

This will be the ninth family the landlord has removed from their homes this year and he has a further 35 families that he has to evict over the next few months as the housing benefit cap takes effect. The woman did not attend and an order was granted in her absence.

 

Sickness Benefits

Sickness Benefits 

Fears those too ill to work will be unable to meet basic living costs as government limits contributory allowance to 365 days

This week,(April 2012) about 70,000 seriously ill, disabled people will lose some or all of their £99-a-week allowance, in perhaps the most swingeing welfare cut proposed by ministers.

In the past the public were told that by paying into national insurance, they would be guaranteed benefits should they find themselves unable to work due to sickness or disability.

But, the government will limit receipt of the contributory allowance to just 365 days. It marks the end of a welfare state that rested on William Beveridge’s central idea that social security was “first and foremost a plan of insurance – of giving in return for contributions benefits up to subsistence levels”. It’s what Labour leader Ed Miliband calls the “something for something” welfare state.

Instead the government aims to test claimants’ ability to work “some time in the future” using the controversial work capability assessments (WCA). If a disabled person is judged to be able to do some “work-related activity”, then the household is means-tested for contributory benefits.