Welfare Reform Information

The changes to the legislation for the benefits scheme will be discussed in the Northern Ireland Assembly over the next few months. Similar legislation to that being proposed in Northern Ireland has already been passed in Great Britain. 


Who will be affected?

PLEASE NOTE, if you or your partner were born before 6th October 1951, the proposed changes will not affect you. 
 
At present if Housing Executive or housing association tenants claim Housing Benefit there is no restriction on the amount of benefit they are entitled to in relation to the size of their home. If the new legislation goes ahead, this is likely to change during spring 2014.  Bedroom size criteria would be introduced for new and existing working-age Housing Benefit claimants who are living in either a Housing Executive or housing association home.
 
PLEASE NOTE: You are considered to be of working age if both you and your partner (if any) were born after the 5th of October 1951.
 
The restrictions would apply to all Housing Benefit working age claimants where they (and any family) are under-occupying their home.  
 
Bedroom Size Criteria - What is a ‘spare’ bedroom?  
Under the new rules if you have more bedrooms than the Government says you need, you will lose part of your housing benefit. It is anticipated that from early spring 2014, if you live in a Housing Executive or Housing Association home and you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms your housing benefit may be reduced.
 
 

Those who are not affected by this change include:

 
✘Tenants who are pensioners. If you or your partner are old enough to receive pension credits. if you or your partner were born before 6th October 1951, the proposed changes will not affect you
 
✘Tenants who do not receive any Housing Benefit.
 
✘You live in a one bedroom flat or bedsit.
 
 
However if you do not fall into the above category these changes could affect you:
 
✔ if you are 16 to 61 years old
 
✔ even if you only get a small amount of housing benefit – for example, if you are working
 
✔ even if you are sick or disabled
 
 
 In summary, the new rules mean you will be allocated one bedroom for:
✔ each adult couple
 
✔ any other person aged 16 or over and registered as living solely with you
 
✔ two children of the same sex under the age of 16
 
✔ two children under the age of 10 regardless of their sex
 
✔ any other child
 
✔ an appointed carer (who does not normally live with you) if you or your partner need overnight care.
 
It does not matter how the ‘spare’ bedroom is used, the new rules will apply even if:
 
✔ you and your partner need to sleep apart because of a medical condition
 
✔ the main residence of your children is another address, but you have a spare room for when they stay with you.
 
There are proposed exemptions for foster carers and the armed forces. 
 

What difference would tenants see in their Housing Benefit?

 
If you have one ‘spare’ bedroom your housing benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay every week. If you have two or more spare bedrooms, you will lose 25% of Housing Benefit.
 
If your benefit is cut you will have to pay Rural Housing Association the difference between your housing benefit and your rent.
 
If you are worried about being able to afford to pay your rent or you’re concerned about how you’ll be affected, please ask Rural Housing Association for advice.

We know that many residents will be worried about what this could mean for them and their families. We are here to provide as much support and advice we can to make sure you’re prepared for these changes

You can talk to Rural Housing Association or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive about transferring to a smaller home through a transfer or a direct exchange.

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Visit the HomeSwapper website at www.homeSwapper.co.uk to advertise a house exchange online

Once you get registered you can advertise your property on the website and view your matches to see if you can find the property to want. If you find someone you would like to swop with, please contact your housing officer.

Talk to Rural Housing Association or the Northern Ireland Housing Executive about where to apply for extra financial help, for example extra financial assistance may be sought through the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme. While Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) will be available to help in the short term, particularly for very vulnerable tenants, the budget for this is limited.

Some additional funding has been made available for disabled people living in accommodation that has been substantially adapted for their needs (including new builds) and for foster carers (including those between foster placements).

Use the online Housing Benefit calculator on the Housing Executive’s website

Go to www.nidirect.co.uk for more information on other benefits

Check www.dsdni.gov.uk for the latest updates about welfare Reform

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