Benefit Advice

Welfare Reform

There have been a number of changes to the benefit system over the past few years, and with more changes expected, we know things can become complicated.

If you're unsure about what benefits you may be entitled to please contact us for free advice or a benefit assessment check.

Alternatively, you can complete a self-calculation on the ‘Entitled To’ website by following this link

Another benefit calculator is available through ‘Turn2us’, by following this link


Council Tax Support Scheme

The former national Council Tax Benefit Scheme was abolished on 31st March 2013 and replaced with a new system of localised Council Tax Support.  This was to accommodate a 10% reduction in government funding, where each billing authority designed and implemented its own scheme for awarding council tax discounts to working age customers on low incomes.

From April 2018, the main change is that the maximum entitlement has been restricted to 80% of your council tax bill. This means that everyone is being asked to pay 20% of their annual council tax charge.

In order to ensure that the most vulnerable groups in society are protected it was agreed that the following would be exempt from the 20% minimum payment:

  • Claimants in receipt of severe disability premium
  • Claimants in receipt of the support component of employment and support allowance
  • Claimants in receipt of war pension

Please contact Shropshire Council Revenues & Benefits team for more information: 0345 678 9001 or visit their website by following this link.


Under Occupancy (Bedroom Tax)

Effective from April 2013, where working age benefit households contained unoccupied bedrooms, these would be subject to restrictions within their Housing Benefit entitlement, which also applies to the Housing Cost Element within Universal Credit.

Where the benefit household has one bedroom unoccupied, a 14% reduction was applied to the eligible rent assessment for Housing Benefit, and Housing Cost Element within Universal Credit.  For benefit households that has two or more bedrooms unoccupied, a 25% reduction applies against the eligible rent assessment.

Certain rules can apply to those affected by under occupancy, which relate to the specific use of the spare bedroom, such as, for medical purposes (storage of essential equipment), medical grounds where a member of a couple cannot share the same room etc. 

For more information please contact Shropshire Council Revenues & Benefits Team on 0345 678 9001 if you receive Housing Benefit, or 0800 328 5644 if you are receiving the Housing Cost Element within your Universal Credit award.


Benefit Cap

The benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of benefit that a household can receive. The Government believes the Benefit Cap:

  • Acts as an incentive to work, i.e. by limiting the amount of benefit that households out of work will receive it will be more likely they will be better off on entering work.
  • Promotes greater fairness in the welfare system between those out of work on benefits and tax payers in employment.
  • Reduces benefit expenditure and helps tackle the financial deficit.

The cap starts if you receive over £384.62 a week (i.e. 20,000 per year). That is for couples, families and lone parent households. For single adults without children, the cap starts at £257.69 per week. Certain claimants will be excluded from this i.e. carers or households receiving disability benefits.

If you think this may affect your family and you’d like to chat about the options please contact us.


Housing Cost Element within Universal Credit entitlement for 18 – 21 year olds

Since April 2017, some young people who were on Universal Credit in a full digital service had not been able to claim the Housing Costs Element.  Since 1st January 2019 all young claimants age 18 or over are able to receive a Housing Costs Element in their Universal Credit award - regardless of the reason why they are living independently - if they meet the basic eligibility criteria.


Two Child Limit

From 6th April 2017 the Child Tax Credit (CTC), Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Regulations changed to impose a limit of two child elements / child allowances in a CTC / HB / UC assessment – although exceptions apply.

This means that for most families who have a third or subsequent child on or after 6th April 2017 they will see no increase in their Child Tax Credit / Housing Benefit / Universal Credit award to help them support that child.

*This does not affect Child Benefit - any parent who has their third, fourth, fifth etc child on or after 6th April 2017 can still get any extra Child Benefit they are entitled to.*

The exceptions are for multiple births, adoption, formal caring (such as 'kinship arrangements) and children born following non-consensual sex.

Universal Credit

Shropshire became a full digital service area for Universal Credit from May 2018, which replaced a ‘gateway’ service; that commenced in 2015.

This means that for the majority of customers that would have been required to claim the following, would now need to apply for Universal Credit instead:

  • Income Support
  • Income Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Child Tax Credits and/or Working Tax Credits
  • Housing Benefit

A more detailed outlook of Universal Credit can be found here


Mixed Age Couples

This is the most recent update in Welfare Reform.  Up to 15th May 2019 mixed age couples i.e. where one is working age and the other is pension age, had a choice - they could claim Universal Credit OR they could claim Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and/or Tax Credits instead.

However, since 15th May 2019 mixed age couples have no longer been able to make new claims for Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit UNLESS they are already in receipt of Pension Credit or Housing Benefit under the State Pension Credit age Regulations.

Those mixed age couples already on Pension Credit and/or pension credit age Housing Benefit will not need to move onto UC while they remain entitled i.e. unless there is a break in their entitlement.

If you are a couple and your circumstances are likely to reflect these rules, please contact us for further advice.

If you are unsure of when you are due to reach State Pension / Pension Credit Age, The GOV.UK website has a Pension Age calculator - here - that gives both someone's state pension retirement age and Pension Credit qualifying age.