You may have heard about the major changes to welfare benefits that have started this month and will begin to roll out nationally over the next few years. But do you know whether these changes will impact on you, and are you prepared?
Here Karen Holmes, Welfare Benefits Specialist at charity Turn2us explains a bit more about these changes and provides tips for parents who might be affected.
Changes to the welfare benefits system which may affect parents of working age include the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) which is replacing six means-tested benefits, cuts to Housing Benefit for those in social housing, for example council or housing association accommodation, who have a spare bedroom, and the introduction of a benefit cap limiting how much people can receive from certain benefits. Here are some of our tips for coping with the changes.
- 1. Do a benefits check
As these changes start to come in to effect, the best place to start is with a free and easy benefits calculation which allows you to work out which benefits you may be entitled to. Even if you are already claiming, it is worth checking again to see if you might be eligible for any extra support, especially if the benefits you currently claim might be reduced as the changes come in.
A benefits check will also help you identify whether you are eligible for any benefits which could make you exempt from some of the changes, for example, if you are entitled to Working Tax Credit, you won’t be affected by the benefits cap.
2. Get some help with budgeting
Some parents who see a change or reduction in their benefits may find it more difficult to manage their finances.
In addition, UC which is replacing Income Support, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for working age people will be paid to claimants monthly rather than weekly. According to Turn2us’ recent research, nearly two-fifths (39%) of parents who currently claim these benefits are worried this change might make it harder for them to manage their money. If you’re worried about this too, have a look at Turn2us’ information on budgeting which might help you to plan ahead for these changes.
3. See if you are eligible for other financial help
If you have already seen, or think you may see a reduction in the amount you will receive in benefits and are worried about your situation, it is worth checking to see if you may be eligible for other financial help, for example by searching for a charitable grant. Grants are available to help people in financial need. Each grant will have its own criteria about the costs it can help with and who can apply.
4. Seek face to face advice
The welfare benefits changes are happening at different times between now and 2017, and exactly when you will be affected can depend on factors such as where you live and whether you have a change in your circumstances. Some people may also find they are affected by more than one of the changes.
If you are worried about any of the changes, you should speak to an adviser about your situation; you can find someone in your local area with our Find an Adviser tool
5. Get further information on the changes
If you aren’t sure if you will be affected by the changes or would like any further details, have a look at the dedicated website Turn2us has set up with the latest information on all of the benefits changes.
The site includes clear factsheets on all of the changes, a step-by-step decision tree tool to help people work out if they’ll be affected, and the option to sign up for email alerts to be notified about different changes as they happen.