Housing Benefit & the 'Bedroom Tax'

Introduction of Under Occupancy Rules – ‘Bedroom Tax’

Introduction

This briefing provides NHS Lothian employees with details on the UK Government’s changes to housing benefit known as under occupancy or the ‘bedroom tax’.  It also identifies where more information and support is available for staff and patients affected by these changes

What is happening?

From 1st April 2013, housing benefit is changing for people of working age who rent their home from the council, housing association or other registered social landlord.

If tenants have one or more spare bedrooms than the new rules allow, then it is likely that their housing benefit will no longer cover the full rent they have to pay.

What is a spare bedroom?

The new rules state that:

  • There should be 1 bedroom each for a couple or single adult over 16 years old
  • Children of same sex to share a bedroom until one is 16 years old and children of different sex to share until one is 10 years old
  • An additional bedroom is allowed for a non-resident overnight carer of tenant/partner if they require regular overnight carers, and have an arrangement in place and receive DLA at either highest or middle rate of care component. An additional bedroom is also allowed if it can be shown that overnight care is needed, even if the tenant/partner does not receive DLA.

City of Edinburgh Council has said : 'We won't be asking for supporting evidence from a GP in relation to an overnight carer.
 
We will make a decision based on the information we receive from the claimant.
 
Similarly, we would not routinely ask for medical evidence when we receive a claim for a payment from the SWF' (Social Welfare Fund)

How much housing benefit will be lost?

Housing benefit will be reduced by 14% if the tenant has one spare bedroom and reduced by 25% if the tenant has more than one spare bedroom.

Who will be affected?

Approximately 80% of those affected are disabled people, including those who live in adapted or specially designed properties, and those who use a spare bedroom to store specialist equipment in their homes.

Separated parents who share the care of their children will also be affected, as benefit rules mean there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who the children are considered to live with). This will adversely affect parents who have access to children but not custody. It will also adversely affect parents who have joint custody but are not designated as the main carer of the children (the main carer will usually be considered to be the parent who receives Child Benefit in respect of the child/children).  

Couples who use their spare bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation will also be affected.

What can you do?

Ask about money worries as part of your routine health assessments, for example:

  • What money worries do you have?
  • What are you living on / what income do you have?
  • You said you have been feeling low lately; do you have any money worries?
  • Are you aware of anything that might be causing your anxiety; family problems or money worries?
  • Would you like to speak to an advisor to discuss money worries or help you to claim any benefits that you may be entitled to?

Signpost to further information and support.

Discretionary Housing Payments are made through local authorities to vulnerable tenants in receipt of housing benefit to provide short term emergency funding.  For application details see:  

Edinburgh www.edinburgh.gov.uk

Midlothian www.midlothian.gov.uk

East Lothian www.eastlothian.gov.uk

West Lothian www.westlothian.gov.uk

The next page provides details of agencies that can provide specialist advice and support on applying for welfare benefits.  You will also find information at  

https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits

Awareness raising and training

Over the next year a series of training sessions on welfare benefits will be held across NHS Lothian. See welfare reform pages on the corporate pages of the staff intranet or contact kate.burton@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk .

Produced March 2013

Welfare Benefits Advice and Information

National Help lines

Citizens Advice Direct - 0844 848 9600

Edinburgh

City of Edinburgh Council’s Advice Shop - 0131 200 2360

Citizens Advice Edinburgh - 0131 557 1500

Southwest Edinburgh

Community Help and Advice Initiative (CHAI) - 0131 442 1009  

North Edinburgh

Granton Information Centre – 0131 551 2459

 

West Lothian

West Lothian Citizens Advice Bureau – 01506 432977

West Lothian Council Advice Shop – 01506 283000

 

Mid Lothian

Penicuik Citizens Advice Bureau – 01968 675259

Dalkeith and District Citizens Advice Bureau – 0131 660 1636

Midlothian Council Welfare Rights Service – 0131 271 3900

 

East Lothian

Musselburgh and District Citizens Advice Bureau – 0131 653 2748

Haddington Citizens Advice Bureau - 01620 824471

East Lothian Welfare Rights Team – 0131 653 5230

Last Reviewed: 10/07/2013