Universal Credit


Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age. It is a single monthly payment that is paid in arrears and it is being introduced in stages across the country. Universal Credit will eventually replace the following 6 existing benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment Support Allowance  
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Income Support

If you are of State Pension age, you will not be affected by Universal Credit and should still claim Housing Benefit.

How do I get help paying my Council Tax?

Local Council Tax Support for help with paying your Council Tax is still administered by the Council and is not part of Universal Credit. Therefore you need to make an application to the Council even if you do receive Universal Credit.

Claim using our on-line claim form

What happens if I am already receiving Housing Benefit?

You do not need to do anything if you are currently receiving Housing Benefit. You will eventually have to make a claim for Universal Credit but you will be told when you need to do so.

What should I claim – Housing Benefit or Universal Credit?

If you are a jobseeker and a single person, you need to claim Universal Credit.

If you have a partner, children or you are unfit for work, whether you have to claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit will depend on where you live in the Epping Forest District. There are currently 7 different start dates for the introduction of full service Universal Credit across the Epping Forest District. The start date depends upon the postcode of where you live and therefore which JobcentrePlus office administers your postcode. The majority of the Epping Forest District will not have to claim Universal Credit until 12 September 2018 but, if you live in one of the postcode areas administered by Harlow JCP, Waltham Cross JCP, Brentwood JCP, Walthamstow JCP, Redbridge JCP, or Hertford JCP, you will be affected earlier.

Please see the table below which lists the Jobcentres, the proposed start dates and the post codes affected.

Please note that these dates are subject to change if the Government amend the roll-out timetable.

 

Jobcentre Plus office

Start date for full service

Postcodes

Harlow JCP

20/09/17

CM17 0--, CM17 9--,

CM18-- 7, CM19 5--,

CM21 9--

 

Waltham Cross JCP

 

01/11/17

EN8 9--, EN9 2--, EN10 6--

Brentwood JCP

15/11/17

CM4 0--, CM15 0--

 

Walthamstow JCP

07/02/18

E4 7--

 

Redbridge JCP

21/02/18

IG7 4--, IG8 0--, IG8 8--

 

Hertford JCP

 

13/06/18

EN11 0

Loughton JCP

12/09/18

CM5 0--, CM5 9--, CM16 4--, CM16 5--, CM16 6--,

CM16 7--,

EN9 1--, EN9 3--,

IG7 5-- IG7 6--, IG9 5--,

IG9 6--, IG10 1--, IG10 2--,

IG10 3--, IG10 4--,

RM4 1--

 

You will still be able to claim Housing Benefit after these dates if;

1.      You have reached state pension age - Find your state pension age.

2.      You have three or more children -  Families with three or more children will not have to claim Universal Credit until November 2018. If you are receiving Universal Credit and then have a third child, you will have to claim Housing Benefit instead of Universal Credit. 

3.      You live in supported accommodation provided by a Housing Association or a registered charity -  If you receive support from your landlord  as part of your rent because you are vulnerable in some way, eg, you have physical disabilities, mental health issues or drug/alcohol addictions, you may be able to claim Housing Benefit. 

How do I claim Housing Benefit?

Claim using our on-line claim form

 

How do I claim Universal Credit?

If you fall under the group of households that should be claiming Universal Credit you will need to do this online as Universal Credit can only be claimed and maintained online. Applications for Universal Credit can be made online at: 

Apply for universal Credit here

Further information about Universal Credit can also be found using this link. For people that do not have online access, they will need to go to their local library, CAB office, or we can help them with online claiming at the Civic Offices. The Benefits Division can also offer Personal Budgeting Support advice for people that need guidance to manage their finances once they have claimed Universal Credit.

There is a Universal Credit helpline which is available. You should contact the helpline if you have any questions or your circumstances change and you’re already getting Universal Credit

The Universal Credit helpline is:                              Telephone: 0345 600 0723

How much Universal Credit will I get?

What you will receive will depend on your circumstances.  Universal Credit is calculated as a basic allowance for a single person or a couple plus additional amounts for:

Each child or young person you are responsible for

  • If you have a ‘limited capability for work’ (this means that you are unable to work due to illness or disablilty
  • Child care costs If you have regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person
  • Housing costs (mortgage interest payments and rent payments)  

More information can be found at How much universal credit will I get?  

How is Universal Credit paid?

Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears directly into your bank or building society account. It is a single monthly payment which means that it is your responsibility to budget to pay your expenses which includes your rent.

If you are a Council Tenant and you are used to Housing Benefit being paid weekly direct to your rent account, that will no longer happen with Universal Credit. Your Universal Credit payment will include an amount for your Housing Costs and you then need to pay the full rent liability to the Council.

Universal Credit can be paid directly to your landlord but only if you have rent arrears or you are unable to manage your own finances.

Universal Credit and Landlords

The DWP has issued guidance for landlords whose tenants receive Universal Credit. These guides can be found at: Landlord information regarding Universal Credit


Local Council Tax Support scheme for 2018/19


 

Your views are important to us. You do not have to be receiving Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) to contribute to this consultation.

What is this consultation about?

Local Council Tax Support is a scheme that helps people in financial need to pay their Council Tax liability. The scheme has to be designed and run by each Council and a review is carried out annually to see whether any changes should be made to the scheme.

The Council gets a grant from the Government to pay the Local Council Tax Support, but that grant is reducing each year. If we spend more than the grant, the Council has to decide how to pay for the amount of Local Council Tax Support that is paid in excess of the grant.

We therefore need your views on how the Council should fund the scheme. It is important that we have the views of local residents whether they receive any Local Council Tax Support or not, as it could affect the amount of Council Tax that you have to pay, or it could mean that we have to cut services that you use.

Who will this affect?

People of pension age have been protected by the Government and they have their own scheme for Local Council Tax Support. However, for people of working age, the Council has had to design a scheme for them that is less generous than the scheme for pensioners.

The current scheme for working age people is similar to the scheme for pensioners but with the following main differences:

  • The maximum Local Council Tax Support is 75% of the Council Tax liability
  • People living in E,F,G, or H band properties are restricted to the level of a band D property
  • The capital limit is £6,000

These differences in the schemes were introduced to try to reduce the cost to Council Tax payers in the District.

Tell us what you think?

Epping Forest District Council has now started the consultation process for the 2018/19 scheme and would therefore ask you to complete a brief questionnaire

Our on-line questionnaire is available until Midnight of 25 October 2017 and we need your views before we can make any changes.

If you want to make a detailed reply or comments, you should email us via the following address benefits@eppingforestdc.gov.uk and enter consultation in the subject heading.

If you do not have access to a computer, you can request a paper copy from the Benefits Division at the Civic Offices. Unfortunately, we will not be able to respond individually to each response.

What happens next?

The results of the consultation will be presented to Councillors in December 2017 and they will decide whether to make any changes to the scheme for 2018/19.

Find out more

If you want to read the Local Council Tax Support scheme for 2017/18, please visit the Council Tax Support section on our website where the scheme documents are available. 


Tell us about changes in your circumstances

 

If you receive Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Support

You must tell us about any changes that happen to you or the people living with you which may affect how much benefit you get - even small changes can affect how much benefit you can get.

You may be issued with a Civil Penalty if you:

  • deliberately give us false information or, 
  • don’t tell us of a change in your circumstances in order to get more benefit than you are entitled to

You must not rely on someone else such as your landlord, the Job Centre, HMRC or a friend telling us about a change affecting you or the other people living with you. You must tell us yourself.

 

What sort of changes do I need to tell you about?

Some of the changes you must tell us about are if:

  • there is a change in your income or benefits, or in the income or benefits of anyone living with you
  • anyone moves in or out of your home (even if they are only there for a short time)
  • your hours change, or you change jobs
  • you start or stop working
  • your capital / savings increase above £6,000
  • you are going to be away from home for a period of time
  • if you are moving home

These are only examples of some of the changes you need to tell us about. If you aren’t sure if a change might affect your benefit, tell us anyway or contact us for more information.

You may be asked to provide evidence of the change.

You may lose benefit if you delay telling us about any change in circumstances. If you are overpaid benefit as a result, you may have to pay it back.

 

How to tell us

You can tell us about the change by:

  • completing the online Change in Circumstances form here
  • using a Change in Circumstances form (we send one to you with every benefit notification letter)
  • writing to the Benefits Division at the Civic Offices
  • telephoning 01992 564156 between 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday
  • calling into the Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex CM16 4BZ between 9am and 5pm Monday to Thursday, 9am and 4.45pm on a Friday
  • calling into the The Limes Centre, Limes Avenue, Chigwell IG7 5LP between 9.00 am and 4.30 pm on Wednesdays.
  • Emailing us at benefits@eppingforestdc.gov.uk 

 

Benefit on two homes (overlapping benefit)

You can ask for Housing Benefit to be paid on two addresses at the same time for a period of up to four weeks. We can pay you this 'overlapping benefit' if you have actually moved into your new home and we accept that you could not have reasonably avoided having to pay two rents for the same period.

 

Civil Penalties

Civil penalties can be given where a person has either falsely given information, or failed to report a change in their circumstance, which has resulted in either Housing Benefit and/or Local Council Tax Support being paid, when there was either no entitlement or a lower entitlement. The civil penalty for Housing Benefit is £50 and for Local Council Tax Support it is £70.

The same £70 civil penalty also applies to all Council Tax discounts and exemptions (e.g. single resident discount, empty home discount), not just Local Council Tax Support. For example, if you are a single resident getting a 25% discount but you then have someone else move in and you don’t tell us, a £70 civil penalty will be applied.

The Civil Penalty policy document can be found here.

 


Local Council Tax Support


What is Local Council Tax Support? 

Local Council Tax Support is a scheme to help people who are unemployed or have a low income to pay their Council Tax. From 1 April 2013, Council Tax Benefit was abolished and each Council had to replace it with their own local scheme. The scheme is reviewed each year by the Council to ensure that we have a scheme suitable for the area, working to a budget that is reducing each year. The reduction in funding means that we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much.

People who have attained the State pension age have been protected and the Government still decides how their entitlement to Local Council Tax Support is calculated.

Local Council Tax Support scheme 2017/18

The Local Council Tax Support scheme for 2017/18 will remain the same as the scheme for 2016/17 except for three minor changes that will align our scheme with other welfare reforms that have been introduced by the Government and that have been applied to Tax Credits, Universal Credit, Pension Credit etc

The first change is to reduce the length of time that a person can be absent from home and outside of Great Britain. This has been changed to 4 weeks and means that if you are absent from Great Britain for more than 4 weeks, you will no longer be entitled to Local Council Tax Support until you return home.

The other two changes relate to new claimants only. If you are currently receiving Local Council Tax Support and do not have a break in your claim, these changes will not apply to you. The changes are:

Within the current calculation of Local Council tax Support, there is an additional premium called the ‘family premium’. This will no longer be included in the calculation for new claims received on or after 1 April 2017.

Within the current calculation of Local Council Tax Support, there is an addition for each dependant child, regardless of the number of children that you have. For all new claims received on or after 1 April 2017, this allowance will be restricted to a maximum number of 2 where children are born on or after 1 April 2017.

Although the Council has made these changes to our scheme for people of working age, the Government has introduced legislation that means that these three changes also apply to the Local Council Tax Support scheme for people of pension age.

Key features of our Local Council Tax Support scheme for people of working age

Every Council has a different Local Council Tax Support scheme. The Epping Forest District Council scheme is based on the old Council Tax Benefit scheme but has the following key differences.

  • The calculation of support is based on 75% of the Council Tax bill, rather than 100%.
  • The calculation is based on a maximum of a band D property. This means that anyone of working age that lives in a property with a higher Council Tax band, will have their support calculated as if their property was a band D.
  • The capital limit is £6,000.
  • There is no Second Adult Rebate scheme
  • Child maintenance is included with a disregard of £15.00 per week.
  • The minimum award is £0.50 per week.
  • Maximum period of 3 months for backdated support
  • A Minimum Income Floor for earnings from self-employment

Problems with paying your Council Tax

If you are having problems with paying your Council Tax, please contact our Council Tax section on 01992 564188 to discuss a suitable payment option for you. If you don’t tell us, you may incur costs which will mean that you will have to pay more.

If you would like some financial advice to budget for an increase in the Council Tax, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) offers free, independent advice to help people cope with changes in their finances. You can visit their website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk , telephone the Essex Citizens Advice Line on 0344 477 0808 or call into the local CAB offices in Loughton, Waltham Abbey or Harlow where advisors will be able to help you in organising your finances to deal with paying your Council Tax.

Local council tax support scheme documentation

Discretionary Housing Payments

In special circumstances you may be able to receive a Discretionary Housing payment if you have a shortfall between the amount of Housing benefit paid and your contractual rent.

  • We will look at your financial and personal circumstances before we decide to grant further financial assistance for your council tax.
  • In order to receive a Discretionary Housing Payment, you will have to demonstrate that your circumstances are exceptional. This means there would not be many other people whose circumstances are the same as yours. You will also need to demonstrate that you would be suffering severe financial hardship if you did not receive the extra help.
  • Discretionary Housing Payments are made from a limited amount of money the Council has each financial year, and there is no right to a Discretionary Housing Payment in law.

If you would like to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment you will need to complete the application form available here

Benefit Cap

There is a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap.

The cap means that the Government will add up how much money you get in total each week from a range of State Benefits. If the total is more than the cap, your Housing Benefit payments will be reduced.

The current benefit cap amounts are:


£20,000 per year (£384.62 per week) for couples and single parents.

£13,400 per year (£257.69 per week) for single people without children.


The benefit cap applies to the amount that you get from the following benefits:

  • bereavement allowance / widowed parent’s / mother’s allowance
  • carer’s allowance
  • child benefit
  • child tax credit
  • employment support allowance (except where the support element has been awarded)
  • guardians allowance
  • housing benefit
  • incapacity benefit
  • income support
  • jobseekers allowance
  • maternity allowance
  • severe disablement allowance
  • widow’s pension. 

Example 

A single person with 4 children.


Weekly income            Child Benefit             £61.80

                                    Child Tax Credits      £184.43

                                    Income Support        £73.10

                              Total income             £319.33

 

Weekly Housing Benefit                               £104.49

 

The weekly income plus the weekly Housing Benefit is £423.82 which is £39.20 above the £384.62 cap. The £39.20 is then deducted from the Housing Benefit so the weekly Housing Benefit would reduce to £65.29.


You will not be affected by the cap if anyone in your household gets any of the following benefits:

  • working tax credit
  • attendance allowance
  • support component of employment support allowance
  • war widow / widower’s pension
  • disability living allowance
  • personal independence payment
  • industrial injuries benefit
  • armed forces compensation scheme payment
  • war pension scheme payments.

For more information about the benefit cap, please visit www.gov.uk/benefit-cap

Backdating Housing Benefit/ Local Council Tax Support

Your Housing Benefit/Local Council Tax Support will usually start either:

• From the Monday after we receive your form
• Or the Monday after you first contacted us asking to make a claim, providing that you return your completed form to us within a month of first contacting us
• Or the Monday following the start date of your entitlement to JSA (IB), ESA(IR), IS or Guaranteed Pension Credit, providing that you send a completed form to us within a month of making that claim
• Or, if you receive JSA(IB), ESA(IR), IS or Guaranteed Pension Credit, the date that you moved into a new property (or the Monday following if you have a weekly rent liability), providing that you send a completed form to us within a month of moving in

If you think you might be entitled, make a claim as soon as possible so you don't lose out.

Sometimes we can pay benefit from an earlier date if there is a continuous good cause (reason) why you did not claim from that date. The maximum we can backdate your Housing Benefit claim is up to 1 month if you are under pension age (or 3 months for backdated Local Council Tax Support). If you are over pension age we can go back up to 3 months.

To allow an award for a backdated period, you must be able to show that you have a continuous ‘good cause’ for failing to make a claim at the correct time. This means that you will have to explain why the Council didn’t receive a form from you and you will also need to demonstrate why you were unable for some reason to complete a form and sent it to the Council. This ‘good cause’ must exist for every day from the date you wish to claim from, up to the date the claim for backdating was actually made.

Each case is considered on its merit. ‘Good cause’ for one claimant may not be considered ‘good cause’ for another. Amongst other things, your health condition (both physical and mental), household emergencies (such as bereavement), language needs, support available to you and any incorrect advice you may have received at the time is all taken into account in making our decision.

Ignorance of the benefit system is not good cause and we cannot award backdated Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Support just because you did not understand the scheme. It may be a factor in the request but you will also have to have other reasons.

If you want us to consider paying your benefit from an earlier date, tell us when you want benefit paid from and why you did not claim earlier. Please provide any evidence to support your reasons for not making a claim on time. If your health was the reason why you were unable to make a claim, you should provide a health worker or doctor’s letter and/or any evidence of treatment that you were undergoing at that time.

Essential Living Fund

Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants are two parts of the social fund that are no longer available from The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

From 2nd April 2013 a scheme called the Essential Living Fund replaced Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants. Essex County Council is responsible for the new scheme. Individual applications are administered by Southend-On-Sea Borough Council for the whole of Essex.

What is the scheme?

The Essential Living Fund may be able to provide you with essential items in an emergency such as:

• Furniture & Furnishings
• White goods
• Household equipment
• Fuel connection or re-Connection charges
• Clothing and footwear
• General Living Expenses

The Essential Living Fund is operated as a grant system and if awarded, it will be paid by goods or vouchers.

To be considered for support you must be:

• Aged 16 or over
• In receipt of state benefits or on a low income
• Permanently live in Essex

How do I apply?

You can make an application online or by phone:

Phone: 0300 790 0124 - this number is Freephone from any number including mobiles. Opening hours: 8.45am to 5.15pm
Online: www.southend.gov.uk/elfforessex

You will be asked questions about your income, earnings and savings. You will also be required to provide proof of your financial situation.

Exceptional Hardship Payments

In special circumstances you may be able to receive a Exceptional Hardship payment if you have a shortfall between the amount of local council tax support paid and your council tax liability.

  • We will look at your financial and personal circumstances before we decide to grant further financial assistance for your council tax.
  • In order to receive a Exceptional Hardship Payment, you will have to demonstrate that your circumstances are exceptional. This means there would not be many other people whose circumstances are the same as yours. You will also need to demonstrate that you would be suffering severe financial hardship if you did not receive the extra help.
  • Exceptional Hardship Payments are made from a limited amount of money the Council has each financial year, and there is no right to a Exceptional Hardship Payment in law.

If you would like to apply for a Exceptional Hardship Payment  you will need to complete the application form available here.

Appeals

Housing Benefit

If you want to appeal against a Housing Benefit decision, you must do so in writing within one month of the date on the decision letter. An appeal must be signed by the claimant and contain the grounds for appeal, ie. you need to tell us what decision you disagree with and the reasons why you disagree with the decision. You should provide any supporting evidence if you have it. If we are unable to change our decision, we will prepare a response to HM Courts & Tribunals Service. A copy of the response will also be sent to you if you are the claimant and your representative if you have one. 

Once you have submitted an appeal, if you want to withdraw it, you will need to do so in writing.

Local Council Tax Support

If you want to appeal against a Local Council Tax Support decision, you must appeal to us in writing and tell us what decision you disagree with and the reasons why you disagree with the decision. We will consider your appeal and if we cannot change the decision and you still disagree, or if we do not respond to you within 2 months, you can appeal directly to the Valuation Tribunal Service. Their website is www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk  


InformationBenefits


Housing benefit is an important means-tested benefit for people on low incomes which helps them to pay their rent, this can be rent paid to a council, housing association or a private landlord. The rules are set by the government and the benefit itself is administered by local councils, the rules changed on 1 April 2011 and there are more changes in the pipeline.

Housing benefit is for people on a low income to help them pay their rent. You may be able to get housing benefit if you are on other benefits.

Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) is a new scheme that is locally run in order to replace the national Council Tax Benefit scheme which was abolished on 1/4/13. LCTS is to help support people on a low income pay their Council Tax Liability. 

Report a change in circumstances online

Claim Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Support using our online form

All evidence linked to any claim or change can be either sent by post to the below address, taken to the Benefits Counter at the Civic Offices, or emailed to Benefits. Benefits staff are available at the Limes Centre on Wednesdays to provide any assistance required.