Coping with the changes
The government is in the process of making very significant changes to the benefits and tax credits system. This is bringing a great deal of uncertainty and fear for many people under pension age who receive help with everyday living costs from the government.
The Devon Strategic Partnership has recognised that it wants to support people to know what the impacts are and be able to access advice and information. To this end, it mandated the creation of the Welfare Reform Advisory Group which has worked in partnership to study the impacts of the proposed changes and help that it can give.
The Welfare Reform Advisory Group has produced a report about the impacts and recommendations for future action, which has been supported by the Devon Strategic Partnership Board.
In addition to this report, the Devon Strategic Partnership has created a simple interactive guide to help explain what these changes could mean for you, and which will direct you to information and support to help you cope with the changes.
The main changes
These may affect the financial help you receive with:
- Council Tax
- the total amount of benefits you can receive
- benefits you receive for a disability or because you are a carer
- grants or loans to help you in a financial crisis or emergency situation.
The government is, from October 2013, phasing in Universal Credit. In Devon, Universal Credit will be gradually introduced from 2016. This will replace:
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, DLA/PIP these benefits are not included in Universal Credit, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits, Housing Benefit with one single, monthly payment. Also, Budgeting Loans – to be replaced by an advance payment of Universal Credit.
If you currently receive any of the above benefits and are transferred onto Universal Credit, you will be:
- paid monthly
- responsible for managing your money and your budget (for instance you will need to pay your rent direct to your landlord and any Council Tax to the Council from the Universal Credit you receive)
- required to claim online in most cases.
If you are capable of and available for work, you may be required to sign a claimant contract and show that you are actively looking for work, or, if you are in part-time work you are looking for more hours or a better-paid job so that you don’t rely on benefits or tax credits.
Being told about a change
There are many changes happening between now and 2015. If you are affected you will be told, in writing, of the change. It is really important that you do not ignore these letters that may come from the Department for Work and Pensions or your local council.
If you receive a letter from one of these organisations and you don’t understand it please either call the number on the letter and ask them to explain it or take it to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau or telephone the CAB service on 08444 111 444.