Benefits and Welfare

 

Frequently asked questions about benefits and welfare reform

Universal Credit

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit will replace the following with a single monthly payment:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit

If you are already claiming, or plan to claim any of these benefits, it is important you find out about Universal Credit and how it will affect you. You can get practical support and advice about Universal Credit from Money Advice Service.

Download a quick guide to universal credit for more support.

How we can help?

If you are affected by any of these changes and are worried about being able to pay your rent, you should ask for advice now.

You should always let us know if you have problems managing your money or are in debt. If you don’t pay your rent you could lose your home, so it is important that you speak to us.

Call a member of our Income Management Team or make an appointment to see us. We can help you to set up a payment plan and to budget effectively, or alternatively we can signpost you to other services.

Our Money Support Service can also help. It is a free, confidential and impartial service available to all of our customers. We can advise you about benefits, debts and budgeting.

How is Universal Credit different to current benefits?

  • It’s paid directly to you
  • It’s paid monthly in arrears
  • It’s paid into your bank account or similar
  • If you live with your partner and both claim Universal Credit you will receive one monthly payment that covers both your claims.

How does Universal Credit affect my rent?

  • If you currently receive Housing Benefit or have your Housing Benefit paid directly to us it will stop.
  • Your Universal Credit payment would include an amount of money to help with your rent.
  • This means that you will be responsible for paying your rent yourself.
  • If you don’t make rent payments you could lose your home.

When will I be affected by Universal Credit?

  • Universal Credit began being rolled our in February 2015 starting with single claimants, with couples and families following.
  • To claim Universal Credit you must be aged over 18 but below Pension Credit age.
  • If you and your partner are above Pension Credit age you won’t be affected by Universal Credit.
  • If you already claim one of the affected benefits, you’ll continue to do so as normal and you’ll be told when Universal Credit will affect you. However, it is worth finding out more so you can prepare.

Universal Credit Planner

The Department for Work & Pensions have provided a Personal Planner which will show you what you need to do to be ready for Universal Credit.

It will help you to find out if you’ll need to do anything differently to manage a Universal Credit claim. DWP Universal Credit Personal Planner

6 top tips for Universal Credit

  1. Get your rent account into credit now. If you pay at least £3.85 per week on top of your rent now, it will reduce the risk of being in arrears when you’re switched over to Universal Credit.
  2. Make sure you have a bank account or similar that can receive the payment. If you have a bank account, you should check that you can use it to set up direct debits. If you don’t have an account you should open a bank, building society, Post Office or credit union account. You can find out more about how to choose a bank account from the Money Advice Service.
  3. Decide how you’re going to pay your rent. Direct debits are a quick and easy way to pay your rent. You set it up once and don’t have to remember when to pay.
  4. Get used to budgeting for monthly payments if you don’t already. You will receive your Universal Credit once a month, so you’ll need to ensure you pay your rent and other bills, leaving enough for essentials, such as food, for the month.
  5. Think how you will manage your money. If you are struggling to make ends meet, contact us straight away and we’ll see how we can help you.
  6. Make sure you will be able to claim online. You can access the internet free of charge at your local library and they often also offer computer training if required. You will also be given assistance at your local job centre with your application.

What is Council Tax Support and can I get help with my Council Tax?

If you are a tenant on a low income, Council Tax Support can cover or pay towards your Council Tax, even if you already receive a discount on your Council Tax. For more information contact your local authority.

Canterbury City Council 01227 862300
Dover District Council 01304 872199
Gravesham Borough Council 01474 337000
Kingston Borough Council 020 8547 5757
Maidstone Borough Council 01622 602000
Medway Council 01634 332222
Sevenoaks District Council 01732 227000
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council 01732 844522
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council 01892 526121
Wealden District Council 01323 442666

Council Tax Support

What is Council Tax Support and can I get help with my Council Tax?

If you are a tenant on a low income, Council Tax Support can cover or pay towards your Council Tax, even if you already receive a discount on your Council Tax. For more information contact your local authority.

Canterbury City Council 01227 862300
Dover District Council 01304 872199
Gravesham Borough Council 01474 337000
Kingston Borough Council 020 8547 5757
Maidstone Borough Council 01622 602000
Medway Council 01634 332222
Sevenoaks District Council 01732 227000
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council 01732 844522
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council 01892 526121
Wealden District Council 01323 442666

Housing Benefit

What is Council Tax Support and can I get help with my Council Tax?

If you are a tenant on a low income, Council Tax Support can cover or pay towards your Council Tax, even if you already receive a discount on your Council Tax. For more information contact your local authority.

Canterbury City Council 01227 862300
Dover District Council 01304 872199
Gravesham Borough Council 01474 337000
Kingston Borough Council 020 8547 5757
Maidstone Borough Council 01622 602000
Medway Council 01634 332222
Sevenoaks District Council 01732 227000
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council 01732 844522
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council 01892 526121
Wealden District Council 01323 442666

Can I claim housing benefit?

If you are a tenant on a low income and not on Universal Credit, you can claim Housing Benefit from your local council towards the cost of your rent. The payment may also include some extra money for other things you have to pay for, such as service charges for cleaning shared areas.

How much will I receive in Housing Benefits?

The amount of benefit you receive will depend on a number of different things, including how much you earn and how many people live in your home.

  • What money you and your partner have coming in, including earnings, some benefits and tax credits and things like occupational pensions.
  • Your savings and your partners savings.
  • Your circumstances, such as your age, the age and size of your family, whether you or any of your family is disabled, and whether anyone who lives with you could help with the rent.
  • Whether the amount of rent and size of your home are reasonable.

When should I make a Housing Benefit claim?

If you delay, you may lose benefit. You can make your claim up to 13 weeks before becoming entitled to Housing Benefit, although you will not usually receive any money before you move in.

How do I claim Housing Benefit?

If you claim Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance, you will get a form to claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit with your claim pack. It is important you make a separate claim for both. Jobcentre Plus will not do it on your behalf.

Or, you can get the forms from your local council.
Canterbury City Council 01227 862300
Dover District Council 01304 872199
Gravesham Borough Council 01474 337000
Kingston Borough Council 020 8547 5757
Maidstone Borough Council 01622 602000
Medway Council 01634 332222
Sevenoaks District Council 01732 227000
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council 01732 844522
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council 01892 526121
Wealden District Council 01323 442666

What will happen to my Housing Benefit if I move?

Moving to a new address, or a change in your circumstances, may also mean a change in your entitlement to Housing Benefit. Tell your local council straight away.

Loan Sharks

Dealing with loan sharks

Not all credit options are good or safe.

If you have a poor credit rating then you may be tempted to use a doorstep lender or a payday loan company, especially if you have few credit options. However, these are expensive and should be avoided.

How to report a loan shark in complete confidence

The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have a 100% safe online reporting form that you can use to report illegal money lenders to. Their team are also available 24/7 on 0300 555 2222 for anonymous information taken in the strictest of confidence. Alternatively you can email reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk.

The advisers can give you advice about your situation. The information you provide helps them to take action to stop illegal money lending.

What happens after you report a loan shark?

After you’ve completed the form, a member of the Illegal Money Lending Team will contact you at a time to suit you. They will also explain what happens next and help you get the financial, housing or debt support that you might need. Anything you share with them will be treated confidentially.

How we can help you

It is really important to talk to us quickly if you experience any difficulties paying your rent. We have our Money Support Team available to offer impartial and confidential advice to our tenants. If you would like to speak to them, please contact us and ask to be referred.