The biggest changes to the welfare system for more than 60 years are taking place following the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act.
Aims of the reforms include:
- Providing incentives to get more people into work
- Providing a simpler system to provide support all within one payment
- To make savings of £18 billion in the term of the current parliament
The county borough has high numbers of people with long term health problems and disabilities in receipt of incapacity and disability benefits; and substantial numbers of benefit recipients generally. Consequently there is a significant financial impact on many people within Neath Port Talbot as a result of these changes. The local authority and its partners are working together to provide help and advice to those adversely affected
The exact details of the reforms are being developed and revised on an ongoing basis. The current status of the major planned changes are summarised below and will be updated as further developments occur.
Incapacity Benefit / Employment and Support Allowance
People in receipt of Incapacity Benefit and other benefits for sickness or disability are being re-assessed using the more stringent test to become entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.
A number of changes have already been made to housing benefit since 2011. Further changes which have taken effect since April 2013 see a reduction in housing benefit for tenants in the social rented sector deemed to be ‘over-accommodated’.
The definitions are very rigid, for example children of the same sex are expected to share a room up to the age of 16. Those with one ‘spare’ room will see a 14% reduction in the rent allowed for housing benefit and those with 2 or more ‘spare’ rooms will see a 25% reduction. Currently, over 2,000 households are affected by this change. Those affected should seek advice from their landlord in the first instance.
Since July 2013 a benefit cap has been introduced. This means single people with a combined income of over £350 per week or £500 for a couple have their Housing Benefit restricted accordingly.
Looking further ahead, Housing Benefit will be abolished when Universal Credit is introduced, as housing costs will form part of the calculation.
For further information you can visit our page on Universal Credit
Council Tax Support
Council Tax Benefit was abolished from April 2013, replaced by the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. This resulted in the Welsh Government receiving 10% funding less than previously from the Westminster Government.
For the financial year 2013/14, the majority of those previously receiving Council Tax Benefit have not seen any difference in their entitlement as the Welsh Government has stated that it will make up any shortfall. It is not yet possible to say what will happen in future years!
Those previously in receipt of second adult rebate have however lost entitlement to this rebate as it has been abolished under the new scheme.