Benefit changes

 

Here is a list of recent changes to benefits which you may need to be aware of. If you need any help or support with any of these changes, please contact us.

 

Date introduced Benefit Details
2018 (Awaiting date) Universal Credit Full Service – Severe Disability Premium – New Gateway Condition Following the government’s announcement that they intend to protect those who have already lost out, and will lose out financially due to the loss of the Severe Disability Premium, the government are introducing a new 'Gateway Condition' into the Universal Credit.
2018 (Awaiting date) Universal Credit (18-21 year olds) Measure to be dropped - awaiting confirmation
December 2018 Tax Credits replaced - Moving on to Universal Credit Will be replaced by Universal Credit for working age.
November 2018 State Pension Age Increase Women’s State Pension age to reach 65 by November 2018, will then increase for both men and women to reach 66 by 2020 i.e. entitlement to pension credit for both men and women is linked to the minimum qualifying age at which a women can receive state retirement pension.
April 2018 Funeral expenses Changes made, to increase time limit for a claim to six months; shorten claim form for a childs funeral; disregard contributions from charitable funds and relatives.
April 2018 Universal Credit - Free School Meals From 1 April 2018 the Department for Education is implementing an earnings threshold for Universal Credit claimants:
  • England: £7,400 per year (average of £616.67 per month)
  • Scotland - £7,320 per year (£610.00 per month)
  • Northern Ireland - £14,000 per year (£1,166.67 per month)
  • Wales - There is currently no earnings threshold for Free School Meals in Wales
April 2018 New Rules When Suspending Conditionality For Those Previously 'Found Fit' Or Treated As 'Found fit' These rules affect those Universal Credit claimants who have previously been found fit for work, or treated as fit for work, who subsequently request that their work search/preparation requirements are temporarily suspended due to a period of ill health. From 11 April 2018 a Universal Credit claimant who is a jobseeker and who suffers a health condition will not be able to have their work related requirements temporarily suspended* if the health condition they are reporting is the same as, or substantially the same as, the condition they had when they were previously found fit for work, or treated as fit for work. This rule will not apply if:

The claimant has been referred for a further Work Capability Assessment - in which case the work coach can suspend or reduce any work related requirements.

The last decision on fitness for work was regarding a decision about Income-Related ESA or 'Old-Style' Contributory ESA^.

And the work coach does have the discretion to suspend conditionality if it would be unreasonable to expect the claimant to comply with their work related requirements.

^The new rules will apply to those found fit or treated as fit for work under the UC Regulations or under the ESA Regulations 2013 ie for New-Style ESA, but not under ESA Regulations 2008 ie for Old-Style Contributory ESA or Income-Related ESA.
Could cause some residents to receive a sanction if they fail to comply with their claimant commitment, and therefore causing them financial hardship.
April 2018 New Time Limit For Providing Evidence Following Beneficial Change From 11 April 2018 where a claimant has a change in circumstances that would mean their UC will increase ie a beneficial change, they only have 14 days (rather than a month) to provide any required evidence.

However as with the previous rules, the DWP can use their discretion to extend to a longer period if necessary.
April 2018 Universal Credit Full Service - Self-Employed Surplus Losses Rules From 11th April 2018 self-employed Universal Credit claimants whose Universal Credit claim is on the Full Service are subject to new rules which allow previous losses from self-employment to be ‘carried over’ and offset against self-employed income in subsequent Monthly Assessment Periods
April 2018 Universal Credit Full Service - Surplus Earnings Rules The 'surplus earnings' rules - that apply only for claimants on UC under the Full / Digital service - were first set to take effect from 2016 but were delayed. The date these rules will come into effect has now been confirmed as 11 April 2018.
KEY FACTS:
- The Universal Credit ‘surplus earnings’ rules due to come into force from 11 April 2018 for certain high earners are both complex and confusing.
- They only affect those claimants on the Full / Digital UC service.
- From April 11th 2018, a Full / Digital UC claimant whose earnings are too high to entitle them to UC in a Monthly Assessment Period, will, in certain circumstances, have some of those earnings taken into account when they make a rapid reclaim for UC within six months.
- Where more than six months pass after the Monthly Assessment Period where UC ended, then these regulations will not apply.
- The level at which a claimant will be deemed to have 'Surplus Earnings' has been deliberately set at a high figure in order to limit the number of cases affected and to enable the DWP to test and learn from the new arrangements. However this will be reviewed in March 2019.
- Any 'Surplus Earnings' a claimant is deemed to have is added to any other earning when working out whether or not they are entitled to UC when they make a rapid reclaim, and how much they are entitled to.
- Those few claimants that are affected can only 'erode' their 'Surplus Earnings' by making repeated monthly claims until an award of UC is made - or six months is reached.
But where the claimant's earnings remain high, they may be better deferring making a Rapid Reclaim to the first Monthly Assessment Period in which their earnings drop.
Who will be affected?
- Only a small number of UC claimants will be affected during 2018/19.
- 'Surplus earnings' will be taken into account when a claimant makes a rapid reclaim for UC if, when their UC award dropped to nil, their earnings in that Monthly Assessment Period were higher than their 'nil UC threshold' plus £2,500
April 2018 Support Mortgage Interest New Regulations will take effect from 6th April 2018 that replace the existing support for mortgage/loan interest for owner-occupier housing and replace it with a system of loans.
- Help for home owners with other housing costs (such as service charge and ground rent) will continue to be made as now.
- The new rules affect both new and existing* claimants.
- And they affect both working age and Pension Credit age claimants.

The new loan system will apply to those claimants on the qualifying benefits that provide help with mortgage/loan interest ie Income Support, Income Based JSA, Income Related ESA, Universal Credit and Pension Credit who need and are entitled to help with their home ownership costs.
- The loan can cover some loans for essential repairs and improvements as well as mortgages.
- The loans are secured on the claimant's property as a 'second charge' (effectively a secured loan on top of the existing mortgage).
- Loans are repayable on the sale (or transfer) of the property or on the claimant's death (or when the last member of a couple dies).
- If there is insufficient equity when the loan is due to be repaid, whatever is available from the sale will be used to repay it and the rest is written off.
- There is no 2 year limit for Income Based JSA claimants to receive help, as there is with the current support for home ownership costs.
- And help with Sharia compliant mortgages will be extended (ie available to Universal Credit claimants) to Pension Credit claimants.
- The amount the claimant is entitled to to help them pay their mortgage/loan interest will no longer be added to their applicable amount. Instead claimants on Income Support, Income Based JSA, Income Related ESA, Universal Credit and Pension Credit who have interest to pay on a mortgage/secured loan will be offered a loan.
- Because of the different way the help is assessed some claimants may not be entitled to an income related top up (eg some claimants on Contributory JSA / ESA) and therefore passported onto help such as free prescriptions - although they may be entitled through a different route. What is the DWP loan?
- The loan replaces the current system of help with home ownership mortgage interest/loan payments - often referred to as Support for Mortgage Interest (or SMI).
- Instead the DWP will make an offer of a loan that will make ongoing payments to the relevant lender towards the qualifying interest on the claimant's mortgage and eligible home improvement loans.
April 2018 Changes to DHP Rules For Claimants Living In 'Specified Accommodation and Temporary Accommodation From 11 April 2018, the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001 are amended to allow a Local Authority to award a Discretionary Housing Payment to a Universal Credit claimant for any Monthly Assessment Period when the claimant would have been entitled to a Universal Credit Housing Costs Element, were it not for the fact that they were living in 'specified accommodation' or 'temporary accommodation', as defined by the Regulations. This means that even where for part of a Monthly Assessment Period the claimant might not have been getting Housing Benefit or a Housing Costs Element in their Universal Credit, so long as they require further financial assistance with their housing costs then they will be eligible throughout the period of that Monthly Assessment Period if they have been living in 'specified accommodation' or 'temporary accommodation', as defined by the Regulations.
April 2018 Discretion For Extending And Shorten Assessment Period Where Claim Backdated - Universal Credit Full Service From 11 April 2018 the DWP will have the discretion to lengthen a Universal Credit claimant's first assessment period to more than one month, but they also have the discretion to allow a first assessment period that can be shorter than one month, to incorporate a backdate.

This will only apply where the DWP consider that not doing so would be an administrative burden.

At the moment if a request for backdating on a new claim for the Full Service of Universal Credit and the claim has not been decided within one month of the claim being made, the claim itself cannot be decided, and the claimant either has the 'choice' of waiting for the payment or withdrawing the backdate request.
April 2018 Universal Credit - State Retirement Pension State retirement pension income is to be taken into account, net of any deductions, applied under overlapping benefit rules.

 
April 2018 Universal Credit - Unearned income From 11th April 2018 Foreign State Pension Income and Pension Protection Fund periodic payments will be taken into account as unearned income in calculating the UC award.
April 2018 Housing costs for 18 - 21 year olds (armed forces independent payment) Armed Forces Independent Payment has been added to the list of benefits that would exclude a claimant from the 'no housing costs element' rules under Full or Digital Universal Credit.
April 2018 Universal Credit: Work Allowance From 9 April 2018 the work allowances will increase by 3% to £198 (for lower rate) and £409 (higher rate).
April 2018 Housing Benefit From April 2018, claimants who were previously receiving Housing Benefit will receive a transitional payment (an extra two weeks support) when they move on to Universal Credit. This will be unrecoverable, is automatic, and received early in the first assessment period.
April 2018 Universal Credit The Live Service Gateway conditions for new claims for families with more than two children will be extended until January 2019.
April 2018 State Pension The basic State Pension will increase by 3% in April 2018 to £3.65 per week. The full State Pension will increase to £4.80 per week.
April 2018 National Living Wage

From April 2018, the National Living Wages will increase to -

  • £7.83 for those aged 25 and over.
  • £7.38 for those aged 21 - 24.
  • £5.90 for those aged 18 - 20.
  • £4.20 for those under the age of 18.
  • £3.70 for apprentices.
April 2018 Personal Allowance From April 2018, the Income Tax Personal Allowance will increase to £11,850.
March 2018 Payment Exception Service Simple Payment Service will be replaced by Payment Exception Service on 29 March 2018. This is the new way for people who don't have a bank account to collect benefit or pension payments. It will still be paid via PayPoint but there are differences in the way the system will operate.
February 2018 Universal Credit Abolishing waiting days - from February 2018, the DWP are removing the seven day waiting for new Universal Credit claimants. This will reduce the length of time that claimants might wait to receive their full payment.
January 2018 Personal Independence Payments

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be going through all existing cases to identify anyone who may be entitled to a higher rate of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) as a result of the judgement, which was handed down on 9 March 2017.

It comes after the DWP decided not to challenge a court ruling, that said changes to PIP were unfair to people with mental health conditions. 

Ministers made changes to PIP in 2017, which limited the amount of support people with mental health conditions could receive.

As a result, people who were unable to travel independently on the grounds of psychological distress - as opposed to other conditions - were not entitled to the enhanced mobility rate of the benefit.

Anyone who is affected will be contacted by the DWP, and their payments will be backdates to the judgement.

In addition, a number of affected individuals will benefit from the following -

  • Clarification to the assessment criteria for activities 7 (communicating verballing) and 9 (engaging with people face to face) under the daily living component of PIP, so that claimants can score points for both activities
  • Changes to the criteria for activity 1 under the mobility component of PIP to reflect the challenges that may be faced by people with sensory difficulties if they experience disruptions to a journey.
January 2018 Universal Credit

From 1 January 2018, the only people who will be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit will be those living in a Full Service area.

In areas that have not yet gone on to the Full Service, from 1 January 2018 onwards, you will only be able to make a new claim for legacy benefits, such as -

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseekers allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Housing benefit
  • Child tax credit
  • Working tax credit

Up until your area is transferred on to the Full Service of Universal Credit.

January 2018 Universal Credit Increasing advances - From January 2018, Universal Credit claimants will be offered an advance of their payments of up to 100%, which is recoverable over 12 months (previously, claimants were entitled to an advance of up to 50% of their first month's payment and repayable over six months).
December 2017 EEA Nationals protection The UK government reached an agreement with the EU to protect EU citizen's rights, which will enable them to continue to live as they do now after Brexit. It also covers family members. To secure their right, EU citizens will need to go through a simple digital application process which will confirm their status in the UK.
December 2017 Universal Credit The Live Service of Universal Credit will no longer take new claims. If you are not in a Full Service area, claimants will be asked to claim legacy benefits and tax credits instead. We are waiting for the specific date, but we expect this to be in December 2017/January 2018.
November 2017 DWP free telephone numbers

From December 2017, DWP telephone numbers are free to call - 

  • Access to work: 0800 121 7479
  • Benefit enquiry line: 0800 169 0310
  • DLA adult and child: 0800 121 4600
  • DLA mobility: 0800 121 6379
  • DWP online helpdesk: 0800 169 0154
  • Industrials injuries disabled benefit: 0800 121 8379
  • Jobcentre enquiry line: 0800 169 0190
  • Maternity Allowance enquiry line: 0800 169 0283
  • PIP enquiries: 0800 1621 4433
  • Social Fund enquiries: 0800 169 0150
  • UC live service: 0800 328 9344
  • UC full service: 0800 328 5644
  • UC housing: 0800 328 3844
  • UC sanctions: 0800 328 9744
  • UC live to full service transfers: 0800 328 7844
November 2017 Universal Credit The timetable for Universal Credit Full Service rollout has changed. Please see Universal Credit for more details.  
October 2017 Hardship payments Claimants who are homeless or have a long term mental impairment able to receive hardship payments (when sanctioned) without a waiting period.
August 2017 Pension Credit

The government wants mixed age couples – where one person is of Pension Credit age and the other is younger – to claim Universal Credit.

At the moment, mixed age couples either –

If living in a ‘Live’/Gateway area: would fail the gateway conditions and would therefore claim Universal Credit

If living in a ‘Full’/Service area: can choose between claiming Universal Credit and claiming Pension Credit instead.

This is because the government have not yet closed off Pension Credit to mixed aged couples.

In August 2017, the DWP announce that there would be changed to the Regulations, which would come in to force September 2019. This means that, from September 2019, mixed aged couples will no longer be able to claim Pension Credit, and will have to claim Universal Credit.

If either you or your partner are both under the qualifying age for Pension Credit, you will be expected to claim Universal Credit.

July 2017 Pension Credit Minimum 2% Gilt rates removed - from Government Actuaries Department (GAD) tables for annuities. This sets the minimum notional income for untaken pension pots - as the Gilt rates have been below 2% for some time, this reduces the amount of notional income from untaken pensions for those over state pension age.
April - September 2017 Childcare support The current entitlement of 15 hours of free childcare per week for working parents of three or four year olds will be doubled to 30 hours per week.
April 2017 Jobseekers Allowance new ‘Youth Obligation’ to be introduced  Unemployed 18-21 year olds who have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for six months will have to either apply for training/ apprenticeships or attend a work placement, unless they are exempt (considered to be vulnerable).
April 2017 Under occupation charge From April 2017, an extra bedroom can be awarded to disabled couples who cannot share a bedroom and to disabled children or non-dependents who need an overnight carer.
April 2017 Carers allowance A carer can now earn up to £116 per week before their Carers Allowance is affected (it was previously £110 per week).
April 2017 Universal Credit Families with three or more children will not be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit. They will be directed to claim Legacy Benefits instead, unless they have been in receipt of Universal Credit within the previous six months.
April 2017 Bereavement

New claimants for bereavement for a spouse/partner will be able to claim -

  • A tax free lump sum of £2,500 if there are no children, or £3,500 if there are dependent children.
  • Monthly tax free payment (Bereavement Support Allowance) for 18 months of £100 if there are no dependent children, or £350 per month if there are dependent children.

These are both tax free and will be disregarded as income for the Benefit Cap,

April 2017 Parents to seek work Parents to seek work when the youngest child is three years old (it is currently five years old).
April 2017 Universal Credit 'Youth Obligation' 18-21 year olds who have been claiming Universal Credit for six months will have to either apply for training or apprenticeships, or attend a work placement (unless they are exempt).
April 2017 Pensions People planning their retirement will be able to withdraw up to £1,500 from their pension pots tax free to pay for financial advice.
April 2017 Tax allowance Personal tax allowance has increased to £11,500 for 2017/18.
April 2017 Living Wage

The Living Wage has increased to -

  • £7.50 for those aged 25 and over.
  • £7.05 for those aged 21 - 24.
  • £5.60 for those aged 18 - 20.
  • £4.05 for those under the age of 18.
  • £3.50 for apprentices.
April 2017 Local Welfare Provision Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for living expenses ended March 2013. A new scheme called Local Welfare Provision (LWP) is now in place, and will meet short term emergency support needs of vulnerable people.
April 2017 Universal Credit The automatic entitlement to housing costs in Universal Credit for 18-21 year olds ends on 1 April 2017.
April 2017 ESA New claimants placed in the work related activity group will receive the same rate of benefit as people on JSA, a cut of just over £29/week. Existing ESA claimants already getting the work related activity component included in an ESA award will continue to do so until they are found fit for work.
April 2017 ESA Claimants making a new claim for ESA will no longer receive an extra component if they are found to have a limited capacity for work. Those who are in the Support Group will continue to receive the support component. Those on income-related ESA will still be 'passported' to their maximum Housing Benefit.
April 2017 Universal Credit The Universal Credit taper will reduce from 65% to 63%. For every £1 earned after tax above an income threshold, a person receiving Universal Credit has their benefit award reduced by 63p and keeps 37p.
April 2017 Universal Credit Universal Credit has removed the limited capability for work element. There is no new limited capacity for work element for claimants from April 2017, which is currently £126.11/month.
April 2017 Universal Credit For new claimants, there will be no Higher Child Element for the first child if they are born after 6 April 2017 (the first child element is currently £277.08/month compared to subsequent child element of £231.67/month).
April 2017 Housing Benefit When making a claim for Housing Benefit, only two child premiums will be included in the assessment where the claimant has a new child born after 1 April 2017 if there are already two child premiums included in the assessment. For families making a new claim for Housing Benefit after 1 April 2017, the number of child premiums is limited to two, regardless of how many dependent children are in the family, or where they were born.
April 2017 Child support You will no longer receive support for a third or subsequent child - there will be no addition in Child Tax Credit, Universal Credit or Housing Benefit for a third child born after 5 April 2017.
April 2017 ESA ESA claimants who work and earn between £20 and £120 per week will not have to relinquish their ESA claim or finish work after 52 weeks. Their work can continue. 
2016 Universal Credit If you move homes, under current housing legislation you can potentially receive housing benefit for your new home and for the notice period for your previous home for up to four weeks. This does not exist when you're on Universal Credit.
2016 DLA Adults who are receiving Disability Living Allowance will continue to be reassessed for personal independence payments.
2016 Tax credits With the roll out of Universal Credit, it is intended that new claims for tax credits will be phased out.
November 2016 Benefit cap Please see Benefits Cap for further details.
July 2016 Universal Credit DWP has issued details of the rollout of Universal Credit Full Service. Please see Universal Credit for further details.
July 2016 Pension Credit The time allowed to be abroad and still claim Pension Credit has been reduced to four weeks (it was 13 weeks).
July 2016 Housing Benefit DWP have reduced the time period that someone can be claiming Housing Benefit whilst abroad to four weeks (it was 13 weeks).
May 2016 Family Premium The government has removed Family Premium, which was an extra £17.45 given to people with children.
April 2016 Jobseekers Allowance & Universal Credit Jobseeker support and conditionality; increased Jobcentre Plus support, weekly attendance at jobcentres in the first three months, Help to Work Programme, a new Work and Health Programme, spending on Access to Work will rise.
April 2016 Freeze on Benefit Rates The rate of certain working age benefits, certain elements of tax credits and child benefits will be frozen at their 2015/16 levels for four years.
April 2016 Pension Credit There will be no new claims for Saving Pension Credit, unless you've reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016. To qualify for the extra Savings Credit, you or your partner must be aged 65 or over.
April 2016 State Pension State Pension age for women will match State Pension age for men (65) by November 2018. State Pension age will then increase to 66 from December 2018 to October 2020. State Pension age is due to rise to 67 between April 2034 and April 2026, and to 68 between April 2044 and April 2046.
April 2016 State Pension State Pension is now a single payment. This will affect you if you reach State Pension age from 6 April 2016. You will receive the full State Pension (£155.65/week) if you have 35 years of National Insurance contributions. You will receive a pro rata amount if you have a minimum of 10 years of NI contributions.
April 2016 Tax Credit The rate of debt recovery from Tax Credit overpayments will increase from 25% to 50% for households with an income of over £20,000 a year. HMRC can recover tax credit debts directly from a claimant's bank accounts. Only debts of £1,000 or more will be eligible for direct recovery action.
April 2016 Universal Credit work allowance The work allowance in Universal Credit (the amount you can earn without your benefit being affected, has been reduced from April 2016. For disabled people and people with children, it is reduced to £192/month if you have housing costs and £397/month if you don't have housing costs. The work allowance has been completely removed for non-disabled, childless claimants, meaning your benefit is removed as soon as you start earning.
April 2016 Housing Benefit Housing Benefit backdating will be reduced to a maximum of one month (it was previously six months).
April 2016 Rent Housing associations will have to cut social housing rents by 1% each year for the next four years.
April 2016 Universal Credit childcare support This has been increased. You can now claim up to 85% of your childcare costs, up to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1,108 for two or more children (it was 70%).
April 2016 Tax Credit The disregard for increases in income is set at £2,500. The income disregard is a buffer zone, for when a family's income increases during the course of a year (without affecting their tax credit entitlement). 
April 2016 Personal tax allowance The personal tax allowance, which is the amount you can earn before paying income tax, will be increased from £10,600 to £11,000. It will be increased further to £12,500 by 2020. From thereafter it will automatically be set at the same level as 30 times the National Living Wage.
April 2016 Mortgage interest waiting time From 1 April 2016, the waiting period for when you receive any payment will increase from 13 to 39 weeks for new claims. This means that, if you have a mortgage, you may financially struggle if your employment ceases to exist. 
November 2015 Welfare Reform Act 2015 The Act has now been passed into law to implement changes similar to the Welfare Reform Act 2012, but with specific mitigations
November 2015 Tax credits - overpayment recovery Recovery increasingly outsourced to private debt recovery agencies and overpayments of Working Tax Credit can be recovered from Child Tax Credit and vice versa
October 2015 Personal Indepdence Payments (PIP) From October 2015, a managed switch of remaining working age Disability Living Allowance claimants who were under 65 as at 8 April 2015, begins across Great Britain.
August 2015 Universal credit - waiting days Seven day waiting period on new claims, although there are exceptions.
April 2015 Benefit cap New overall cap to be placed on Housing Benefit.
October 2014 Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance waiting days From 27 October 2014, an extended waiting period at the start of a claim for Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance is being introduced. The new law will mean that no Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance would be paid for the first seven 'waiting days' instead of the present three days.
June 2014 Child Maintenance Services The statutory child maintenance services work out child maintenance payments using a standard formula. The Government introduced application fees, collection fees and enforcement charges in 2014 for parents who use the Child Maintenance Service to collect and pass on payments. If you need to use the Child Maintenance Service, Child Maintenance Options can give you information and support that may help you avoid some fees or charges. The best way to avoid charging is to set up a family-based arrangement and not use the Child Maintenance Service at all. But if you and your child’s other parent can’t agree an arrangement between yourselves you may still be able to avoid having to pay any charges by choosing Direct Pay.
May 2014 Carers Allowance Earnings limit increased to £102.
April 2014 Working & child tax credit Required to make a Mandatory Reconsideration before any appeal can be lodged.
April 2014 Jobseekers Allowance - new conditionality New conditionally includes, day one work search, English language requirement, quarterley work search interviews, weekly job search reviews/signing on.
April 2014 Child tax credit Need to inform HMRC by the 31 August if a qualifying young person stays in education or comes off claim.
April 2014 Income support - lone parents Increased conditionality once child reaches three years old.
April 2014 Removal of access to Housing Benefit for EEA jobseekers If you have a right to reside as an European Economic Area (EEA) Jobseeker, you satisfy the right to reside requirement for Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, however you must have some other right to reside to be entitled to receive Housing Benefit.
March 2014 Minimum Earnings Threshold for EEA Nationals Migrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) who claim to have been in work or self-employed in order to gain access to a wider range of benefits will face a more robust test from 1 March 2014. Although guidance to decision makers advises that someone who is an EEA National is automatically a worker if s/he has been earning, on average, a threshold income for three months i.e. This is £150 a week – equivalent to working 24 hours a week at National Minimum Wage i.e. the figure is currently £157 per week. 
January 2014 Jobseekers eligibility From January 2014 there is a requirement to have been living for the past three months in the common travel area (the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) in order to satisfy the habitual residence test for Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance.
October 2013 Jobseekers Allowance claimant commitment

The Claimant Commitment outlines what job seeking actions a claimant must carry out while receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). It emphasises the claimants’ responsibility to do all they can to look for work in return for the support they receive from the state. When someone makes a new claim for JSA or returns to JSA from the Work Programme they will attend an interview with a work coach. At the interview they will agree a personal plan outlining what the claimant will do as part of their Claimant Commitment to give themselves the best chance of finding work. This could include regular specific tasks and training opportunities.

The work coach will explain the penalties claimants could face for failing to meet their responsibilities to get into work. They will review the plan regularly.

The Claimant Commitment strengthens the ability of Jobcentre Plus staff to support claimants back into work at the earliest opportunity and redefines the relationship between the welfare state and claimants. In return for state support, we expect claimants to do all they can to meet their responsibilities to return to work.

The Claimant Commitment is already in place for Universal Credit.

April 2013 Council Tax reduction (Council Tax Support) Council Tax Reduction (Council Tax Support) replaced Council Tax Benefit in April 2013 i.e. help towards your Council Tax bill, most residents will now have to make a contribution towards their Council Tax bill, even those on means-tested benefits, the Council Tax Contribution varies from Council to Council from 8.5% to 25%, although most Councils exempt some pensioners from having to pay a contribution towards there Council Tax.
April 2013 Crisis loans and community care grants You can no longer make a new Social Fund application for either A Crisis Loan or a Community Care Grant, previously a resident could apply for a Crisis Loan to overcome a short-term financial crisis, with the loan repaid through their benefits, or apply for a Community Care Grant, for instance to buy goods needed to remain in the community, but the grant didn't need to be paid back, if a resident now needs help to overcome a short-term financial crisis or requires a grant for instance white goods, they now have to approach their local Council, each Council has it's own Emergency Limited Assistance Scheme, although each Council may have their own name for this scheme, help offered can vary from Council to Council, some offer financial assistance while will offer a food parcel and fuel tokens
April 2013 Mandatory reconsiderations The DWP has reformed its appeals process to enable more disputes to be resolved as early as possible in the decision-making process. Under this reformed process claimants who wish to dispute a decision are required to ask DWP to reconsider and revise the decision. This is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’ (MR). The intention is that claimants will then be able to make an informed decision on formally appealing to the Tribunal. An appeal cannot be lodged with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) until the mandatory reconsideration process has been completed. This reform was introduced in April 2013 for Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment (from the go-live date for those benefits). The change was extended to all other DWP-administered benefits and child maintenance cases for decisions made from 28 October 2013
April 2013 Universal Credit - minimum income floor Where someone who is gainfully self-employed, has been trading for 12 months and has a low income from that self-employment, the Universal Credit assessment will assume a minimum income for them - referred to as the minimum income floor. They will be treated as earning at least the minimum wage / living wage for someone of their age, for the number of hours the DWP expects them to work.
April 2013 Penalties as alternatives to prosecution The Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced tougher penalties for people who commit benefit fraud.

Benefits can be reduced or stopped if a claimant, their partner or a family member is convicted of a benefit fraud offence or accepts an administrative penalty for such an offence. An administrative penalty is a financial penalty offered by DWP as an alternative to prosecution. The amount of penalty is 50% of the amount of the overpayment, subject to a minimum amount of £350 and a maximum amount of £2000 although can be admendments overpayment is below £350.
April 2013 Measures to deal with fraud The government established a Fraud, Error and Debt Taskforce in 2010. This was to coordinate cross-government efforts to reduce the unacceptable losses to the taxpayer caused by fraud, error and non-payment of debt. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are working together to progressively reduce error, and ensure that the honest majority do not lose out at the hands of those who defraud the system.
April -September 2013 The benefit cap Housing Benefit reduced if your applicable benefit income exceeds £350 singles and £500 for couples.
April 2013 Housing Benefit - Under occupancy charge (Bedroom tax) Housing Benefit restricted to the number of bedrooms you are required based on your family composition.
April 2013 Tax Credits Increased income disregard falls to £5,000 (previously £25,000 reduced to £10,000 in 2011)
April 2013 Benefit uprating General increases of 2.2% Customer Price Index not 2.6% Retail Price Index. Many benefits restricted to 1% for the next 3 years. Pension Savings Credit cuts in maximum award and increased thresholds
April 2013 Universal Credit Universal Credit rollout replaces six means-tested benefits - Income Support, Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit
January 2013 Employment and Support Allowance Tightening up of some descriptors to make them more restrictive i.e. hospital stay, substantial, chemotherapy and radiotherapy all amended.
January 2013 Child Benefit Tapered withdrawal of Child Benefit where an earner over £50,000 i.e. stops completely at £60,000.
3 December 2012 Employment & Support Allowance - Sanction Changes  From the 3 December 2012 there will be a three-tier sanction for those in the Work-Related Activity Group, the sanction is open ended until the claimant re-engages followed by a 1, 2 or 4 benefit sanction. The weekly amount of the sanction also increases from the Work-Related Activity component of £28.15 a week to the standard allowance of £71.00 a week.
October 2012 In-Work Credits & Job Grant Abolished for those moving from out of work benefits to in work benefits.
October 2012 Jobseekers Allowance - Sanction Changes From 22 October 2012, there will be a three-tier fixed penalty sanction: Higher Level 13, 26 and 152 week sanction for 1, 2 and 3 offence within 52 weeks, Intermediate Level 4 and 13 weeks sanction, Lower Level 4 and 13 weeks sanction.
October 2012 Civil Penalties Sometimes a person who has been overpaid a benefit, will have to pay an extra penalty on top of the overpaid amount, if the overpayment has not been caused by proven fraud a Civil Penalty of £50 can be added to an overpayment. HMRC continues to operate its own enforcement policy (from September 2012) in respect of Tax Credits, where residents unreasonably fail to report a change in their circumstances within the required period, a fixed penalty of £300 will be applied.
May 2012 Limiting Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance to one year Since the 1st May 2012 Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance is payable for a maximum of 12 months if you are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group. However if you are placed in the Support Group, the time limit does not apply and you will continue to receive Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance for as long as you satisfy the qualifying conditions
May 2012 Abolition of Youth Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance At present, special arrangements apply which allow certain young people to qualify for contributory Employment and Support Allowance under the Employment and Support Allowance ‘youth’ provision, without having to satisfy the National Insurance contribution conditions which apply to all other claimants. Abolishing this concession from May 2012 puts those previously eligible for Employment and Support Allowance ‘youth’ on an equal footing with others who have to satisfy the relevant National Insurance conditions before they qualify for contributory Employment and Support Allowance, which will create a simpler system. Government intervention is necessary to ensure entitlement to contributory Employment and Support Allowance applies consistently to all customers.
May 2012 Time limites of youth contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance to one year If you were already receiving Youth Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance by the 1st May 2012 and had been placed in the Support Group at that date, you can continue to receive it for as long as you satisfy the eligibility conditions and remain within the Support Group. If in future you are moved from the Support Group to the Work-Related Activity Group (following a new Work Capability Assessment) the 12 month time limit will be imposed
May 2012 Income Support - Lone Parents to under five's
  • From 24 November 2008, if your youngest child was aged 12 or over, or would have been 12 that year, your Income Support may have stopped during that year
  • From 26 October 2009, if your youngest child was aged 10 or over, or would have been 10 that year, your Income Support may have stopped during that year
  • From 25 October 2010, if your youngest child was aged seven or over, or would have been seven that year, your Income Support may have stopped during that year
  • From May 2012, if your youngest child is aged five or over, or will become five that year, your Income Support may stop during that year.
April 2012 Pension Credit Savings Credit reduced and frozen for four years to £18.54 (single) and £27.73 (couple), also threshold for qualifying increased by 8.4%. 
April 2012 Working Tax & Child Tax Credit  New rule of disregarding an income drop of £2,500 and time limit for notifying changes of circumstances cut from three months to one month.
April 2012 Child Tax Credit Family Element income threshold abolished, so will start to taper off straight after Child Tax Credit individual elements.
April 2012 Working Tax Credit  Couples with children must work at least 24 hours combined to qualify, with one working at least 16 hours.
March 2012 Introduction of entitlement to work The introduction of entitlement to work as a condition of entitlement, for contributory Employment and Support Allowance, contribution based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Maternity Allowance and all Statutory Payments. The introduction of this condition of entitlement will ensure that people who have no entitlement to work in the UK have no legal entitlement to contributory based benefits and statutory payments.
March 2012 Removal of requirements for claimants to engage in certain acitivities 

Removal of requirements for claimants to engage in certain activities and also provisions in relation to voluntary and mandatory rehabilitation plans where they are claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance and are dependent on, or have a propensity to misuse, drugs.

The key features of the Welfare Reform Drug Recovery pilots were:

  • A new Additional Support programme which, on a voluntary basis, will provide integrated and personalised support for JSA and ESA claimants who are undergoing drug treatment.
  • A Treatment Allowance, in place of their ESA or JSA, payable on a voluntary basis to the individual as long as they maintain their treatment and engage with the Additional Support programme. In addition, the Regulations will remove some of the normal conditions of entitlement for benefit in order to allow drug users the time and space to focus on their recovery. For example, this will mean that those on JSA will not be required to sign on or show that they are actively seeking work.
  • Mandatory referral to Substance Related Assessments (SRAs) and a Treatment Awareness Programme with a specialist drug treatment provider for PDUs on JSA and ESA who are not already in treatment.
  • The power for the criminal justice system to supply data to aid both the identification of PDUs not in treatment, and the take-up of in-treatment support for those who are.
  • The power to refer to the mandatory SRAs where a Jobcentre Plus adviser has ‘reasonable grounds for suspicion that problem drug use is a barrier to work’. Should claimants in this group refuse to attend two successive SRAs they can be required to take one or more drugs tests.
  • The power to impose a mandatory rehabilitation plan where the adviser is satisfied that drug use is a barrier to work, requires treatment but the customer has yet to engage with treatment services
March 2012 State Pension Credit The Government has also announced that it is simplifying the process for claiming the carer addition in Pension Credit. Carers in receipt of a State Retirement Pension will be able to claim Pension Credit - and receive the additional Carers Premium in Pension Credit - without making a claim for Carer’s Allowance.
March 2012 Industrial Injuries Benefit The Industrial Injuries Scheme provides non-contributory no-fault benefits for disablement because of an accident at work, or because of one of over 70 prescribed diseases known to be a risk from certain jobs. The scheme also covers people working on approved employment training schemes or courses. The benefits payable under the scheme are known as Industrial Injuries Scheme Benefits (IISB) i.e. there has been simplification changes under the Welfare Reform Act 2012.
March 2012 Recovery of fines from benefits Magistrates courts can apply to the DWP for a fine, costs or compensation order to be deducted from your Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Universal Credit.
March 2012 Recovery of overpayments of certain benefits Welfare Reform Act 2012 - “will allow all overpayments of Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance to be recoverable [there will be some exceptions in the case of Housing Credit for pensioners]. Similarly, all payments on account and certain hardship payments will be recoverable. The clause will ensure that overpayments of all other benefits remain recoverable, as they are now, but only in circumstances in which there has been a misrepresentation or failure to disclose.”
September 2011 Educational Maintenance Allowance Abolished in England.
April 2011 Guarantee Pension Credit Government has increased Guarantee Pension Credit to match the cash rises in basic State Retirement Pension.
April 2011 State Retirement Pension 2007 legislation provided for the basic State Retirement Pension to be increased at least in line with average earnings i.e. from 2012 onwards the highest of the Consumer Price Index, average earnings or 2.5%.
April 2011 State Pension age Accelerate speed of equalisation of pension age, with equal pension age to be achieved by November 2018.
April 2011 Housing Benefit Local Housing Allowance maximum caps for 1 bed (£250), 2 bed (£290), 3 bed (£340) and 4 bed (£400), separate rate for 5 bedrooms (at any moment) scrapped. Non-Dependant Deductions large increase over next 3 years to make up ground since last increase 10 years ago. Local Housing Allowance rates will be set at 30th precentile of local private rent prices, not the 50th. Additional room in Local Housing Allowance if you require a Carer to come in and an additional room for a disabled child.
April 2011 Tax credits Taper on income moves from 39% to 41% and disregarded increases in income falls from £25,000 to £10,000 basic and 30 hour element frozen for three years and a new category for workers aged 60+, childcare element reduced from 80% to 70%, income threshold for the family element reduced from £50,000 to £40,000 a year.
April 2011 Maternity grant Restricted to the first child only.
April 2011 Child Benefit Rates frozen for three years.
April 2011 Working Age benefits Increases will be set by the Consumer Price Index instead of the Retail Price Index.
March 2011 Employment and Support allowance Migration of existing claimants of Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support (through sickness) begins.
January 2011 Old 'sickness route' benefits No new linked claims for Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance or Income Support for sickness from 31 January 2011. Claimants no longer return to old rate but claim basic Employment and Support Allowance and face Work Capacility Assessment. Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance claimants can still claim Income Support and vice versa if they become eligible.
October 2010 Incapacity benefits

Between October 2010 and Spring 2014, customers who receive Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disability Allowance and Income Support, paid on the grounds of illness or disability, will be assessed for Employment and Support Allowance. 

This will not affect people due to reach state pension age by 6 April 2014. It will not affect people already receiving Employment and Support Allowance.