Are you ready for maze of benefits reform?

MEETING people in and around Hucknall and reading the local press, it is of great concern that most people seem unaware of the impact the Welfare Reform Act.

However, people need to begin to adjust their budgets for the consequences of the Act which will be phased in during 2013.

Anyone of working age who claims Working Tax Credit, Child Tax credit, and this is most families with school-age children in Hucknall, will be affected by the change to Universal Credit.

It is therefore crucial that advice is available to individuals to help families prepare financially for these changes.

Since the reductions in voluntary-sector grants by Notts County Council, Hucknall residents have to travel to Sutton for help from the Citizens’ Advice service. In these difficult times I would like to call on county and district councils to look at ways to support funding applications which are aimed at re-introducing quality free advice services to Hucknall. Whatever the politics let’s work together to ensure our community gets the services it deserves.

The last government introduced Tax Credits to make work pay and encourage people to save for their futures. That is why no capital limits were placed on the entitlement criteria. This will all change in October of next year when Tax Credits are replaced. Anyone with moderate savings will lose, or see their benefit reduced if they work and currently receive Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit.

Other benefits will also be abolished for people under State Retirement age. Universal Credit will replace Income Based JSA, Income Based ESA, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit.

In essence all the means tested benefits (except Pension Credit) will be replaced by Universal Credit. The government has changed the means test calculation and the following premiums will go:

Severe Disability Premium (SDP)

Enhanced Disability premium

Severely Disabled Child Premium

The main impact will be that people who used to get higher levels of Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance because of entitlement to Disability Living Allowance will see their income reduced significantly. Claimants on the middle or higher rate care of DLA who met the other conditions for Severe Disability Premium will lose at least £58.20 per week. This may also impact on entitlement to passport benefits such as free eye tests and dental treatment etc.

People who rent their homes from a housing association or are owner occupiers who receive help from the state will notice major changes to the way Housing Benefit is paid. All housing payments will go direct to the claimant (as part of the Universal Credit Calculation).

Local authorities have already experienced a significant increase in homeless applications due to Housing Benefit being paid to claimants not landlords in the private sector, this will now be extended to owner occupiers who receive Mortgage Support and tenants of social landlords from April.

Additionally there is provision in the Bill which means that tenants of social landlords (under pension age) will be subject to a household size restriction and will be subject to a 14% reduction in housing benefit for the first spare room and 25% for two or more spare rooms.

Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by the Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). It will introduced a new scoring system and so there are likely to be winners and losers once this new test is applied for new claims from April 2013 and claims subject to review after April 2013. There is transitional protection which is still unclear until all the regulations are published.

If you’re not yet confused then I would advise you to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau and volunteer! Surely people need help and guidance through the maze of changes which will be enacted in law next year?

NEIL CLUROW,

Hucknall,

(Address supplied).