Massive changes are on the way this year to the benefits many Kennington Park residents receive – and these are on top of the much-publicised below inflation 1% ‘uprating’.
The TA is committed not just to trying to help residents cope but also to campaigning with others across Lambeth and London against these attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us.
* The ‘Bedroom Tax’
Don’t be misled – it’s not a tax that you can refuse to pay, it’s a cut in the amount of benefit you receive. If you have an ‘extra’ bedroom empty for more than 13 weeks your housing benefit will be cut by 14%, more than one ‘extra’ then the cut is a massive 25%. ‘Under-occupying’, according to this government of millionaires in their taxpayer-subsidised houses – many of them just up the road – means you are only allowed one bedroom for each adult couple, any other person aged over 16, two children of the same sex under 16, two children under 10 regardless of sex. So – believe it or not – your benefit will be cut if you have a boy aged 9 and a girl aged 8 because they will be expected to share until the boy reaches 10 and then your benefit cut will be reinstated!! Pensioners won’t be affected (unless one half of a couple is below pensionable age), but loads of others will, including foster carers, grandparents and separated parents who need a room for the kids, disabled people who need an occasional carer, and parents with sons or daughters away in the armed forces or at college. The bedroom tax comes in this April.
* Council Tax Benefit – a new Poll Tax?
The Government has cut the cash they provide to local councils for council tax benefits and told them to ‘decide for themselves’ who gets it! Lambeth has decided that everyone who doesn’t fall into the category of pensioner, disabled, carer, war widow or a family affected by the benefit cap, will have to make a contribution, probably about £3 a week. Bills will be arriving shortly.
* The Benefit Cap
The ‘cap’ will limit total benefits to £350 a week for single adults with no children, £500 for a couple or lone parent, regardless of number of children. This cap will hit Londoners harder than anywhere else because of the high rents here and could result in many families being driven out of their homes in our capital city. It was originally going to start this April but has now been ‘pushed back’ to September.
* Universal Credit
And then there’s Universal Credit.
At the moment the Government is quietly putting back the date of the implementation of what is going to be a massive change as they are being forced to recognise that their systems won’t work. But what will undoubtedly become the biggest cut in benefits we have ever seen will happen soon if the Government gets its way.
Universal benefit will have to be claimed on line and will be paid into a bank account monthly (see below for information on the local Credit Union).Housing costs will be part of universal credit, so a separate claim for housing benefit won’t be needed, and the money will be paid directly to you rather than to Hyde as it is now.
On top of all this – and remember, these cuts will affect many people whether they are in work or not – the emergency fund is being abolished and major changes are being made to disability benefits – in particular the change this April from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independent Payment (PIP).
The TA is talking to Hyde’s benefits experts about how to help us get through these changes and we will post more information as it becomes available, including how to contact the various groups which are organising to campaign against these cuts.
For now, three things to remember if you are affected by any of these changes!
NEVER USE PAYDAY LOAN COMPANIES, HOWEVER DESPERATE YOU ARE. You will never get out of debt if you do. Instead, USE OUR LOCAL CREDIT UNION, London Mutual Credit Union at 10 Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 5SG or 79 Denmark Hill, Camberwell, SE5 8RS – http://www.creditunion.co.uk/. The Credit Union isn’t just for loans. You can also open a bank account with them to receive your benefit (you’ll have to have one for Universal Credit) and set up a Direct Debit to pay your rent and other bills. The Council will be using the Credit Union to administer its own Emergency Support Scheme.
CLAIM EVERYTHING YOU’RE ENTITLED TO AND APPEAL EVERY REFUSAL. Hyde has money advisors, called Financial Inclusion Advisors, who will help, including helping people claim Discretionary Housing Payments, which is a little publicised scheme, claimable from the Council “to help with housing costs” for HB and CT claimants. They can be contacted on 0800 030 4424 or via the Housing Office.
DON’T TALK TO DSS, HYDE OR LAMBETH COUNCIL OFFICIALS ON YOUR OWN! Always take a friend or relative for support and to witness what’s said. If you need someone to accompany you to talk to Hyde, contact the TA.
Hyde Housing Money Advice: http://www.hyde-housing.co.uk/document_1.aspx?id=12:35017&id=12:35012&doc=12:36963
Hyde Housing on the benefit changes: http://www.hyde-housing.co.uk/buy-rent-or-exchange-a-home/welfarereform
Lambeth Council information on the benefit changes: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/Services/AdviceBenefits/Benefits/BenefitsAreChanging/
Lambeth Council information on organisations that can help: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/Services/AdviceBenefits/Benefits/OrganisationsThatCanHelp.htm