Housing Benefit

Image stating if you need help Many residents receive assistance with paying their rent by claiming Housing Benefit from their local council. Housing Benefit is a means tested benefit that is intended to help people with low incomes and low savings pay for rented accommodation. Part of your service charge may also qualify, but water charges, heating and lighting to individual accommodation are excluded and these charges will need to be paid even if you receive benefits.

Orwell staff will be able to advise you, supply you with the necessary forms, and help you fill them in if you have difficulty. Depending upon where you live, it can take a number of weeks to process your benefit claim and it may take some time before the first payment is made. Therefore applying as soon as possible with accurate information is very important.

Should you qualify for Housing Benefit, the payment of benefit is paid monthly or four weekly in arrears. It is still your responsibility to ensure that the rent and charges for your home are paid to the Association even if you qualify for Benefit. In the event that your circumstances change or your Housing Benefit payments have been suspended or stopped, you must act quickly and contact the Benefits department of your local council. It is also helpful to notify your Housing Officer or Scheme Manager as well, so that they are aware of any potential changes to your Housing Benefit.

If you have any further questions or you would like to speak to someone regarding any of this information then please contact us here.

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Universal Credit

Universal credit is a new benefit that is being rolled out across the country. It is for people of working age and replaces:

  • housing benefit
  • jobseekers allowance (income-based)Universal Credit Logo
  • employment and support allowance (income-related)  
  • income support
  • child and working tax credits


Who can claim universal credit

You can claim universal credit if you need help with living and housing cost.

You must be of working age but it doesn't matter if you're in work or not working.

Universal Credit has successfully rolled out across all Job Centres across the Country.

If you are already claiming one of the benefits it includes, unless you have a change of circumstances, you are likely to be transferred onto universal credit between 2019 and 2024.


Who can't claim

You can't claim universal credit if you:

  • have £16,000 or more in savings
  • are excluded from benefits because of your immigration status 
  • are under 18 (with below exceptions)
  • have a child or caring responsibilities
  • are disabled
  • can't live with your parents  


How to claim universal credit

You have to make an online claim for universal credit.


It should take 20 to 40 minutes. 

You will need to ensure you have certain items to hand.

  • your email address
  • bank details
  • national insurance number
  • proof of identity 
  • household income and savings
  • rent,
  • childcare costs

Please be advised you will need to create a Login, Password and 3 Security Answers which you will need to use at a later stage.

If you need help, call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 or you could contact the Citizens Advice - Help to Claim service who will be able to assist you with making your claim.

Their contact details are:

  • National Helpline: 0800 144 8 444


What happens next?

You usually have to make an appointment at your local Jobcentre Plus within 7 days of making an online claim. You must attend the appointment to complete your claim.

To book this appointment you will need to contact Universal Credit Full Service on 0800 382 5644.

If you are struggling, you can ask for an advance of up to 1 month’s expected benefit amount, which you will need to pay back over the next year.


When will I receive my payments?

You will receive your first payment after 5 weeks if you are assessed as eligible and then monthly just like a salary. It is paid in arrears on the same date every month, unless your payment date falls on a weekend or bank holiday, when you may receive it early.


Housing costs and universal credit

When you apply for universal credit your housing costs will be included. You do not have to make a separate claim.

The costs will be included in the monthly payment made directly to you and it is your responsibility to ensure that this is paid to your landlord. Depending on how much you earn, you may not get the full costs, so it is important that you ensure that the remainder of your  rent is paid in full from your earnings.

If you feel that this is going to be problematic for you, discuss it with the job centre or Orwell. In some circumstances, it can be arranged to have the housing costs paid directly.

All universal credit claimants in Orwell areas, are eligible for local budgeting advice from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who are trained particularly for universal credit..

If you are finding it hard, talk to your housing officer or contact our Welfare Reform Officer Danielle Porter on 01473 228652.


Benefit cap under universal credit

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits that families who are out of work, can receive... 

If you're affected, your monthly universal credit payment is reduced to the cap level.

Benefit cap outside London

These limits apply if you don't live in a London borough:

  • £384 per week for a couple or family with dependent children
  • £257 per week for a single person without children

The benefits that are also included in the cap are as follows:

  • housing benefit (unless you live in supported housing)
  • income support (IS)
  • jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • employment and support allowance (ESA) (unless you are in the support group)
  • incapacity benefit
  • child benefit and child tax credits
  • guardian's allowance
  • carer's allowance
  • maternity benefits and widows benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions
  • severe disablement allowance
  • universal credit


Some people will not be affected because they are claiming from the list overleaf:

You will not be affected if you are claiming:

  • working tax credits
  • disability living allowance or the personal independence payment
  • attendance allowance
  • support component of employment and support allowance
  • industrial injuries benefits
  • war widows’ pension
  • war widowers’ pension


Benefits not included in the cap these benefits and payments don't count towards the cap:

  • discretionary housing payments
  • council tax support/reduction
  • budgeting loan/advances
  • one-off council crisis payments
  • free school meals
  • child maintenance payments
  • winter fuel payments
  • statutory maternity, paternity or adoption pay
  • statutory sick pay
  • Housing benefit for supported accommodation.

If you are in receipt of working tax credits for at least 12 months but then lose your job or reduce your hours the benefit cap won't apply for a 9-month 'grace period'.

If you are a single parent and the cost of childcare is proving a worry, the government have doubled the number of free childcare hours a week, to 30 for all 3 and 4 year olds and some 2 year olds..


Discretionary Housing Payments

If you are still having difficulty paying your rent due to a genuine difficulty, you can apply to your local authority for a Discretionary Housing Payment. And there is local budgeting support.

Help with Housing Costs - East Suffolk - This downloads a PDF document - 0.5Mb

Universal Credit Support - East Suffolk - This downloads a PDF document - 0.2Mb

Universal Credit Support - West Suffolk - This downloads a PDF document - 0.1Mb

These services are available from all local authorities. Please go to your own for advice.