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Claiming Benefits

Here to help

Everyone needs help once in a while, and the benefits system is there to help people when they’re not working, can’t work or are on a low income.

We know that claiming benefits can sometimes be confusing and complicated. You’ll find information about benefits on these pages, but we also have a team to help if you get stuck. You can contact them on 01454 411172 or via email at

For more information on benefits, please visit If you don’t know what benefits you can claim, you can find out at

Universal Credit replaces a number of benefits including Housing Benefit with one single monthly payment for your household.

Universal Credit replaces the following payments:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

All other benefits will continue as now. Don’t forget that if you get help with your council tax, you will have to claim it separately from your Local Authority.

You can apply for Universal Credit online via the website here.

You might also need to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus. You’ll be told if you need to attend an interview after you apply.

If your application is successful, you’ll get your first payment around 5 weeks after applying online.

Your payments will be paid monthly into your bank so you will need to open an account if you don’t already have one to receive Universal Credit payments.

We recommend that you open a separate bank account to receive your Universal Credit payment. This way, your payment won’t be mixed up with your current cash.

If you need help bridging the gap between your initial claim and first payment, you are entitled to one months advance, five days after your claim. This advance will cover personal costs and your housing costs, once these are verified. This advance is repayable over 12 months. Ask your work coach for more information.

As part of the Government's Welfare Reform, the total amount of benefit that can be received will be a set amount for both single people and couples. This is called the benefit cap.

The benefit cap was brought in to make sure that no family received more in benefits than the average working household. The benefit cap is worked out:

  • Weekly if your get housing benefit
  • Monthly if you get universal credit

If you live outside of London, the benefit cap is currently

  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) if you’re in a couple, whether your children live with you or not
  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) if you’re single and your children live with you
  • £257.69 per week (£13,400 a year) if you’re single and you do not have children, or your children do not live with you

You can keep an eye on benefit cap amounts by visiting the website here.

Benefits affected by the Benefit Cap are:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Employment Support Allowance (unless you are in the support group)
  • Housing Benefit (unless you live in supported housing)
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Carers Allowance
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Widowed Parents Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA)
  • Widow’s Pension
  • Universal credit

The benefit cap doesn't apply if you or your partner:

  • receive working tax credits
  • work enough hours to claim working tax credits

If you or a member of your household are receiving one of the benefits below, the benefit cap will not apply to you:

  • Disability living allowance (DLA) or the personal independence payment (PIP)
  • War Widows / widowers benefits
  • Attendance allowance (AA)
  • Support component of employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Armed Forces compensation scheme payments
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits

You are also exempt from the benefit cap if you, your partner or children receive:

  • Carer's allowance
  • Carer’s element of universal credit
  • Guardian's allowance

Bedroom Tax (also known as under occupancy charge or the Spare Room Subsidy) is a change to Housing Benefit Entitlement that means if you are of working age you will receive less in housing benefit if you live in a housing association or council property that is deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms.

  • Having one spare bedroom will mean you will lose 14% of your entitled housing benefit.
  • Having two or more spare bedrooms will mean you will lose 25% of your entitlement.

The bedroom tax will not apply for the first 13 weeks of your housing benefit claim if you haven't claimed within the last 52 weeks.

Bedroom tax does not apply to:

  • private rented housing (local housing allowance is worked out using different rules)
  • certain types of temporary or supported accommodation

There are different rules about bedroom tax. The following would not be taxable:

  • adult couple sharing a bedroom
  • member of a couple who can't share a bedroom because of a disability
  • single person over 16 (including lodgers and friends or relatives who live with you)
  • disabled child under 16 who can't share a bedroom because of their disability
  • 2 children of the same sex under 16 sharing a bedroom
  • 2 children of either sex under 10 sharing a bedroom

Your housing benefit might still be reduced if a lodger pays you rent or if you live with adult friends or relatives who are expected to contribute to your rent.

You can't get housing benefit for bedrooms you use for:

  • children who've left home and don't plan to return
  • visiting children who live elsewhere and who you don't claim child benefit for
  • a 'sanctuary room', where your home was adapted to make it secure for you after you experienced domestic violence
  • storage of medical or specialist equipment 

Your housing benefit will not be affected if your child is in the armed forces and away on operations if they:

  • lived with you before they went away
  • intend to return home when not on operations

They can be away indefinitely as long as they intend to return.

The following household members can also count as occupying a bedroom if they are only away temporarily:

  • students who return regularly, for example during holidays
  • people in hospital who intend to return within 52 weeks
  • prisoners who are sentenced to 6 months or less

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