Welfare Reform

The Government started a programme of Welfare Reform in 2012. The aim of the programme is to encourage people into work, make processing benefits easier and to reduce the amount the country spends on welfare payments.

A number of a working-age benefits have been merged into one - Universal Credit - and a programme is on-going to move all claimants over to Universal Credit. This will be a monthly payment which includes money to help you to pay your rent. Managing on one monthly payment is one of the skills the Government believe you will need you if you move into employment.

If you are a tenant of a council or a housing association, the Government has already introduced the 'spare room subsidy' (commonly referred to as the 'bedroom tax'), which means that any housing benefit you receive can be reduced if you have more bedrooms than you need. Future changes mean that housing benefit will be reduced further so it matches the Local Housing Allowance (a form of housing benefit paid to tenants of private landlords). You can find out more about housing benefit on the GOV.UK website.

If you are single and under 35 and rent in the private sector, you only qualify for the Shared Accommodation Rate - equivalent to what it would cost to rent a room in a shared house. This will be coming to council and housing association tenants from April 2017 (for new tenants - for anyone who was a tenant on or before 1 April 2016, the changes won't take place until April 2018).

If you are unable to afford your rent, you may be able to ask you local council if they can provide you with a discretionary housing payment. This is an additional payment to help you to pay your rent for a limited period of time. You can find out who your local council is via the GOV.UK website.

If you are struggling to pay your rent, please don't ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Speak to your landlord so that they understand you are having problems. You can also get help from the Norfolk Citizens Advice Bureau or from the turn2us website.