Benefits help

Welfare reform

The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill was passed through Parliament in March 2012 bringing with it a raft of changes to the whole structure of the benefits system and the way payments are made. We know that many of you will be worried about what this could mean for you and your family. If you have any queries or concerns about the changes and how they will affect you please contact our Financial Inclusion Team for advice.

Scottish welfare fund

Community Care Grants and Crisis Grants are available through the Scottish Welfare Fund at Scottish Borders Council. These can help to provide a safety net in an emergency, or to support independent living.

More information on applying to the Scottish Welfare Fund can be found on the Scottish Borders Council website or by contacting our Financial Inclusion Team.

Welfare reform consists of many different elements and you can get advice on each element by clicking on the links below:

Universal Credit is a single payment for working age people and replaces Income Support, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and Budgeting Loans.

Who is eligible to claim Universal Credit?

To claim Universal Credit you will need to:

  • be 18 or over (generally)
  • be under pension age
  • not be in education
  • be in Great Britain
  • not be subject to immigration control
  • have accepted a claimant commitment

If you have a partner you will make a joint claim for Universal Credit. If one of you is over state pension credit age or in full-time education both of you will still have to claim Universal Credit unless either of you was already receiving state pension credit when Universal Credit was introduced.

Most claims will be made online at or, if you need help, by contacting the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

How are you paid?

Universal Credit is paid once every calendar month in arrears. You should get your payments within seven days of the end of your monthly assessment period.  Your housing costs will be included in your payment and will only be paid to your landlord if you specifically ask (after your first payment has been made, Scotland only) or by the landlord asking for a Managed Payment to Landlord in certain circumstances.

You will be expected to manage your claim online and must report any changes in your circumstances through your online journal.

You can get more information on Universal Credit at or by contacting a member of the Financial Inclusion Team.

From April 2013 if you have one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms in your property the maximum rent on which you can claim Housing Benefit may be reduced by:

  • 14% if you have one spare bedroom or
  • 25% if you have two or more spare bedrooms

The rules allow one bedroom for:

  • Each adult or couple
  • Two children of the same sex under the age of 16
  • Two children under the age of 10 regardless of sex
  • Any other child
  • A carer, who does not normally live with you, if someone in the household needs overnight care
  • Approved foster carers – a reduction for under-occupation will not be made in respect of one additional bedroom for the foster child or children
  • Parents of armed forces personnel – adult children who are in the armed forces but who continue to live with parents, will be treated as continuing to live at home when deployed on operations

The rules will not apply to households in the following situations:

  • Shared ownership – the size criteria rules will not apply where the claimant part owns their property
  • Pension age – any claimant over qualifying age for state pension credit or with a partner over that age will be exempt from the size criteria rules
  • Temporary accommodation – any claimant accepted as homeless under Homelessness Legislation and placed in temporary accommodation by the Local Authority will be exempt from the size criteria rules
  • Supported ‘exempt’ accommodation – claimants in certain types of supported accommodation will be exempt from the size criteria rules

Following a recent Court of Appeal judgement those whose children are said to be unable to share a bedroom because of severe disabilities will be able to claim Housing Benefit for an extra room.

The Local Authority will assess the individual circumstances of the claimant and their family and decide whether it is inappropriate for the children to share a room. This will include considering the amount of care needed during the night, and the extent and regularity of disturbance to the sleep of the child who would share the bedroom.

If you have a child who cannot share a bedroom with a brother or sister you should contact your GP, Social Work or Support Worker and ask for evidence to support your claim. This could be a letter stating the nature of the child’s disability including the amount of care the child needs during the night and also the impact on another child who would be expected to share a bedroom.


There will be some protection from these rules in the following cases:

  • 13 week protection where the tenant could previously afford the rent and Housing Benefit has not been claimed in the last 52 weeks
  • For up to 12 months where certain members of the household have died
What next?

The Local Authority will write out to all our tenants who are under-occupying their home and in receipt of Housing Benefit. If you do not agree with their assessment, you should contact them immediately. Once you have received a letter from Scottish Borders Council, you will be visited by a member of our team who will discuss your options and how we can help. If you did not get a letter and you think the under-occupation rules apply to you please contact either the Scottish Borders Council or our Financial Inclusion Team immediately.

From late summer 2013, there will be a cap on the amount of benefits you can receive. The Government will add up the amount of money you get from Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credits, Child Benefit, and Carer’s Allowance. If the total comes to more than the maximum amount allowed, your Housing Benefit payments will be reduced.

The maximum amount of benefit you will be able to receive from the date that this is implemented will be:

  • £384.62 per week for single parents
  • £384.62 per week for couples with or without children
  • £257.69 per week for single people without children

The Benefit Cap will not apply if you get Pension Credit or Working Tax Credit or if a member of your household claims Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance, the support element of Employment and Support Allowance, Industrial Injuries Benefit or is a war widow.

Claimants who have been in employment for 52 weeks or more when they claim benefit will be exempt from the cap for a grace period of up to 39 weeks.