Changes to benefits - welfare reform

The government has introduced big changes to the benefits system which could affect the amount of benefits you receive and how benefits are paid to you.

Size limit rules or bedroom tax

In the Welfare Reform Act 2012 the Government set some clear rules about the number of bedrooms a household needs for Housing Benefit purposes.

If you have more bedrooms than the Government says you need you will lose part of your Housing Benefit.

It only applies to people of working age (someone who has not reached the qualifying age to receive Pension Credit), who rent their home from a social landlord (a Housing Association or the council).


Benefit cap

As part of the Welfare Reform Act, the Government introduced a cap on the total amount of benefit that unemployed 'working age' people (those aged 16-65) can receive.

How much is the benefit cap?

From 01 April 2023 the level of the cap changed is:

  • £423.46 a week for couples (with or without children living with them)

  • £423.46 a week for single parents whose children live with them

  • £283.71 a week for single adults who don't have children, or whose children don't live with them

This may mean the amount you get for certain benefits will go down to make sure that the total amount you get isn't more than the cap level.

Further information can be found on GOV.UK


Universal Credit

This is a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income.

Universal Credit has helped claimants and their families to become more independent and has simplified the benefits system by bringing together a range of working age benefits into a single streamlined payment

The aim of Universal Credit is:

  • improve work incentives

  • smooth the transitions into and out of work

  • simplify the system, making it easier for people to understand, and easier and cheaper for staff to administer

  • reduce in-work poverty

  • cut back on fraud and error

It has replaced:

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Income Support

  • Child Tax Credits

  • Working Tax Credits

  • Housing Benefit

Existing claimants will remain on the current Housing Benefit scheme and Housing Benefit will continue to be paid via the same method until further notice.

For further information, please submit an enquiry


Further information about size limit rules or bedroom tax

The new size criteria rules for social housing bring them in line with private sector rules. The new rules restrict the size of accommodation claimants can receive housing benefit on, based on the number of people in their household.

Sharing bedrooms

The following are expected to share:

  • an adult couple

  • 2 children under 16 of the same sex

  • 2 children under 10 (regardless of sex)

The following can have their own bedroom:

  • a single adult (16 or over)

  • a child that would normally share but shared bedrooms are already taken, e.g. you've 3 children and 2 already share

  • children who can't share because of a disability or medical condition

  • a non-resident overnight carer for you or your partner (but only if they must stay overnight and an actual bedroom is available)

One spare bedroom is allowed for:

  • an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement

  • a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with them during that time

  • an additional bedroom will be allowed for medical reasons, for example where a couple need separate rooms because one of them is ill, if they cannot share and 2 beds cannot fit in one room (subject to qualifying income).

Rooms used by students and members of the armed or reserve forces will not be counted as 'spare' if they're away and intend to return home.

This means:

  • no extra bedrooms will be allowed for when someone visits. This includes where a child comes to stay with a parent that they do not normally live with

  • if you have one bedroom more than you need (according to the rules) your Housing Benefit will be cut by 14% of the rent you pay every week

  • if you have two or more spare bedrooms your Housing Benefit will be cut by 25% of the rent you pay every week

Advice and options

  • stay in your present property and pay the shortfall

  • try to find work and increase your income. This will help you pay for the extra bedroom that the new rules say you are not entitled to

  • talk to us about moving to a smaller home

  • take in a lodger - but get advice to see if it affects your benefits

  • see if you are eligible for discretionary housing payments to help with the shortfall for a limited period. See more about discretionary housing payments

  • apply for a mutual exchange on the Homeswapper website or contact us directly

  • check that you are receiving all the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to by contacting Citizens Advice South Lincolnshire on 03444 111444 or visit the Citizens Advice website

  • visit the Turn2Us benefits and advice website

  • visit the Step Change Debt Charity (previously known as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service)

Find out more in our Changes to Benefits Welfare Reform leaflet below.

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