Help given on housing changes

HELP is at hand for Northumberland residents who are feeling the effects of changes to the housing benefits system.

The county council is providing advice and information for anyone who is concerned about the immediate impact of Government reforms.

From April 2011, benefit claimants who had previously received up to a maximum of £15 on top of their rent lost the top- up from the anniversary date of their claim. This affects 1,585 people in Northumberland. A total of 5,656 people have been impacted by last year’s changes to the way the benefit is calculated. It meant decreases in weekly amounts of between £1.15 and £40.39 depending on the size of the property.

Claimants who previously qualified for the five-bedroom rate on the basis of family circumstances have had it capped at the four-bedroom rate.

From last month, the age threshold for the shared accommodation rate of Local Housing Allowance increased for single claimants from 25 years to 35 years. This amounts to a £8.25 decrease in the weekly amount for 603 claimants in the county.

Executive Member for Health and Well-being, Ian Lindley, said: “The long-term aims of these reforms are desirable, ie freeing people from dependency on benefits and rewarding work properly. But in the immediate future some people will need help to cope with the changes.”

Anyone who would like to discuss the changes can visit one of the council’s customer information centres or call the benefits team on 0845 600 6400.