Next month, the Government's reforms to housing benefits are to kick in which means residents who live in social housing which are deemed to be too large could lose some of their housing benefit which they use to pay the rent.
This only applies to people who are of working age. If you are old enough to be eligible for Pension Credit, you won't be affected by the changes.
The Government decides if a home is too large by calculating the number of bedrooms in a home.
To avoid having a benefit cut, each home is allowed to have:
- 1 bedroom for each adult couple
- 1 bedroom for each person aged over 16
- 1 bedroom for two children aged between 10 and 16 of the same sex.
- 1 bedroom for two children under 10, regardless of the same sex.
- 1 bedroom for any other child.
- 1 bedroom for an overnight carer who doesn't normally live in the home.
So a family with two parents, a 13 year-old boy and a 11 year-old girl would be entitled to three bedrooms, one for the parents and one each for the children. However, if the children were both boys or both girls, they would have to share a room.
If your home has more bedrooms than the Government thinks you need, your benefit will be cut by 14% if you have one spare room or by 25% if you have two.
Your council may be able to make an exception for you if you fulfill certain criteria. Yesterday, the Government announced that families who use spare rooms to look after foster children or because family members are away serving with the armed forces would be allowed to have spare bedrooms without losing their benefits.
Sick or disabled residents can apply for help from their council if they are facing a benefit cut. For instance, you may avoid the cut if your home has been specially adapted for you to live in or you have a disabled child who requires care during the night.
For more advice on whether the benefit changes affect you and whether you are eligible for help from your council, you can go the Citizens Advice Bureau website.