Changes to Housing Benefit

Social Sector Size Criteria has changed how Housing Benefit is calculated for tenants in social housing. Social Sector Size Criteria is sometimes called the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

Tenants affected by the changes

The changes affect Housing Executive and housing association tenants, aged between 16 and State Pension age, who receive Housing Benefit. These criteria already apply to tenants in privately rented properties.

People not affected by the changes

You will not be affected by Social Sector Size Criteria if:

  • you or your partner have reached State Pension age
  • you live in supported accommodation
  • you live in a houseboat, caravans or mobile home
  • you live in a shared co-ownership scheme
  • you live in temporary accommodation

Social Sector Size Criteria

Under the new criteria, Housing Benefit will be calculated on the number of bedrooms in your home and the number of people living there. 

The new criteria allows one bedroom for:

  • a couple
  • a person aged 16 or over
  • two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • children who can’t share because of a disability or medical condition
  • a non-resident carer or carers providing overnight care

Households which might be allowed an extra bedroom

Your household may be allowed an extra bedroom if you are:

  • an approved foster carer who has a child placed with you
  • 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 you during that time

If a student or member of the armed forces has a bedroom in your home but they're away, their bedroom won't count as unoccupied. 

A couple who cannot share because of a disability or medical condition might be allowed an extra room.

You might be allowed an extra room if you had a bereavement recently in your household.

Changes to your Housing Benefit

If you are assessed as having one or more extra bedrooms than your household needs, the amount of Housing Benefit you receive will go down.

Housing Benefit allowed for your rent and certain service charges will reduce by:
•      14 per cent if you have one extra bedroom
•      25 per cent if you have two or more extra bedrooms

Welfare Supplementary Payment

If your Housing Benefit goes down due to Social Sector Size Criteria, you will receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment until 31 March 2020.

You don't need to claim the Welfare Supplementary Payment. If you qualify for the payment, the Department for Communities (DfC) will pay it directly to your landlord.  If your Housing Benefit is paid to you,  DfC will  make the
payment directly to you.

Help and advice

The Housing Executive and your landlord can offer help, advice and support.
For Housing Benefit enquiries, contact the Housing Executive.

For help and advice on changes to the welfare system, contact the Independent Welfare Changes Helpline.

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