There are a number of significant changes to benefits that are set to take effect from April 2017, which may impact the amount of money you receive.
Child Tax Credit
Any third or subsequent child born on or after April 6, 2017, will no longer be included in an award for child tax credits, including for existing claims.
A third or later child can still get the disabled child element or severely disabled child element.
Some exemptions apply, including multiple births, children living with family or friends, and children who were conceived non-consensually.
Child benefit will not be affected by these changes.
ESA Work-Related Activity Component
From April 3, new employment support allowance (ESA) claimants who are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit.
Claimants who are single and over the age of 25 will be paid up to £73.10 per week, instead of up to £102.15 per week.
Alongside this change, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has stated that additional support will be provided to help people find work.
Existing ESA claimants will be unaffected by the change, along with those who are being converted from incapacity benefit to ESA.
Universal credit is a new benefit, which brings together a number of existing benefits for people who are in or out of work.
The number of people currently claiming universal credit in Northumberland is relatively low.
It is confined to people who are single, without children or a health condition, and who are not home owners.
The new benefit will be rolled out in full in Northumberland in 2018.
If you are in receipt of universal credit and now have a child, you will remain under the universal credit system.
If you are the main or sole carer of that child, new rules from April 3 will require you to carry out work preparation when the child is one year old.
When the child is two you will be expected to undertake work preparation and work-focused interviews, and when the child is three it is expected that you will be available for and actively seeking work.
There are some exceptions to these rules, but failure to fulfil these requirements could result in your benefit being sanctioned.
The current system of bereavement benefits, including bereavement payment, bereavement allowance and widowed parent’s allowance, will be replaced with a new single bereavement support payment.
Nothing will change if you are already receiving bereavement benefits, or if you are making a claim related to the death of a spouse or civil partner which occurs on or before April 5, 2017.
This new payment has been extended from 12 months to 18 months and the initial lump sum payments will increase, but ongoing payments will reduce.
Payment is not means tested, will not be included in the benefit cap, and will not be affected by a new relationship.
For more information and advice about these and other benefits, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk
You can call Citizens Advice Northumberland on 03444 111 444, or find opening times for offices at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/northumberland