Benefits Expert: Changes in mortgage support

This week our Benefits Expert answers a question about mortgage payments.
This week our Benefits Expert answers a question about mortgage payments.

Q: I am claiming Employment and Support Allowance and I get some help with my mortgage payments.

I have been hearing about changes to the payments I get and I wanted to know more about this, but I don’t understand what is happening.

A. Currently, help towards your mortgage is paid on top of your normal benefit entitlement as a means tested increase which is paid directly to your mortgage lender, known as Support for Mortgage Interest.

The current system is an additional income which you become entitled to after serving the 39 week waiting period.

However, as of April 2018 there will no longer be a benefit paid in this way, instead it will be paid in the way of a loan from the DWP. The DWP will place a charge on the property for the amount of help the claimant received (plus interest) and the claimant will be expected to repay that amount when they move back into work or when the property is sold.

This change will affect people who are currently in receipt of Support for Mortgage Interest as well as new claimants.

Q. I have been claiming Contributions Based Employment and Support Allowance for one year since leaving work due to ill health.

I have just received a letter informing me that I can no longer receive Contributions Based Employment and Support Allowance, but I will receive Income Related Employment and Support Allowance instead; why has this changed and will it mean anything practically for me?

A. Contributions Based Employment and Support Allowance is paid if you have paid sufficient National Insurance Contributions when you are assessed at the start of the claim, but it is only paid for one year if you are in the Work Related Group (the Support Group is not time limited).

You are then assessed to see if you qualify for Income Related Employment and Support Allowance instead – for some people this can mean a decrease in the amount of Employment and Support Allowance they are receiving if they have income from somewhere else, such as a pension or wages from a partner, or if they have savings.

If you have no alternative income or savings over £6,000 then your amount of Employment and Support Allowance will remain constant.

You will also now be entitled to passported benefits such as free prescriptions, maximum Council Tax Reduction and free school meals which you would have needed to apply for directly when claiming Contributions Based Employment and Support Allowance.