Q. My employment contract is due to end in January and I won’t start my next contract until March. Is there anything that I can claim short-term between placements?
My wife doesn’t work as she is looking after our two-year-old. Our rent is £550 per month and I’m worried about paying it.
A. If you live in a full service Universal Credit area then you would need to make an application for Universal Credit, which would encompass the old style Jobseekers Allowance claim, Housing Benefit and tax credits, but would be paid as one combined payment; you would still need to apply for Council Tax Reduction separately.
As it is a monthly benefit, any wages that you receive within the monthly assessment period will be taken into account when working out how much Universal Credit you will be paid. Housing costs are limited based on the number of rooms you are considered to need and set rates for those sized properties.
However, if you live in a live service area, where Universal Credit is yet to be fully rolled out and you have not claimed Housing Benefit in the past 12 months, then your Housing Benefit will not be limited in this way and while you are out of work your rent may be covered in full – this is still means-tested and you would need to have a sufficiently low income and savings below £6,000. In live service areas you would need to claim Jobseekers Allowance if you were looking for work as you cannot claim Universal Credit if you have a partner or a child until it is rolled out fully in your area.
Q. I have a two-bedroom privately rented property. I live there by myself during the week, but my daughter stays over at weekends.
I don’t get any Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit, as her mother claims that.
But would I be able to include her in my Housing Benefit claim, otherwise I will only get Housing Benefit for one bedroom, but I need the second bedroom for her.
A. Unfortunately, your daughter can only be included in the Housing Benefit award for the property where she lives for the majority of the time.
Where care is shared equally then the person who claims the Child Benefit has the child included in their award.
These cases have been appealed through the courts as a possible form of discrimination, but the High Court has found it not to be discriminatory. If you are going to have a shortfall in your Housing Benefit then you could apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from your Local Authority.
A Discretionary Housing Payment is a top up to the Housing Benefit that you receive, usually awarded for short periods at a time. Your local authority will assess what income you have and what you are paying out and will look to see if they can pay an additional amount if you seem to be in financial difficulty. There is no formal appeals process if you are refused a Discretionary Housing Payment, but you can ask the local authority to reconsider their decision.