Advice and help for benefit changes

NATIONALLY, the law in relation to benefits is changing and thousands of people in Thurrock will be affected – whether it is Housing benefit, Council Tax benefit or social fund support.

The first changes come into effect on Monday, 1 April and people can visit the council’s website to find out which benefits are changing or how else they may be affected.

From Wednesday (9 January) there will be a link on the website’s home page (www.thurrock.gov.uk) with a series of question-and-answer pages and explanations about the changes. Letters will also be sent to those directly affected in the next two weeks.

Leader of Thurrock Council, Cllr John Kent, said: “People may have read about changes like Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment, but they come into affect later this year and many of them may not be affected until 2015.

“But there are several other major changes which the council has to carry out and which will affect people from April.”

“These include Housing benefit for social housing tenants – those in council-owned homes or housing association homes – who have more bedrooms than the new law says they need.

“Then there is the Local Council Tax Support Scheme. Council Tax benefit, as it is at the moment, is being abolished from the end of March. It is being replaced by local schemes which have to be administered by councils.”

Cllr Kent added: “The discretionary social fund called the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme which includes things like crisis loans is also being abolished in April and again being replaced with local schemes administered by councils.

“And finally there is the ‘Benefit Cap’ which will limit the total amount of benefits people will be able to claim, although the government has announced it will now not begin in April as originally planned, but will be phased in by September 2013.”

The council’s website will be updated as the deadline nears, and those directly affected should either have received letters or be receiving letters in the next couple of weeks.

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