Children's handbook Scotland
Chapter 1: Benefits and tax credits
10. Housing benefit
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10. Housing benefit

Housing benefit (HB) is a means-tested benefit that helps low-income households with rent payments. You can get HB whether or not you are in work, provided you satisfy the conditions of entitlement.

Your local authority is responsible for the administration of HB.

HB is being replaced by universal credit (UC) and eventually most claimants who are on HB will be transferred to UC.

Who can claim housing benefit

If you are not in the UC system, you qualify for HB if:Footnote you or your partner are liable to pay rent on the dwelling you occupy as your home; and you are not in a category that is excluded from HB (see below); and you satisfy the 'habitual residence test', including having a 'right to reside', and are not a ’person subject to immigration control’. These terms are explained in CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook; and you and your partner have savings of £16,000 or less, unless you are on guarantee credit of pension credit (PC), in which case your capital is not taken into account; and your income is sufficiently low.

Who cannot claim housing benefit

Some groups of people are excluded from HB – eg, most (but not all) full-time students, most people who live in care homes, and people whose agreement to pay rent is not on a commercial basis or whose liability to pay rent has been created to take advantage of the HB scheme. For more information, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook. Most 16/17-year-old care leavers are excluded (see Chapter 10).

Amount of benefit

The amount of HB you get depends on your income compared with the amount the law says you need to live on. Also, there are limits set on how much rent HB will cover. This section just gives an outline of how HB is calculated, so you can see how a change in your circumstances or in your income might affect your entitlement.

Step one: calculate the maximum housing benefit

This is the maximum amount the local authority can pay. HB does not cover some charges, such as those for fuel and meals. Your maximum HB may not be as much as your actual rent. Most private tenants have their maximum HB determined by a 'local housing allowance'. This is a flat rate based on the area in which you live and on the size of your household.

Working-age tenants in the social rented sector (ie, local authority or housing association tenants) have their maximum HB reduced if they are deemed to be under-occupying their home – ie, if they have one or more spare bedrooms. This is commonly known as the 'bedroom tax'. Note: this does not apply to you if you are over PC age and there are some other exceptions – eg, if you have a disabled child and s/he cannot share a room due to her/his disability. See CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for more details of this reduction. See the relevant chapter of this Handbook for how it affects your particular situation.

Step two: deduct amounts for non-dependants from maximum housing benefit

A 'non-dependant' is someone aged 18 or over, usually a friend or adult relative, who lives with you but not on a commercial basis. A non-dependant deduction is made to reflect an assumed contribution from her/him to the household, whether or not s/he pays anything. Sometimes no non-dependant deduction is made – eg, if the non-dependant is under 25 and gets certain benefits, or is someone who normally lives elsewhere. If you or your partner gets attendance allowance, the daily living component of personal independence payment or the care component of disability living allowance, or are certified as severely sight-impaired or blind by a consultant ophthalmologist,  no non-dependant deduction is made.

Non-dependant deductions are made at a fixed rate, depending on the income and circumstances of the non-dependant. See CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for details.

Step three: if you get means-tested benefits

If you get income support (IS), income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) or PC (guarantee credit), your HB is your maximum HB minus any amount for non-dependants. You do not need to continue with the remainder of these steps.

Step four: if you do not get means-tested benefits

If you do not get IS, income-based JSA, income-related ESA or PC (guarantee credit), you must compare your income with your 'applicable amount'. Your applicable amount is made up of: personal allowances; and premiums; and components.

The applicable amount includes allowances, premiums and components for yourself and for your partner, if you have one. It also includes allowances and premiums for dependent children. The amounts for HB are the same as for IS (see Cross reference), except: personal allowances: the child allowance is included in HB. This may be subject to the 'two-child limit' (see CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for details); single people under 25 and lone parents under 18 who are entitled to main-phase ESA get £73.10; young couples get £114.85, unless both are under 18 and the claimant is not entitled to main-phase ESA, in which case they get £87.50; single people have a personal allowance of £163.00 if they have reached the qualifying age for PC (see Cross reference) but are under 65, or £176.40 if aged 65 or over; couples get £248.80 if at least one has reached the qualifying age for PC (see Cross reference) but is under 65, and £263.80 if one or both is 65 or over; premiums: family premium (£17.45, or £22.20 for some lone parents), disabled child premium (£62.86) and enhanced disability premium for a child (£25.48) are included in HB. The family premium is only included if you were getting it before 1 May 2016, you are still getting HB and have not made a new claim for HB since then; you do not get a disability premium if you have been assessed as having limited capability for work for ESA and you (ie, not your partner, if you have one) are the HB claimant; components: instead of a disability premium, include a work-related activity component of £29.05 if you have claimed ESA and been assessed as having limited capability for work, or a support component of £37.65 if you also have limited capability for work-related activity (see Cross reference for more about ESA). You will only get the work-related activity component if it is included in your ESA (see Cross reference).

Step five: work out your weekly income

Some kinds of income are ignored. For details, see CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook.

See the relevant chapters of this Handbook for more information on how specific income (eg, fostering allowances and payments from the local authority) is treated.

Step six: calculate your housing benefit

If your income is less than or the same as your applicable amount, HB is the amount worked out at Step two – ie, your maximum rent less any non-dependant deductions.

If your income is more than your applicable amount, work out 65 per cent of the difference. Your HB is the amount you worked out at Step two minus 65 per cent of the difference between your weekly income and your applicable amount.

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