Benefits changes: Your questions to Simon Gompertz

BBC personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz

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BBC personal finance correspondent Simon Gompertz answered your questions in a live Twitter Q&A on Thursday 4 April 2013.

This is an edited version of the session.

Question from @Sean_macrook: I got onto DLA 1month ago, says it will end in 2016 how will changes effect me?

Simon answers: DLA replaced by Personal Independence Payment, existing claimants carry on getting DLA.

Continues: Letter about claiming PIP may not arrive until after October 2015.

Question from Carrie who emails: As a first time claimant how do I make sure I get what I am entitled to?

Simon answers: Hi Carrie - make your claim with out delaying, ask Citizens Advice if you have doubts.

Continues: As a new claimant for eg PIP (replacing DLA) you're likely to be affected by reforms first.

Question from @papagomp Adam asks: How does the bedroom tax really work?

Simon answers: One spare room = 14% off housing benefit, 2 spare rooms = 25% off.

Question from Mike via Facebook: There've been a lot of changes to get the country out of recession. What happens when we're clear?

Simon answers: I don't think they'll reverse the changes! But let's hope fewer JSA and Universal Credit claimants.

Question from @CAdams1962: I believe benefit fraud is peanuts compared to tax avoidance - do you agree?

Simon answers: Benefit fraud is £1.2bn a year, the "tax gap" is £32bn. Not all tax avoidance but you have a point!

Question from Tracey who emails: What is impact on tax credits? We both work 30hrs+/week pay £42/day nursery fees & rely on tax credits.

Simon answers: Increases limited to 1% pa for 3 years, have to tell them if your income rises by £5,000.

Benefit rises capped at 1%

  • Jobseeker's allowance
  • Employment and support allowance
  • Income support
  • Elements of housing benefit
  • Maternity allowance
  • Sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay
  • Couple and lone parent elements of working tax credits and the child element of the child tax credit

Question from @Cejharaj : Will more people be entitled to benefits? Is the average family worse off?

Simon answers: Under new Universal Credit 3.1m families get more (Av £168 a month), 2.8m would lose but get "protection".

Question from Stephen who emails: I've renewed my Higher Rate DLA, will this last for normal 3 years or will there be changes in October?

Simon answers: Stephen, you're right the new Personal Independent Payment will start to replace existing DLA claims from October.

Continues: But you may only have to switch to PIP this early if your DLA claim details change.

Question from Danny Mcpeak on Facebook: I'm confused. I can't understand how anybody earning 50-60-70-80k can claim anything.

Simon answers: Well, their Child Benefit is now being taken away, but they still get pension tax relief.

Question from Stewart who emails: If I refuse to pay the council tax being imposed on me, will they take it from my benefits?

Simon answers: Hi Stewart... Many losing some of their Council Tax benefit because government cutting 10% and shifting payment to councils.

Continues: If you refuse to pay Council Tax you'll get reminders but risk a court summons eventually.

Question from Andrew who emails: wife claimed JSA & taken off benefits after 6 months. Any changes that would allow her to claim benefits?

Simon answers: Hi Andrew, contribution-based JSA lasts 6 months - that could be why.

Continues: Then it's a question of whether she qualifies for income-based JSA which is means-tested and will be replaced by Universal Credit.

What is happening when?

  • 1 April: Spare room subsidy removed for working-age social housing tenants
  • 1 April: Council tax benefit changed to council tax support and run locally
  • 8 April: Working-age benefits and tax credits uprated by 1% - a below-inflation cap
  • 8 April: Disability living allowance replaced by personal independence payment
  • 15 April: Introduction of cap on total amount of benefit for working-age people
  • 29 April: Universal credit rolled out in test areas

Question from @oxfordbloo: I have a new claim in for DLA do I have to start again with a PIP claim?

Simon answers: New claims have to be for PIP not DLA in some pilot areas from this month, then all new claims from June.

Tweet from@PlanBPartners: Important people don't get hung up on benefit losses. Tax credits are being totally restructured

Simon replies: OK, but Universal Credit will flummox millions, PIP a major change, Housing Benefit cuts are real.

Question from Mick who emails: I'm on incapacity benefit & get a pension from work. My benefit will stop next year. What happens then?

Simon answers: Incapacity benefit being replaced by Employment and Support Allowance which does stop at State Pension Age.

Continues: Yours is a common complaint, but you might be able to claim Pension Credit, which is a gateway to other help.

Question from @papagomp: Doesn't it seem as though the poor are being targeted and labelled whilst the rich get richer. Is this the big society Cameron wants?

Simon answers: 500,000 fewer to get the new PIP rather than Disability Living Allowance, for instance.

Continues: The richest have lost most from tax/benefit changes in straight cash, but they don't have to rely on benefits.

Question from Jake who emails: My girlfriend is pregnant & is out of work. I'm on £16k, struggle with rent. Are we entitled to benefits?

Simon answers: She - Maternity Allowance, JSA, then Child Benefit... Both of you - Working Tax Credit then Child Tax Credit...

Continues: Those are suggestions. I think you should both get down to Citizens Advice or talk to council benefit advice centre.

Wow (catches breath!)...thanks for all your benefits questions and sorry I couldn't answer them all.

For more tweets from Simon Gompertz you can follow his Twitter account @gompertz

Twitter Q&A produced by Nathan Williams.

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