Welfare Reform FAQs

The questions below are an example of some of the most common questions we have been asked about the benefit changes. The answers provided are based on information known at this time.


1. Why are all these changes being introduced?

The changes are being made by the UK government – through the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) – which is aiming to make the benefits and tax credits systems fairer and simpler by creating the right incentives to get more people into work, protecting the most vulnerable in society and delivering fairness to those claiming benefit and to the taxpayer.

2. How do I ensure that I’m getting all the benefits available to me?

Speak to us and make sure we have your correct details. For further advice on benefits that may be available to you call 0300 123 0900.

3. There seems to be lots of talk about benefits being dealt with online, but I don’t know how to use a computer. What do I need to do?

The government has set an ambitious target of moving the majority of benefits claims online within the next four years, but we appreciate that not everyone will know how to – or even want to – deal with your benefits in this way.

Where an online application cannot be submitted, the preferred alternative will be via a telephone application, with applications only accepted in person in exceptional circumstances.

Depending on which benefit you are applying for, the contact routes will vary – for example, you will apply to the Council for Council Tax Reduction, Housing Benefit and Scottish Welfare Fund. However, you will apply to the DWP for DLA/PIP and a range of other benefits. Both the Council and DWP have online routes and telephone numbers for customers to get in touch.

Free computer and internet access is available in all Council libraries, including two hours worth of PC usage per day. Our libraries also offer basic computer classes and 1-2-1 sessions for a small fee, and there is also access to free online computer tutorials. Dedicated help with job applications and CVs is available between 2pm and 5pm in Carnegie Library on Mondays, Forehill Library on Tuesdays, Girvan Library on Wednesdays and Maybole Library on Thursdays. Further information is available from 01292 286385.

Computer skills classes also run for one hour each week in community education centres in Ayr, Girvan, Maybole and Troon, covering topics such as how to work a computer, set up an email account and access the internet. Further details are available from 01292 263304 or 0800 389 8320.

Occupancy rules

4. Why are these rules being introduced?

The DWP is making the changes to ensure households receive Housing Benefit based on the need of your household – the criteria for how need is assessed by the DWP is determined by size of the household and size of the property.

5. My house is deemed bigger than my household should need, so what do I do?

There are only a small number of options available to those who will be classed as under-occupying your homes:

  • Pay the difference in benefit to make up the rent and stay in the tenancy.
  • Move to a smaller rented property that meets the occupancy rules*. This could include an option for a mutual exchange where, as well as applying to transfer to another South Ayrshire Council property, you can apply for a mutual exchange with tenants of other Councils in the UK or tenants of housing associations or other registered social landlords within the UK.
  • Think about taking in a lodger, which may be an option. However, you must seek advice from the Council or housing association you rent your property from to get permission. Please be aware that – if this is allowed and you take in a lodger to be part of your household – it may affect the amount of Housing Benefit you receive. If in doubt, seek advice first.

*Most Council and social rented homes in South Ayrshire have two or more bedrooms, so in most cases it won’t be possible to re-house people to a smaller property that meets the occupancy rules.

6. I will be affected by this but can’t afford to make up the difference in money, so how can I pay my rent?

First of all, make sure you’re receiving all the benefits you’re entitled to. Secondly, discuss your housing options with your landlord to see if there is an option for you to move to a smaller property. However, for smaller households, this may be difficult as most Council and social rented homes in South Ayrshire have two or more bedrooms, so in most cases it won’t be possible to re-house people to smaller property that meets the occupancy rules.

7. Can I apply for Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the difference?

Discretionary Housing Payments are intended to provide short-term financial assistance to help with housing costs for those who receive Housing Benefit so would not be a solution for anyone having difficulties on an ongoing basis due to the introduction of the occupancy rules.

In addition, the Council only has a limited fund available to make Discretionary Housing Payments, so not all applications will be accepted, and priority will be given to those affected by the benefit changes. For example:

  • A tenant who is a foster carer and the property is deemed too big under the occupancy rules, even once relevant information in relation to foster care has been taken into account.
  • A tenant where a property has been adapted to suit the needs of a disabled person who still lives there and Housing Benefit is affected because of the occupancy rules.

Each application will be considered on its own merits. The application form requests details of the household’s income and outgoings as well as the circumstances and reason that the request is being made.

8. Why should I have to move out of a house I’ve stayed in for years?

There is no specific requirement on tenants to move out of your homes because of the DWP changes; however, all options should be considered to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved to suit individual circumstances, including an individual’s ability to meet rent requirements and payments.

9. I’m willing to move to a smaller property but the Council/housing association doesn’t have one to offer me, so why should I suffer financially?

While we – and the housing associations – will do all we can to move tenants in to smaller properties, we are all aware that most properties have a minimum of two bedrooms, so the options to move a couple or single person into a smaller property will be very limited but we are happy to discuss these with you. However, this will not change the impact of the occupancy rules on Housing Benefit received.

10. Essentially then the Council/housing association is making me homeless as I won’t be able to afford to stay in my house, so where will you accommodate me?

These are national changes being made by the DWP. Any reduction to your Housing Benefit as a result of the occupancy rules will mean that you will have a rental charge to pay. The Council will offer advice and support to you to help you manage this; however, due to the low number of one bedroom properties, the Council or housing association may not be able to offer you alternative accommodation.

11. Am I allowed to take in a lodger to make up the difference in rent?

You can apply to the Council or housing association for permission to take in a lodger to be part of your household. You must have permission before the lodger moves into your home. Please seek advice before entering into any agreement with a lodger. Please be aware that – if this is allowed and you take in a lodger to be part of your household – it may affect the amount of Housing Benefit you receive.

12. What impact will there be on my benefits if I take in a lodger?

It’s not possible to generalise as the impact of any change will depend on each individual’s own circumstances, incomings and outgoings. To discuss any impact on you and your Housing Benefit, contact Benefit Services on 0300 123 0900 or benefit.services@south-ayrshire.gov.uk.

For advice on debt or budgeting, contact our Money Advice team.

13. I’m a private landlord and my tenant gets Housing Benefit. Will I be affected by these changes?

No. Occupancy rules have applied in private sector housing for some time but this is the first time you have been applied to Councils and housing associations. Your tenant may be affected by other forthcoming changes – such as Universal Credit – but not by the occupancy rules.


14. Why is DLA being changed?

PIP is being introduced by DWP to better reflect today’s understanding of disability which has changed a lot in the 20 years DLA has been around. It will also allow additional checks – which already exist for many other benefit claims – to be built into the claims process.

15. I’ve been getting DLA for years, so why won’t I automatically get PIP?

PIP is being managed by DWP, not the Council, but we know it will have different entitlement criteria or rules to those for DLA and everyone will be individually assessed against the new criteria. This means DWP will look at your individual circumstances and entitlement will depend on how your ability to carry out daily living and / or mobility activities is affected by your condition or disability. Entitlement will not depend on what health condition or disability you have.

16. What happens if I lose money when I transfer from DLA to PIP?

The level of benefit received will be based on the assessment and the decision taken by DWP. If you disagree with this option, you have the option to ask them to review this and reconsider your case.

For further advice on benefits you can email benefit.services@south-ayrshire.gov.uk or call 0300 123 0900.

17. If I no longer qualify for PIP, does that have an impact on any DLA I’ve already received?


18. Who will carry out the medical assessments for PIP?

DWP has commissioned specific providers to carry out the assessment on your behalf.

Universal Credit

19. I don’t want to be responsible for having to manage all my benefits and pay my rent etc. Can’t the current arrangements just continue?

Not as we understand it at this time. One of the reasons for the DWP moving to Universal Credit is to help people budget effectively and manage your money as you would in the world of work, with the related responsibility for paying rent, utility bills, shopping etc. Pilot schemes will be running in four Council areas in England from April, so this may affect the final plans for implementation.

20. Why is Universal Credit being paid monthly?

Universal Credit is paid monthly to help people budget effectively and reflect the world of work, which will help smooth the transition into monthly paid work, encourage claimants to take personal responsibility for your finances and to budget on a monthly basis which could save households money. For example, monthly direct debits for household bills are often cheaper than more frequent billing options.

21. What’s to stop people using money for rent/bills etc in other ways?

Personal responsibility is a big element of Universal Credit and people will be required to make the right choices with your money otherwise you are the ones who will be personally affected.

22. So will the Council be evicting people who won’t pay your rent because you now get the money themselves rather than it going straight to the Council?

The Council will offer you advice and support to help you meet your tenancy obligations and to work with you to ensure that you make payments to the Council for rent. In cases where tenants do not pay your rent to the Council, the Council will take necessary action in accordance with our Rent Arrears Recovery Policy and Procedures. Eviction is a last resort for the Council, but where the Court grants a Decree for Recovery of Possession to the Council, eviction action may take place.