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Social Sector Size Criteria

Published: Thur, 19 Jan 2017
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Sometimes referred to as ‘Bedroom Tax’ this Welfare Change comes into effect 20 February 2017.

Who will be affected?

It will affect social housing (Housing Executive and housing association) tenants considered to be ‘under-occupying’ their homes.  It does not apply to privately rented properties.

What is happening to households affected?

If a household is considered to be ‘under-occupying’, the rent used to calculate Housing Benefit will reduce by:
  • 14% if under-occupied by 1 bedroom, or
  • 25% if under-occupied by 2 or more bedrooms

Welfare Supplementary Payment

The Northern Ireland Executive committed to alleviating Social Sector Size Criteria.  If a household’s Housing Benefit goes down because of the changes they will receive a Welfare Supplementary Payment.  These are in place until 31 March 2020.
Those affected do not have to apply for Welfare Supplementary Payments.  The Department for Communities and the Housing Executive will work together to automatically calculate the amount to be paid which will be credited to the claimant or social landlord receiving the Housing Benefit payments.

What does the size criteria allow?

The Social Sector Size Criteria now allows one bedroom each for:
  • every adult couple
  • anyone else aged 16 or over
  • any two children of the same sex aged under 16
  • any two children aged under 10
  • any other child (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere)
  • children who can’t share because of a disability or medical condition
  • a carer (or team of carers) providing overnight care
Those living in a Housing Executive or housing association home aged 16 years or over but below State Pension age receiving Housing Benefit will be affected.  Pensioners are not affected.

How will the household know if they’ve been affected?

An early notification letter is being sent to all Housing Executive and housing association households likely to be affected by Social Sector Size Criteria.  This phased posting started 17 January 2017 and will take 2-3 weeks for all letters to be issued.  It is due to be completed by 3 February 2017.
The mailing will contain a Household Details Form containing the information we have on record for the household.  Householders will be asked to check this information and if it is correct there is nothing to do if it is incorrect they should make the amendments on the form and return it to us in the prepaid envelope provided.

Who is not affected by the changes?

You will not be affected by Social Sector Size Criteria if:
  • you or your partner have reached State Pension age
  • you live in exempt supported accommodation
  • you live in a houseboat, caravans or mobile home
  • you live in a shared co-ownership scheme
  • you live in temporary accommodation

Are any households allowed an extra bedroom?

Your household may be allowed an extra bedroom if you are:
  • an approved foster carer who has a child placed with you
  • an approved foster carer who is between placements but only for up to 52 weeks from the end of the last placement
  • a newly approved foster carer for up to 52 weeks from the date of approval if no child is placed with you during that time
  • If a student or member of the armed forces has a bedroom in your home but they're away, their bedroom won't count as unoccupied.
  • You might be allowed an extra room if you had a bereavement recently in your household.

Advice and Information

There is an Independent Welfare Changes Helpline which can be called on 0808 802 0020 for those affected for independent help and advice.
Information is also available on the Government’s website nidirect and the Housing Executive’s Housing Benefit team can be contacted on 03448 920 902.