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The government is making lots of changes to the benefit system this year:
Benefit cap - maximum benefit levels for households
From 15 July 2013, there will be a maximum weekly amount for the amount of benefits that a household can receive. If the total weekly benefit amount is more than the cap level then housing benefit will be reduced.
New size criteria for homes rented from housing associations
From April 2013, families renting housing association properties will be assessed on the number of bedrooms that they have. If they are considered to have more bedrooms in their home than they need, then their housing benefit will be reduced.
Local housing allowance rates for 2013
From April 2013, local housing allowance rates for claimants renting in the private housing sector will be set once a year in April. For many claimants the rates for April 2013 have been frozen at the rates set in April 2012.
Replacement of council tax benefit
From April 2013, council tax benefit is being abolished. Instead each council will have to have its own local scheme for supporting council tax payers on a low income.
Replacement of social fund
From April 2013, community care grants and crisis loans administered by the Department for Work and Pensions are being abolished. Instead Oxfordshire County council will have a fund to support people who need financial help for one-off expenses or in an emergency.
Replacement of disability living allowance
Disability living allowance for working age claimants is being replaced by a new benefit called personal independence payments.
From October 2013, jobseekers allowance, income support, employment support allowance, working tax credit, child tax credit and housing benefit are being replaced by a new benefit called universal credit.
Civil penalties have been introduced to help tackle the losses that result from errors made by customers in their benefit claims. Annually the UK losses £1.3 billion through overpaid benefits, as a result of customer errors. The aim is to reinforce the message that customers are personally responsible for keeping their claim records correct and to change customer behaviours towards overpaid benefits. It should be stressed that these penalties do not apply to cases of fraud, which are dealt with separately.
For further information see the Civil penalty guide (209kb).