Benefit’s Expert: How much worse off will we be?

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Q My husband works 20 hours a week and takes home £149.40 a week. We receive Child Tax Credit (CTC) of £107.04 a week for our two school age children.

We also receive Working Tax Credit (WTC) of £60.78 a week but we understand that this will stop in April when the rules change.

We pay full rent of £78.69 a week and Council Tax of £900 a year. How much worse off will we be in April?

Mrs. H (by Email).

A A couple with children can currently qualify for WTC if one of them works 16 hours a week or more.

But from April 6 they must be working at least 24 hours a week between them, with one working at least 16.

This means you will lose your WTC but will continue to receive CTC of about £114 a week.

However, people whose incomes will go down because of this change may get more help through Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (HB/CTB).

In your circumstances you should be eligible for full HB/CTB from April. Furthermore you should be getting some HB/CTB at the moment and look to be missing out by around £60 a week. So claim now.

Also from April you will be entitled to free school meals if you do not get WTC but have CTC based on an annual income below a certain level (currently £16,190).

Q I am a widow of 70 living in a council flat with a warden and intercom system. I pay £56 a week rent, £86 a month Council Tax and £20 a month for the intercom.

I have £10,000 savings, a State Pension of £135 a week and a works pension of £320 a month. Am I entitled to any rebates?

Mrs. B (Seaham).

A You are entitled to Housing Benefit that would reduce your basic rent to about £33 a week and Council Tax Benefit that would reduce your Council Tax to about £52 a month. These will be backdated three months.

Q I have left work because of poor health and am thinking of claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

However, I believe this is means-tested and I have a works pension of £690 a month and £40,000 from an inheritance. Is it worth bothering?

B (Redhouse).

A Not all ESA is means-tested and you can qualify on the basis of recently paid National Insurance Contributions.

However, Contributory ESA is reduced by half of the amount by which a pre-tax works pension exceeds £85 a week. So you could receive ESA at a starting rate of about £30 a week, rather than the full £67.50.