Benefits Expert: ‘Please explain bedroom tax’

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Q Can you please explain the ‘bedroom tax’? I have a spare bedroom and understood that pensioners will not be affected.

But someone told me that you had to be 65 to be exempted. I am only 61 but qualified for my pension last month.

Confused widow.

A From April, people of ‘working age’ who are renting ‘social housing’ will have their Housing Benefit reduced if they have more bedrooms than they need. ‘Social housing’ includes council housing and housing association properties.

‘Working age’ means not being old enough to claim Pension Credit.

The minimum age for Pension Credit is the same as the State Pension age for women.

This used to be 60, but is gradually rising to catch up with men who currently reach pension age at 65.

When the new rules about bedrooms and Housing Benefit are introduced in April, the qualifying age for Pension Credit will have reached 61 years and five months.

You appear to have already reached Pension Credit qualifying age, as you were awarded your State Pension in January.

You will therefore not be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ as you will no longer be of working age.

Anyone who wants to know when they will reach qualifying age for Pension Credit should contact the National Pension Centre on 0845 301 3011.

Q Our four-weekly State Pensions total £1,060 and monthly private pensions add up to £170.

We have £11,000 savings, no mortgage but pay £137 a month Council Tax. Are we eligible for any benefits?

Mr and Mrs M (Houghton-le-Spring)

A You appear to be entitled to Council Tax Benefit of about £13.50 a week.

Q I am on Pension Credit with no savings. When the inevitable happens what could my wife claim in the form of a grant from the DWP?

What would it cover and would it have to be repaid?

Mr J Easington.

A The spouse or partner of a deceased person can claim a Funeral Payment if they receive a low income benefit such as Pension Credit (either Guarantee Credit or Savings Credit) or Council Tax Benefit.

Entitlement does not depend upon the benefit situation of the deceased.

The payment covers burial fees or cremation fees, certain reasonable transport costs and up to £700 for funeral expenses (including funeral director’s fees, flowers and coffin).

The payment may be reduced by any proceeds from an insurance policy or pre-paid funeral plan.

It is not a loan but can be recovered from the deceased person’s estate. As all cases are different you may want to check your situation by phoning the DWP Bereavement Service on 0845 606 0265.