Benefits Expert: ‘Will spare bedroom cut my benefits?’

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Q I HAVE worked for the same firm for over 25 years, but it has only given me eight days work since December.  

 With work in short supply I cannot understand why they do not pay me off, especially as being aged 70 I think I am too old to get redundancy pay.

 I have a State Pension of £674 a month and savings of £24,000. I live alone and own my house, paying £720 a year Council Tax. Would I be better off giving up work altogether? Mr A. (Sunderland).

A NO. Your income and savings put you above the level where you could qualify for benefits or help with your Council Tax.

 However, you are never too old to qualify for Statutory Redundancy Pay.

 Since October 2006, it has been unlawful for employers to treat employees differently on grounds of age.

 This means there is no longer an upper age limit for redundancy pay.

 As long as a person has worked for an employer for at least two years, they can be eligible for payment if they are made redundant.

 If you want advice about your redundancy situation, I suggest you ring the ACAS Helpline on 08457 47 47 47.

Q MY parents have worked all their lives and never claimed benefits.

 My dad has a weekly State Pension of £130.58 and private pensions totalling £350 a month.

 My mum’s State Pension is £73.53 a week, and she also has a private pension of £79.36 a month. Their joint savings are £8,000. Can they get any help? Ann (by e-mail).

A EVEN with an income of over £300 a week your parents are entitled to Council Tax Benefit (CTB) that would reduce their liability to about £686 a year.

 If they live in Sunderland where the minimum Council Tax is £895 a year, they would be entitled to CTB of at least £4 a week backdated for three months.

Q I HAVE read that I will have my Housing Benefit cut because I live in a council house with a spare bedroom. Is this true? Worried Wearsider.

AT present people who live in what is called ‘social housing’ (which includes council accommodation) have their Housing Benefit (HB) based upon the rent they actually pay.

 From April 2013, however, all social housing tenants who are of working age will have their HB based upon a lower figure if they have more bedrooms than they need. The amount of the reduction will depend upon individual circumstances, but the Government estimates that someone with one bedroom too many will lose £11 a week on average.