The Foreign & Commonwealth office has announced that people living in Great Britain can now only receive Housing Benefit for 4 weeks if they are out of the country. Previously, housing benefit claimants could continue having their rent paid for up to 13 weeks.
The new rules, which came into force on 28 July, prevent claimants from taking long drawn-out trips outside Great Britain while receiving taxpayer help with their rent, as well as bringing Housing Benefit into line with Jobseeker’s Allowance and other working age benefits, which already have stricter limits.
Those in receipt of Pension Credit also face a reduction in the time they can continue to receive their benefit whilst abroad, from 13 weeks to 4 weeks. Minister for Welfare Delivery, Caroline Nokes said “It’s important that the benefits system is fair to those who need it and those who pay for it. It’s not right that people could be abroad for over three months and still expect the taxpayer to pay their rent back home. These new rules mean that people can still enjoy holidays like everyone else, but will ensure that the system isn’t abused.”
For further information on these changes or to find out what exemptions apply, claimants are advised to contact their local benefit office. Those who are permanent residents overseas remain unable to claim income-related benefits for any period of time. These include benefits such as Housing Benefit, Pension Credit or Universal Credit.
The FCO says that if you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud in Spain, call the Benefit Fraud Hotline on 900 55 4440. Calls are free and confidential. You can also report a benefit thief online at www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud. Help make sure that benefits go to those who need them most.