DORSEt residents are being informed about changes to the benefits system which will be made next year as part of the government’s welfare reforms.

From April 1, 2013, people receiving housing benefit who have spare bedrooms in their homes will see their benefit payments reduced by 14 per cent for one unoccupied room or by 25 per cent for two or more unoccupied rooms.

Council tax benefit will become council tax relief on this date. The entitlement to council tax benefit will be reduced for those of working age and this means that claimants will have to pay a proportion of the council tax bill.

Later in the year the government will introduce universal credit, a new single benefit payment covering housing benefit, jobseekers allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and the social fund.

North Dorset has been selected as a pilot area for universal credit.

Also changing at the same time will be the overall benefit cap, which will be linked to average earnings from April and will be £500 per week for couples and lone parent households and £350 per week for single adult households.