Q. A friend of mine who has been made homeless has asked if she is able to stay with me for a time whilst she gets back on her feet.
I have no problem with this but people have told me I might lose benefits or we would have to claim as a couple even though she is simply a friend.
’m not sure if she receives benefits but I currently get Carer’s Allowance with Income Support and also housing benefit and council tax reduction.
What would be the correct way forward in these circumstances?
A. In the circumstances you describe your friend for the purposes of housing and council tax benefit would normally be classed as a non-dependent, an adult occupying your home similar to an adult child living with you.
Depending on their circumstances, you would see a reduction in these benefits.
If your friend only receives benefits then the non-dependent deduction would be quite small, if, however, they worked then the deduction will increase the more they earn and could end help towards rent and council tax.
You may also receive a single persons discount for council tax purposes and again this would end.
For your other benefits, Carer’s Allowance is not means tested and would not be affected by the presence of another person, and as you are not a couple your Income Support should remain unchanged.
You should declare these changes to the relevant agencies at your earliest opportunity and make it clear you are not in a relationship.
Do not, however, be surprised if you and your friend are interviewed in order that the DWP are satisfied this is not a cohabitation situation and merely a friend helping out another friend.
You may find that despite assurances you give about the relationship the DWP may pressure you to claim as a couple and this would potentially affect your Income Support.
Do not in this situation pursue a claim as a couple, if the DWP think you are then they must make a decision which can then be challenged.
If you feel you are being pressurised to make a joint claim you should also consider making a formal complaint.
If you think your friend will only be with you for a short time then it is likely the DWP will accept this, however, if the arrangement becomes longer then further compliance interviews may take place.
It would be advisable in this situation to have evidence that you and your friend maintain separate households despite living under the same roof (for example you don’t share a common household budget, separate rooms, etc.).