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Universal Credit





What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is for people of working age, designed to top up your income to a minimum level and help you with your housing costs (rent and some service charges). Universal Credit is for people on a low to moderate income. It does not matter whether you are working or not, or the reason why you are not working. 

Universal Credit is replacing these benefits:
 
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

IMPORTANT: Universal Credit does not include help with your Council Tax. You must claim Council Tax Support separately, from your local council. 
 
Universal Credit is paid in one lump sum and on a monthly basis, and includes help to pay your rent. This help isn’t paid separately, like Housing Benefit. And usually all the Universal Credit is paid straight to you, so you have to pay your rent out of this money.
 
Most people will get the same amount of money as they would have under the benefits listed above – it just looks like more because of the benefits all being paid together, including help with your housing costs (rent, mortgage interest and some service charges) and is paid monthly, all at once.
 
See the Frequently Asked Questions for how to get help with managing the change to Universal Credit.

 
When is Universal Credit being introduced?
 
Universal Credit is being rolled out in 3 stages
 
Step 1 is complete – Universal Credit is now available in all areas of Great Britain – but only for certain people.
 
Whether you will need to claim Universal Credit or instead claim Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment & Support Allowance or Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will depend on your circumstances.  The DWP refer to this as the Universal Credit ‘live’ service but you may hear people call it the ‘non-digital’ service.
 
Step 2 has started - The ‘digital’ Universal Credit service is being introduced gradually – between May 2016 and September 2018. 
 
From 25th October, the ‘full’ (digital) Universal Credit service will start in M14 (Ladybarn), M20 (Withington and Old Moat) and M21 (Chorlton, Merseybank, Arrowfield).

From 24th January, M19 (Burnage) will also be in a full digital area.
 
Once your area gets the ‘digital’ service, if a change in your circumstances means you need to make a new claim for any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit – you will make a claim for Universal Credit instead. The DWP refer to this as the Universal Credit ‘full’ service but you may hear people call it the ‘digital’ service.
 
Step 3 If you are working age and still getting any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit then, at some point between 2019 and 2022 you will be asked to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. The DWP call this stage ‘migration’.

 
Who has to claim Universal Credit in the ‘non-digital’ areas?
 
You are likely to need to make a claim Universal Credit if:
  • Your work has ended or
  • You have just left school, college or university and don’t have a job that will start immediately, or
  • You have been claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) but have been found fit for work so that your ESA award has been terminated or
  • You have had problems with your Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which mean that your ESA award has been terminated or
  • You have had problems with your Jobseekers Allowance meaning that it has been terminated (not just “sanctioned”) or
  • You have separated from your partner / spouse or
  • You have stopped being a carer for a disabled person 
  • You are a lone parent on Income Support, living in an area where families can claim Universal Credit, and your youngest child has turned 5.
In most ‘non-digital’ areas it is only single people without children who will be able to claim initially but there are some areas where couples and people with children can claim. 

 
When my area goes ‘digital’ will I have to claim Universal Credit straight away?
 
You will only need to claim Universal Credit if a change in your circumstances means you would normally need to make a new claim for any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit. 
 
So, for example, if your Income Related Employment and Support Allowance ends because you have been found fit for work and you therefore need to make a new claim for Income Based Jobseekers Allowance – this will have to be Universal Credit instead. If you have been getting Housing Benefit and / or Child Tax Credit, these will stop too.
 
Or if you get Housing Benefit and you move to another rented house in a different local authority area, which has the ‘digital’ Universal Credit service, you would have to claim Universal Credit instead of making a new claim for Housing Benefit; any Income Support / Income Related Employment and Support Allowance / Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Tax Credits would also end. 
 
Unlike in the ‘non-digital’ areas, there are no restrictions on who can claim Universal Credit – it does not matter what your circumstances are. The only exception to this is if you have 3 or more children. 
 
If you have 3 or more children you will not be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit before the end of October 2018; instead, you will be told to claim Child Tax Credit and whichever of the following other benefits that would be appropriate for you instead: Housing Benefit; Income Support; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Working Tax Credit.
 
If you are already getting one or more of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit (and you continue to be entitled to these) and you do not have a change in your circumstances that triggers a claim for Universal Credit, you may not need to claim Universal Credit until the ‘migration’ stage, sometime between 2019 and 2022.
 
However, when the ‘digital’ service comes to your area, if you choose to move onto Universal Credit you can do so (unless you have 3 or more children) – you do not need to wait until a change in your circumstances means you have to. So you could get advice to check if you would be better off on Universal Credit – but seek advice before making any decisions!



How can I prepare for Universal Credit? 
 
To prepare for Universal Credit think about:
 
  • How you would manage to make a claim on-line – where you can go if you don’t have your own computer.
  • Where you can go to build up your computer skills if you’ve never been online before.
  • How you will manage when the benefits that Universal Credit is replacing are paid to you as one payment on a monthly basis.
  • How you will manage until you have received your first monthly payment (it will probably be a longer gap between payments than you have been used to – and the first payment will be one month and 7 days or one month and 14 days after your claim).
  • How you will manage when you have to pay your rent to your landlord yourself.
  • Opening a bank or credit union account. “Basic” bank accounts don’t allow you to overdraw but still charge for unmet direct debits (if there’s not enough money in the account when they come out).  
See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information and advice on the help you might be able to receive. If you would like to talk through some of these issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
 
© 2017 Housing Systems Ltd
 


Universal Credit Frequently Asked Questions
 
How do I claim Universal Credit?
 
Universal Credit is claimed online via www.gov.uk
 
If you need help you can ring the helpline 0345 6000723. Calls cost between 1p and 45p a minute from mobiles so ask them to ring you back - but be prepared to wait, and note that you won’t get a call if your phone blocks withheld numbers, so unblock these first.
 
If you don’t have access to a computer linked to the internet at home then contact us to find out where you can go online. But note that in some places where you can use a computer there might not be anyone available to help you with the claim.
 
Make sure you have the following information with you when you claim, because it “times out” if you’ve not been using it for 20 minutes and as you can’t “save” the claim you’ll have to start again from the beginning.  So make sure you have with you the following information: 
 
  • Your (and any partner’s) National Insurance number
  • Your postcode 
  • Your email address - if you have one
  • Your land line / mobile phone number - if you have one
  • Your landlord's name and address (contact us if not sure)
  • Your eligible rent (this means not counting any service charges you have to pay separately - ask us for a breakdown)
  • Details of anyone who lives with you - their name, date of birth, age, income
  • Account details of where you would like payments to be made - account number and sort code
  • The total amount of any savings you have 
  • If you / your partner are working, the estimated gross monthly wage
  • Details of any other benefit income.

IMPORTANT: The online claim form asks “Do you pay rent?” This means “Are you liable to pay rent?” - the answer will always be YES if you /your partner have a tenancy, even if you’ve not actually been paying us any rent because you’ve been getting Housing Benefit to pay it.
 
IMPORTANT: The online claim form asks how much rent you pay. This is the full “eligible rent”– not the shortfall you’ve been paying if you’ve been getting part Housing Benefit. Ask us if you’re not sure what this is.
 
IMPORTANT: If you answer these questions incorrectly then you might not get all (or any) of the help with your rent included in your Universal Credit award!
Many of the online claim questions have a box next to them saying “What does this mean?” It’s a good idea to click on these even if you think you know what the question means, just to be certain.
 
If you need any help, ring the helpline number 0345 6000723 or ask us for assistance.

 
What happens after I claim online?
 
You will be contacted by email* and sent a “Welcome Pack”, and given an appointment for a ‘new claim interview’ at your local Job Centre. *If you don’t have an email address you will be sent a text or letter. 
 
You must go to this appointment – if you definitely can’t, you must ring 0345 6000723 (or any other number you are given) and arrange another date. 
 
At this interview you must bring all the evidence and documents you have been asked to provide. If you can’t, you must let the Job Centre know why. 
 
You will probably meet your personal “Work Coach” who will talk to you about preparing for and/or looking for, work. They will help you draw up a “Claimant Commitment” which sets out what actions you must take to prepare for/look for work. It will explain what will happen if you don’t keep to the terms of your Claimant Commitment.
IMPORTANT: If you (and your partner if you have one) don’t sign the Claimant Commitment/s, you won’t get any Universal Credit.
 
IMPORTANT: If for any reason you find you can’t do something that is on the Claimant Commitment (for example you are late for a Job Centre interview or you have been too unwell to go to an interview, or you have to look after a sick child) you MUST tell the Job Centre immediately – and keep a record. Otherwise you could have some of your Universal Credit “sanctioned” (not paid) – and this could last for anything between a month and three years!!!
 
IMPORTANT: If you are told your benefit is to be sanctioned – and you think this is wrong or unjust – you can ask the Job Centre to reconsider their decision - and if they refuse, you can appeal. Ask us for advice.

 
I started claiming Universal Credit online but the computer told me I can’t claim yet, even though I thought I was in one of the groups of people who can claim. Why is this?
 
In the ‘non-digital’ areas it is only for people who are looking for work or in low paid work and, in most areas, single people without children – it is not yet for people in full time employment or who are claiming a sickness or disability benefit. 
 
And there are other circumstances which mean you might not be able to claim yet, for example people on Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment; people who have to pay Child Support Maintenance. If you’re not sure ask us. But don’t delay putting in your claim for the benefit(s) you have to claim instead.

 
I’m currently getting Child Tax Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit but my boyfriend is moving in with me. He gets Universal Credit. What difference will this make to our benefits?
 
Contact a benefit adviser to see what your options are. If you are advised to claim Universal Credit as a couple then your Child Tax Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit will stop. The Universal Credit award will be based on both your incomes and circumstances. Make sure your partner tells the DWP about this change, and that you tell the DWP (regarding your Income Support), HMRC (regarding your Child Tax Credit) and your local council (about your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support). If you need any more advice, ask us.

 
I’ve heard that single people who are “Pension Credit Age” won’t have to claim Universal Credit- what age is this?
 
You’re right that single people who are Pension Credit age will not need to claim Universal Credit – they should claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit instead, and Council Tax Support.
 
Pension Credit Age is the age at which you would qualify for Pension Credit. It used to be 60 for men and women but is gradually increasing. Anyone, whether a man or woman, who turned 60 before April 2010 will be Pension Credit age already. But if your 60th birthday is after April 2010 you need to check if you have reached Pension Credit age. To check, go to www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension - scroll down to get your Pension Credit age (rather than State Pension age). If you need any more advice, ask us.

 
I am working age and my partner is Pension Credit age – will we need to claim Universal Credit?
 
If you are making a new claim for benefit and one member of a couple is over Pension Credit age and the other one is under, it is still possible to claim Pension Credit instead of Universal Credit. But in the future the rules will change and your only option will be to claim Universal Credit. 
 
If you make a claim for Pension Credit now, and remain entitled to it when the rules change, you will stay on Pension Credit and Housing Benefit.
 
Pension Credit is more generous than Universal Credit. There can be a big difference between the amount of benefit you would receive through Pension Credit and Housing Benefit compared with how much Universal Credit you would be entitled to receive.
 
So if you are a mixed age couple not already claiming Pension Credit seek advice about whether you can claim, or what changes in your circumstances may mean you could claim. To claim Pension Credit or make enquiries ring 0800 99 1234 or go to www.gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claim. Or speak to an adviser.

 
When I claim Universal Credit does this include a claim for help with my Council Tax too, like the Housing Benefit form does?
 
No! Although the online claim asks if you are intending to claim Council Tax Support – you must make a claim separately, from your local council.

 
My Housing Benefit is currently paid directly to my landlord and I am happy with this arrangement – can I ask the DWP to pay my rent out of my Universal Credit?
 
Your claim for Universal Credit will include help with your rent – called a housing costs element. The whole of your Universal Credit award will be paid to you. And it will be your responsibility to budget and pay your rent from your Universal Credit and any other income you may have. 
 
However there is a system called ‘managed payments’ (or ‘APAs’) where the housing costs element included in your Universal Credit assessment can be paid directly to your landlord in limited circumstances. But remember this won’t necessarily cover all your rent so make sure you continue to pay any difference for example due to the Bedroom Tax, or a deduction taken off for a non-dependant living with you, etc.
 
‘Managed payments’ can be requested by your landlord where your rent account goes into arrears and you owe at least two months’ rent.
 
Alternatively, you can ask the Job Centre to set you up on ‘managed payments’ if you believe you would struggle to pay the rent yourself because of your circumstances.  You will need to explain what problems you have that make it difficult for you to cope with paying the rent yourself. If you would like the DWP to consider this, you can ask your Job Centre “work coach” at your first appointment after your claim for Universal Credit, or at any time after this. You can ring the UC helpline on 0345 6000723 to make an appointment at the Job Centre. 
 
Note that you do not have a right to a ‘managed payment’ – it is up to the DWP to decide if you need this help, and it will usually only be for a fixed period of time.

 
I’m currently getting Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit - when will I have to claim Universal Credit? 
 
When the digital service is introduced in your area, a change in your circumstances may mean you have to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. But if you do not have a change in circumstances which means you need to claim Universal credit and you continue to be classed as unfit for work, you may not be moved onto Universal Credit until 2022. 
 
When the ‘digital’ service comes to your area, if you choose to move onto Universal Credit you can do so – you do not need to wait until a change in your circumstances means you have to. So, you could get advice to check if you would be better off on Universal Credit – but seek advice before making any decisions!

 
I work and get Working Tax Credit – what do these changes mean to me?
 
When the digital service is introduced in your area, a change in your circumstances may mean you have to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. But if you do not have a change in circumstances which means you need to claim Universal credit you may not need to move onto Universal Credit until at least 2019, unless you stop working.
 
Universal Credit will be paid to you on a monthly basis and as your earnings change the amount of Universal Credit will also change, so you may get paid different amounts every month. This means you will have to think ahead to manage your bills and rent.
 
If you are getting help with child care costs these can continue to be supported though Universal Credit although only child care that you pay to enable you to work will be considered (ie not child care for a day you do not normally work).
 
When the ‘digital’ service comes to your area, if you choose to move onto Universal Credit you can do so – you do not need to wait until a change in your circumstances means you have to. So, you could get advice to check if you would be better off on Universal Credit – but seek advice before making any decisions!

 
What happens to my Child Benefit when I move onto Universal Credit?
 
The only benefits Universal Credit is replacing are Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, and Working Tax Credit.
 
Any other benefits you may be entitled to will continue to be paid to you in addition to any Universal Credit payment. This includes Child Benefit and also: Bereavement Allowance, Bereavement Support Payment, Carers Allowance, Contributory Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Maternity Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and so on. (And remember to claim Council Tax Support from your local council as it isn’t included in the Universal Credit claim.)

 
I’ve been told I have to have a bank account for my Universal Credit payments – is this true?
 
At the moment Universal Credit can be paid into a Post Office account (current account or Post Office Card Account) as well as bank accounts, some building society accounts, and credit union accounts.
 
If you have a Post Office Card Account, your adviser at the Jobcentre (called your Work Coach) may encourage you to open a bank account or credit union account instead. This is because the government would prefer you to have your Universal Credit payment paid into a bank account and there could be advantages to you to do this. 
 
For example you can pay your bills by direct debit and often this can work out cheaper. “Basic” bank accounts don’t allow you to overdraw so they are popular with many people. But remember that with any bank account, if you have direct debits or standing orders to pay your bills and there isn’t enough in the account when they come out, you will face bank charges. Some bank accounts and some credit union accounts have a “jam jar” system in which you can ask the bank to put money aside each month for certain bills such as rent, fuel, food etc. 
 
It’s best to get some advice on which bank account is best for you. Have a look at the Money Advice Service website to see what sort of account suits you best, or talk to an adviser about this.

 
I’m not sure I will cope with Universal Credit being paid monthly – is there an alternative?
 
Universal Credit will usually be paid monthly and in arrears.
 
It is best to start thinking now about how you would manage if the benefits Universal Credit is replacing were paid to you on a monthly basis. (These benefits are Income Support, Income Based JSA, Income Related Employment & Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit.)
 
At the point you move onto Universal Credit, if you think you are going to struggle with monthly payments explain this to the Work Coach at the Job Centre who will decide whether you could be paid under an “alternative payment arrangement”. This can be where your monthly award can be split into two payments and paid twice monthly (which is almost the same as fortnightly). You will need to explain your circumstances and why you believe you will find monthly payments difficult to manage. You don’t have a right to alternative payment arrangements – it’s up to the DWP – and they will only be paid for a limited time. 

 
I’m worried about the time I have to wait before my first Universal Credit payment comes through: can I get any money to cover this period?
 
When you make your new claim for Universal Credit you will be notified of when you will receive your first payment.
 
This will either be one calendar month and seven days, or if the ‘waiting days’ rules apply to you, one calendar month and fourteen days after the date you claim.
 
The 'waiting days' rules generally apply to people who are making a new claim for Universal Credit because they have finished work. There are many circumstances where these extra seven waiting days should not apply, so if you are informed by the DWP that your first payment of Universal Credit will be one month and fourteen days after you made your claim, it is worth checking to make sure that is correct. Contact us for advice.
 
If, when you claim Universal Credit you know you will be short of money you can telephone the DWP for a New Claim Advance, or ask your Work Coach at the Job Centre to arrange this for you. 
 
If the DWP agree that you risk being unable to pay essential bills they can pay you up to half of your expected monthly Universal Credit as a loan in advance, which you must pay off out of your future payments (up to six months). You’ll need to explain your circumstances fully.

If you have been claiming one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing in the month before your Universal Credit claim started (eg. your income-related Employment and Support Allowance claim has ended because you have been found fit for work), instead of a New Claim Advance, you could apply for a Benefit Transfer Advance, which can have a longer repayment period (up to twelve months). 

You can request a New Claim Advance or Benefit Transfer Advance at any time during your first ‘monthly assessment period’, so if you did not request one when you made your claim, but after a couple of weeks you find you are struggling, you can still request one.

 
Will the Benefit Cap and the Bedroom Tax still exist under Universal Credit?
 
Yes. If you are affected by either of these issues please contact us. You might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment.

 
I get Personal Independence Payment / Disability Living Allowance. What happens to these when I claim Universal Credit?
 
You will still claim Personal Independence Payment or DLA separately. (If you are 16 or over and under 65 and on DLA however, you will need to claim Personal Independence Payment instead at some point soon. Go to the section on Personal Independence Payment for more information.)

 
I’m getting Universal Credit because I was a single jobseeker when I claimed, but now I’ve started work / become unfit for work / had a child. Will I go back on to the “old” benefit system?
 
If you are getting Universal Credit and you do start working or have a child or become unfit for work you must notify the DWP. Your Universal Credit award will be reassessed and if you still qualify you’ll stay on Universal Credit. However there may be some other benefits you might now qualify for as well. If in doubt ask us.

 
I finished work recently. I think I should be entitled to Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, but can I still claim this, or do I have to claim Universal Credit instead?
 
Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance is a benefit for those who have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions.  
 
Some people have been advised that Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance no longer exists under the Universal Credit system – but that is wrong! Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance does still exist; the only thing that is changing, if you come under the Universal Credit service is the name - Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance is known as ‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance.
 
This change is causing some confusion and you may be given incorrect advice. 
 
The first thing you need to think about is – do you come under the Universal Credit service? That means – are you someone whose circumstances mean you would pass the ‘gateway conditions’ and therefore you could claim Universal Credit? (Ask us if you are not sure).
 
If you do not come under the Universal Credit service – because you live in a non-digital, ‘gateway’ area and your circumstances mean you are someone who would not be able to claim Universal Credit, then Contribution based Jobseeker’s Allowance is known as ‘Old Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance. You can make a claim for this online. 

If you do come under the Universal Credit service, to make a claim for ‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance you must ring the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723. This could also trigger a claim for Universal Credit at the same time, but you do not have to claim Universal Credit at the same time, you can make a claim for ‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance without claiming Universal Credit if that is best for you. If you only want to claim New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance and not Universal Credit you will need to make this clear to the call centre operator and ask for form UC JSA1 to be sent to you by email or by post.

It is important to get the right advice because you may be better off if you only claim New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance. Alternatively, you may be better off if you claim Universal Credit in addition to New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance. This could be the case if you do not currently get any Housing Benefit. Your New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance will count as income when your Universal Credit entitlement is calculated. 
 
So seek help as soon as possible from a specialist benefits adviser or contact us so we can advise you about your options.

 
I finished work recently due to health problems. I think I should be entitled to Contribution Based Employment and Support Allowance, but can I still claim this, or do I have to claim Universal Credit instead?
 
As with Contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance (see previous question), if you come under the Universal Credit service you will be making a claim for ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance. 
 
In non-digital Universal Credit areas, the gateway conditions prevent anyone who is unfit for work from making a new claim for Universal Credit. If this applies to you, you do not come under the Universal Credit service and you can claim ‘Old Style’ Contribution Based Employment and Support Allowance by ringing 0800 0556688. 

 
I get Universal Credit as a jobseeker, but I have become unwell, what happens to my Universal Credit?
 
If your health problems are affecting your ability to look for work, let your Work Coach know about this straight away because they should allow you time off your job search. If you are ill for more than 7 days you will need to provide your Work Coach with medical certificates from your GP, so think about booking an appointment with your doctor now, in case you cannot get one straight away.
 
If your illness is likely to last a few weeks, ask the Universal Credit department to refer you for a Work Capability Assessment; if you pass this then you will not be expected to look for work or apply for jobs. While you are waiting for this to take place, ask for your work search requirements to be reduced; your Work Coach should consider what is reasonable for you to be doing in the light of your health problems. If you do not ask for your work search requirements to be reduced, you are more at risk of being sanctioned. If your Work Coach refuses, or you think what is being expected is unreasonable, seek advice. 

 
I am getting Universal Credit as a jobseeker; my claimant commitment says I must spend 35 hours every week doing job searching activities, but my elderly mother has become very poorly and I need to look after her – what should I do?
 
Let your Work Coach know about your situation as soon as possible. They may agree to adjust your claimant commitment as a temporary measure, under the circumstances. If your mother is likely to need your help in the longer term, get advice on when she could claim Attendance Allowance; if she is awarded Attendance Allowance, you could receive Universal Credit as a carer instead of as a jobseeker – so you would not have to look for work.

 
© 2017 Housing Systems Ltd