Universal Credit is a new working-age benefit introduced by the Government to help with your living costs. It is available to those on a low income, out of work, unable to work due to illness, disability or childcare commitments and those caring for disabled people.
Universal Credit has previously only been applied to a small number of people meeting certain criteria, but the full service is now being rolled out more widely across the Malvern District.
As Universal Credit is being introduced by the Jobcentre area, rather than the local authority area, some parts of the district will be affected before others.
How is Universal Credit different?
Under Universal Credit:
- Claims can only be made online
- You will be paid monthly
- Universal credit is paid in arrears and can take up to five weeks from when you claim for your first payment to be made
- Your rent will be included in your monthly payment and you will be responsible for paying it to your landlord (except in certain circumstances)
- Your existing Housing Benefit will be paid for two weeks after you have made a claim. You will then need to wait for your first Universal Credit payment before you receive any more money towards your housing costs (see the previous point)
- If you are living as a couple and both of you claim Universal Credit then you will be paid one joint monthly payment
- There is no limit on how many hours you work. Instead of losing your benefits all at once they will gradually reduce as you earn more
You may also want to have a look at Universal Credit and You, a handy guide from the Department for Work and Pensions.
What does Universal Credit replace?
Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits:
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
You cannot claim any of these benefits and Universal Credit at the same time.
As Universal Credit is introduced by Jobcentre rather than local authority area, this will affect different areas at different times. For some parts of Malvern Hills District the full Universal Credit service will not be introduced until October or November. You can find out when Universal Credit will arrive in your area by clicking here and entering your postcode.
People already claiming any of the six benefits who have a change in their circumstances will have to switch to Universal Credit instead.A change of circumstances can include:
- You change your address
- You become pregnant or have a child (but still have fewer than three children)
- You start work
- Your extended period of sickness ends and you are still unable to work
- You separate from your partner who was in a joint claim with you
- You are claiming Income Support and leave full-time education
If you want to see if you may be affected then you can use this eligibility checker by clicking here (please note South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits Service is not responsible for the content of external sites).
The Money Advice Service website also contains lots of information about what will change when you move from one of the six benefits to Universal Credit. The Government plans to move everyone claiming the six benefits on to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2023. You do not need to do anything until you hear from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), unless your circumstances change.The following groups are exempt from Universal Credit:
- People of Pension Credit age
- People living in supported or temporary accommodation will need to apply for Housing Benefit for help with their rent and Universal Credit for help with living costs.
- If you receive the Severe Disability Premium in the assessment of any of the benefits previously mentioned you will not be eligible to claim Universal Credit and will continue to claim any of these benefits.
Claims can only be made online through the official Universal Credit website here. If you and your partner live together then you will need to apply as a couple.
To apply you will need:
- An active email address
- A mobile phone number
- Details of your bank account, building society or credit union account
- Your rent or mortgage costs
- Your wage details
- Details of any savings or investments
- Your National Insurance Number
- Details of any children and/or your partner
- Details of how much you pay for childcare (if applying for help with childcare costs)
You also have to verify your identity either online or in person at the Jobcentre. To do this you will need ID such as:
- Driving licence
- Debit or credit card
Other forms of ID are accepted. Ask at the Jobcentre for more information.
What if I do not have access to the internet?
If you do not have access to the internet then you can use computers for free at the following locations:
- Broadway Library, Leamington Road, Broadway
- Droitwich Library, Victoria Square, Droitwich
- Evesham Library, Oat Street, Evesham
- Pershore Library, Church Street, Pershore
- Civic Centre, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Pershore
You will need to be a library member and have your library card with you to use a library computer.
Improve your digital skills
Courses and free sessions are available to help you improve your confidence and learn new skills when using a computer and going online. Click here for more information.
Learnmyway.com also offers free training.
Advice for the self-employed
While Universal Credit works in principle in the same way for people who are self-employed, there are some differences in how the amount you receive is calculated. The Money Advice Service has more information here.
You may also be entitled to Free School Meals if you claim Universal Credit, but you’ll need to apply for this separately. Find out more.
Advice for landlords
Most private sector landlords won’t see any change with the introduction of Universal Credit.
This is because most working age claimants in the private rented sector are already used to receiving their Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance payments directly from us and are responsible for paying their own rent.
Those private sector Landlords who do currently receive a managed payment from us are urged to familiarise themselves with the changes and look at how they can prepare themselves and help their tenants prepare as well.
If a tenant cannot manage and gets into arrears then it’s important to note that private landlords no longer need explicit consent from their tenant to apply for rental payments to be made directly to them.
The Department for Work and Pensions should start making payments direct to landlords if:
- a claimant is in arrears with their rent for an amount equal to, or more than, two months of their rent.
- a claimant has continually underpaid their rent over a period of time, and they have accrued arrears of an amount equal to or more than one month’s rent.
If a managed payment is not set-up by the Department for Work and Pensions then landlords can request one by completing the form on the Government’s official website.
The Government has created a dedicated page on their website for Universal Credit and rented housing which contains detailed advice. The Residential Landlords Association has also produced this handy guide.
Advice for employers
Universal Credit can benefit employers as well as individuals by creating a more flexible workforce as there is no upper limit to the number of hours people can work before losing their benefits. Instead, benefits will gradually reduce as people earn more.
The Government has produced detailed information to help employers with staff claiming Universal Credit which you can find here.
As an employer there are some basic things you can do to help your staff make the move to Universal Credit.
- Report PAYE information accurately and on time to HMRC. Failure to do so can lead to your staff not receiving enough Universal Credit payment or none at all which could lead to financial hardship. If you do not use the Real Time Information (RTI) system then let your employee know as they will need to report their work details themselves.
- Be open and flexible to staff requesting additional hours or ad hoc overtime. Discuss with them how they could earn more by taking on additional responsibility or upskill themselves.
- Universal Credit claimants, particularly when waiting for their first payment, can struggle to meet housing and living costs. Be aware of the financial support on offer and direct staff towards it. Alternatively, you may wish to consider advancing payments or loans to your employees that they pay back over a set period of time in a way they can afford.
- Consider paying staff monthly instead of once every four weeks. Paying staff once every four weeks can mean at certain times of the year they will be assessed as having been paid twice within one Universal Credit period. This could mean their earnings are too high and they drop out of the Universal Credit system. They will then need to reapply to ensure payments continue in the next four-week cycle. This can lead to delays and financial hardship.
The money management service has developed a free online tool especially for people making a new claim or moving to Universal Credit from existing benefits. You can access it here.
Our Housing team will also be offering personal budgeting support to those claiming Universal Credit. Advice includes:
- Understanding the impact of Universal Credit on your finances (e.g. paid monthly and in arrears)
- Help accessing the financial support on offer
- Setting a monthly budget plan
- Understanding the difference between priority and non-priority debt
If you are making a new claim or moving to Universal Credit from existing benefits you can access this support by contacting our Financial Inclusion Officer on 01386 565020.
Money management advice is also on offer from the South Worcestershire Citizens Advice Bureau.
Struggling with debt?
If you find yourself in financial difficulty you may want to consider asking for independent debt advice. If you are having trouble paying your Council Tax bill then please get in touch with us as soon as possible by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 456 0560.
If you are in financial difficulties then there is a range of financial support on offer to help you.
If you have little or no money to see you through until your first Universal Credit payment then you can apply for an advance payment by calling the Universal Credit helpline or asking for advice from your local JobCentre Plus.
You can apply for up to one full month’s payment in advance. Please note though, this is a loan and not a grant, you will have to pay it back but will have 12 months to do so. Click here for more information.
Alternative Payment Arrangements
If you are in financial difficulties and fall behind on your rent then you may be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement so your rent is paid directly to your landlord or more frequently than once a month.
Speak to your Jobcentre work coach to apply for an APA
You can borrow from £100 up to £812 (if you have children) to help with emergency household costs such as replacing a broken cooker or help getting a job or staying in work. This money will be repaid through your regular Universal Credit payments.
Eligibility criteria applies and how much you receive depends on your circumstances. Speak to your Jobcentre work coach for more information and to apply.
Help paying your Council Tax
Council Tax Support (previously Council Tax Benefit) is not including in Universal Credit so you will still need to apply to our Revenues and Benefits service separately for help paying your Council Tax bill. Click here for more information.
Discretionary Welfare Assistance
The South Worcestershire Discretionary Welfare Assistance Scheme will provide assistance in the form of goods or vouchers to help individuals or families facing exceptionally difficult circumstances or an emergency.
Discretionary Housing Payments
Discretionary Housing Payments are paid on top of any Housing Benefit you may receive. They act as additional financial support for those who need extra help with housing costs. They are normally only paid for a short period of time. There is only a limited amount of money available so not everyone who applies will receive payment, it will depend on your circumstances. Click here for more information.
If you claim Universal Credit you may also be entitled to:
Are you claiming everything you are entitled to?
Use this free benefits calculator to check you are not missing out on any financial help you could be claiming.
If you disagree with a decision about your Universal Credit claim then the first thing you should do is contact your local job centre using the details on your decision letter and ask for an explanation of the reasons behind a decision. You should do this as soon as possible.
Once you have received an explanation you still believe the decision is wrong then you can ask for the Department of Work and Pensions to look at it again this is known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.
You will need to do this within 1 month of the date of the decision.
Please note that Malvern Hills District Council does not hold detailed information regarding Universal Credit claimants and will not be able to advise you as to why or why not a payment decision has been made.
Help to complete your Universal Credit claim
If you cannot use digital services due to a disability or circumstances or you have a question about your claim:
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 6 pm
Help to Claim
You can get help completing your Universal Credits claim. From the early stages of your Universal Credit application through to support with your application before your first full payment.
Use the Help to Claim service today, for free independent and confidential help by trained advisors from Citizens Advice.
- Choosing a bank account to receive Universal Credit, you’ll need a bank or building society current account, or an account with an alternative provider like a credit union.
- Benefits calculator use an independent benefits calculator to find out what benefits you could get and how your benefits will be affected if you start work.
- Council Tax Support Universal Credit does not include any help towards your Council Tax. You will need to apply for help with your council tax separately.
- Discretionary Housing Payments find out about potential additional help with housing costs for those claiming Universal Credit.