What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new working age benefit introduced by the Government to help with your living costs. It is available to those on 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 Malvern Hills District from September 2018.
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.
Who is affected by the changes?
From September 2018 anyone who would have made a claim for the first time for any of the six benefits, will instead be asked to apply for Universal Credit. [THIS BIT WILL CHANGE ONCE WE GET THE POSTCODE DATA TO REFLECT SOME MAY GO LATER OR EARLIER]
People already claiming any of the six benefits who have a change in their circumstances, such as they get a job or their benefit stops and they have to make a new claim, will have to switch to Universal Credit instead.
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.
Anyone claiming any of the six benefits who does not have a change in circumstances will continue to do so in the short-term.
The Government plans to move everyone claiming the six benefits on to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022. 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 with 3 children or more
- People of Pension Credit age
What are the main differences between Universal Credit and the current system?
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 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
How do I apply and what will I need to make a claim?
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 online. To do this you will need ID such as:
- Driving licence
- Debit or credit card
What if I do not have access to the internet?
If you do not have access to the internet then computers are available for you free to use at the following locations: INSERT DETAILS or LINK TO PDF
Advance payments/financial support
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.
NEED DETAILS OF OTHER FINANCIAL SUPPORT FREE SCHOOL MEALS/UNIFORM GRANTS ETC
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.
Help managing your money
For many people switching to Universal Credit will mean a need for better money management, particularly while waiting for the first payment to be made. You can get advice on managing your finances by INSERT DETAILS OR LINK TO PDF
Help making your claim
Universal Credit is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) not Malvern Hills District Council.
Regrettably our staff are unable to help you with your claim for Universal Credit [IS THIS STILL TRUE?]. If you need help making your claim then please contact the Universal Credit Helpline free on 0800 328 9344 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays).
If you already have an online account and journal you should call the Universal Credit full service helpline on 0800 328 5644.
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.
. [DO WE WANT MORE THAN THIS SPECIFICALLY TO REASSURE PRIVATE LANDLORDS or is that enough?]
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.