Universal Credit is slowly being rolled out across parts of the UK. It is a new benefit which has started to replace a range of working age benefits and tax credits for people. These include:
Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
Some benefits you receive which are not included in the above list will continue to be paid as usual, such as Child Benefit, Carers Allowance and Personal Independence Payment. You will need to claim your council tax support separately through the local authority's benefits section.
How will I claim it?
You need to complete this online form to claim Universal Credit:
There are various places across South Tyneside where you can get help completing the online form and gaining IT skills essential for managing all aspects of your Universal Credit online. If you suffer from a physical or learning disability and are unable to access one of these locations, we can arrange for someone to visit your home to help you apply for Universal Credit. Call Welfare Support Service on 0191 424 6040.
You can also ring the Universal Credit Service centre if can't make an online application yourself. A Universal Credit agent will either refer you to support or input the claim for you over the phone.
Universal Credit Service centre: 0345 600 0723 / 0845 600 0723 Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm (not Freephone but can request call back).
Universal Credit is paid once a month into an account that you choose. Universal Credit can only be paid as a single payment. So if you have a partner, and you have more than one account, you will need to choose which account it is paid into.
In most cases, your first payment will be made one calendar month and 7 days after your date of claim and then calendar monthly after that. In most cases when you first claim Universal Credit you will also have 7 days at the start of your claim called Waiting Days for which you will not receive any benefit. If you think you will find it difficult to manage while waiting for this first payment you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions for an 'advance payment' - you should ask for this at your first interview at the Jobcentre or call the helpline on 0345 600 0723, but please note this will be paid back out of your future Universal Credit payments.
Paying your rent
As it is paid different to other benefits - in a single, monthly payment direct to you, you will have the responsibility to pay your full rent to your landlord yourself. It is useful to set up a direct debit from your bank account to do this.
However, if you are two months or more in arrears with your rent, your landlord can request that an amount be taken out of your Universal Credit award and paid directly to them. This may not, however, cover your full rent and there may be a shortfall for you to pay. If you are struggling to pay your rent it is very important to seek advice and support as soon as possible and talk to your landlord. Failing to pay your rent can have serious consequences and you could lose your home.
Who will be able to claim for Universal Credit?
You meet the basic rules for Universal Credit if:
You are age 18 or over
You are under the qualifying age for pension credit
You are not in education
You are a resident in Great Britain
You accept a claimant commitment
How do I know if I need to apply for it?
Universal Credit is slowly being rolled out across parts of the UK starting with certain new jobseekers, making a new claim, in specific postcode areas.
If you already receive one of the benefits Universal Credit is due to replace, you continue to do so as normal until you are told that you need to claim Universal Credit instead. During the first phase of implementation only single people will be invited to claim for Universal Credit.
If you are a new claimant you will need to apply for Universal Credit online.
How much Universal Credit will I get?
Universal Credit is a 'family' benefit. This means how much you receive depends on you, your partner's and any dependent children's personal circumstances such as being unfit for work, your housing costs, how many children you have, whether any of your children are disabled, as well as certain income you already have coming in.
Most people will receive a similar level of Universal Credit to the amount they receive from the benefits that it is replacing.
Universal Credit will not affect you, if you and your partner (if you have one) are Pension Credit age.
You can talk to a Benefits Adviser for further details.
You can also use an online 'benefits calculators' to give you a rough idea of how much you will be entitled too, such as:
Most people will receive a similar level of Universal Credit to the amount they receive from the benefits that it is replacing. But the rules are different and this means that:
Some people who cannot claim one of the six benefits it is replacing could claim Universal Credit
Some people will be better off under Universal Credit
Some people may be worse off - although many will be entitled to have their current level of benefits protected for a while
You can talk to a Benefits Adviser for further details.
How long will I have to wait for my Universal Credit placement?
In most cases, your first payment will be made one calendar month and 7 days after your date of claim and then calendar monthly after that. In most cases when you first claim Universal Credit you will also have 7 days at the start of your claim called Waiting Days for which you will not receive any benefit.
In some circumstances seven waiting days will not be applied to the claim. These are called 'exceptions' and apply when a claimant (or their partner in a joint claim) has any of the following exception reasons:
If you claimed Universal Credit as part of a couple but that claim ended because you separated and you have claimed within one month
If you claimed Universal Credit on your own but then moved in with a partner and are now claiming together
If you stopped getting Universal Credit within the last 6 months because you earned too much but now you need to claim again
You are ill and are not expected to live for more than 6 months
You are a care leaver
You are aged between 16 and 17 and your parents don't support you
You left prison in the last month
You have been threatened, abused or attacked by a member of your family or your partner within the last 6 months
You were entitled to any Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support in the last month but now have to claim Universal Credit
You were entitled to new style JSA (CNS), ESA (CNS) in the last 3 months
You were entitled to old style JSA (C), ESA (C) or JSA (IB), ESA (IB) or Income Support but you stopped claiming in the last 3 months because you started paid work of any type
You were entitled to Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits or Housing Benefit in the last month and are now claiming Universal Credit
Will I still receive my other benefits?
Yes, you will still receive all of the benefits which are not included within Universal Credit. You will also still retain automatic entitlement to certain other benefits such as free school meals, prescriptions and means tested travel passes.
Help from South Tyneside Council - you can still apply to the Local Authority for Discretionary Housing Payments towards housing costs if you claim Universal Credit. You will have to provide your Universal Credit decision letter with the claim form. You can call the Welfare Support service on 0191 424 6040 for more information.
Does my payment have to be made monthly?
On a few occasions, some people, rather than having monthly payments, can get the amount split and paid twice a month - but you will have to ask for this and explain why you cannot manage with monthly payments.
Can you make a claim over the phone, face to face or on paper?
The main way to apply for Universal Credit is through the online form. There are no paper versions of the form available. If for any particular reason, you can't complete the online form, you can ring the Universal Credit helpline, 0345 600 0723, where they will either refer you to support or input the claim for you over the phone. In special circumstances, you can have a face to face appointment to support you through the application process.
What happens once you have made your claim?
Once you have made your claim, most people will have to go to the Jobcentre for an interview, to sign their 'claimant commitment', to provide documents and to discuss their personal budgeting needs.
What is the 'Claimant Commitment'?
To claim Universal Credit, you - and your partner if you have one - will need to agree and sign a claimant commitment. The 'claimant commitment' is a document which outlines what you (and your partner) need to do in order to be paid, and continue to receive, your full Universal Credit award.
If you are fit enough to work, but not currently working, you will need to look for work - most people fit enough to work will be expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work. Some people, for example, people with children under 13, will not be expected to spend as much time looking for work. And some people, for example those with a child under one, who are unfit for work, or certain carers, will not be expected to do any work search.
Some part-time and lower paid workers will also need to show they are looking for more hours/higher paid work.
Failing to keep to your 'claimant commitment' will mean losing some of your Universal Credit for a period - this is called a sanction.
Hardship Payments will be available to some people faced by such a sanction but this is a loan that will need to be repaid.
Will I have to provide evidence to support a Universal Credit claim?
Yes, you will be asked to provide evidence to support your Universal Credit claim. An advisor will contact you to tell you:
What evidence you need to provide
How to provide your evidence
The date the evidence is needed
The evidence must be an original and not a photocopy
Evidence should be sent to:
FREEPOST RTEU-LGUJ-SZLG Universal Credit Post handling Site B Wolverhampton WV99 1AJ
If you are also claiming Council Tax Support, evidence should be provided to South Tyneside Council's Customer Services.
What is a Universal Credit Advance and how do I apply for a one?
You can apply for a Universal Credit Advance from your first payment of Universal Credit if you are struggling financially while waiting for your payment. It can only be claimed up to three days before the end of the assessment period.
Advances of up to 50% of the Universal Credit award can be claimed and are recovered over six months.
Advances can also be paid where there is a change of circumstance, which increases entitlement e.g. a partner moving in/child being born. It can be up to 50% of the likely increase in entitlement and is repaid over six months.
Half of the Universal Credit Advance is expected to go towards your housing costs if you are claiming the housing element.
To claim an Advance Payment you should contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 or 0845 600 0723 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm).
Do I need to have a bank account?
No. You will need an account for Universal Credit to be paid into, but Universal Credit can be paid into several different types of account including:
Post Office® card account - this is a type of account specifically designed for receiving benefits. It can only be accessed at a Post Office during opening hours, and does not allow Direct Debits or standing orders to pay rent or bills.
Basic Bank Account - this allows you to have many of the same features as a current account without going overdrawn. Most allow Direct Debits and standing orders.
Credit Union Current Account - many Credit Unions offer a current account where benefits and wages can be paid in, direct debits and standing orders can be arranged, and other banking facilities are available such as 'jam jar' accounts - see below.
'Jam jar' account(also called a budgeting account) - this is a new type of account that divides your money into several 'pots' so you can keep money to pay bills separate from your spending money. It often has a monthly fee.
Current Account - this could be with a bank or building society. This type of account has the widest range of facilities, but you will normally need to pass a credit check to open one. And unlike 'basic' accounts you can become overdrawn and face charges.
Prepaid Card Account - a card you can pay your Universal Credit onto. You can use the card to pay in shops, but you won't be able to set up direct debits or standing orders for bills or rent. You may be charged to set up the card, to receive payments, or use cash machines.
What's best for you?
The best type of account will depend on exactly how you wish to use it. For example, if you want to ensure your rent is paid and you have access to your money at any time of the day but don't want to risk going overdrawn, then it may be best to have a basic bank account. If you want to be able to put your income into various 'pots' to ensure your bills are paid then maybe a 'jam jar' account is best. For more information on choosing an account, speak to a Benefits Adviser or take a look at Money Advice Service.
Where can I find help with budgeting my Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is generally paid monthly and you may have other income coming in at different times during the month. Drawing up a budget of all your household incomings and outgoings is going to be important if you want to make sure you can pay all your bills and manage until the end of the month.
If you have debts, speak to a money adviser about how you are going to manage your payments in the future under a monthly income and what you may need to do.
For help with budgeting and/or debts you can:
Visit Age UK (0191 456 6903) where they have money advisers who can help you with financial advice and budgeting
Visit the Citizen's Advice Bureau (0191 455 7958) where they have money advisers who can help you with financial advice and budgeting
If only one member of a couple is Pension Credit age they will be expected to claim Universal Credit unless they are already getting Pension Credit.
If you and your partner are Pension Credit age, you can find out if you qualify for Pension Credit. Talk to a Benefits Adviser or phone the Pension Service on 0800 991234.
If you are awarded Pension Credit your Pension Credit (and any Housing Benefit) will continue as normal and you will not need to claim Universal Credit.
I am a lone parent, how will Universal Credit affect me?
If you have a child under the age of one, you have no work-related requirements, so you can look after your new baby and get Universal Credit without having to worry about work during the first year.
If you have a child aged one to four, you must attend 'work-focused interviews', usually every six months, to discuss your employability.
If you have a child aged three or four, you are also required to prepare for work. This involves undertaking activity that make it more likely that you will return to work in the future.
Once your youngest child turns five, you have all the work-related requirements, which means you must look for work and be available to take up a job. You are allowed to place some restrictions on the type of work and the hours you are prepared to do.
From April 2017, it is intended that you will have all work-related requirements when your child turns three, and must prepare for work from your child's second birthday.
As long as you have a child aged 13 or under, you can limit your expected hours of work to fit in with your child's normal school hours including travel, so you only need to be available for work while your child is at school.
Most people are required to attend an interview or take up a job immediately. As a lone parent, you may be allowed up to one month's notice to take up work or 48 hours' notice to attend an interview, taking into account how long you need to arrange childcare.
Reporting a change of circumstances
You can report a change in circumstances by calling:
Universal Credit helpline
0345 600 0723
0845 600 0723
Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm (not Freephone but can request a call back).
If you are receiving Council Tax Support you should also notify Customer Services of the change.
How else can I prepare for Universal Credit?
There are various online sites which you can read for further information on Universal Credit. Below is a list of sites you can visit: