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Universal Credit

What is it?

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
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

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. 

Please note: you will need to claim your Council Tax Support separately through the Council's benefits section.

How will I claim it?

You need to complete this online form to claim Universal Credit:

Apply for Universal Credit (gov.uk)

 

Your session will time out and you will have to start again if you're inactive for more than 20 minutes. It should take 20 to 40 minutes to complete your claim.

Before you claim

Before you start you should make sure you have the following information:

  • Your (and your partner's) National Insurance number
  • Your postcode
  • Your landlord's name and address
  • Your eligible rent if you are living in social housing - this can be different from your full rent (make sure to check with your landlord so you get paid the right amount of Universal Credit)
  • Details of any children/relatives/friends who live with you - including their name, date of birth, age and income
  • Account details of where you want your Universal Credit to be paid - account number and sort code
  • Details of any savings
  • If working - your expected monthly wage
  • Details of any other income you receive
  • Your email address, landline and/or mobile phone number

Help with getting online in South Tyneside

If you don't have access to the internet at home there are several locations across South Tyneside where you can access a PC and the internet.

Find where you can access a PC and the internet

Help with completing the form

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. 

Citizen's Advice Bureau have been given funding to support residents claiming Universal Credit and help make the move over to the new benefit as easy as possible. 

For help before making a claim, including benefit checks and digital support:

  • call the Citizen's Advice Bureau National Helpline on 0800 1448 444 or use the Webchat link at Citizens Advice: Universal Credit
  • face-to-face appointments can be made on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between 9.30am to 3.30pm at the Citizen's Advice Bureau office in South Shields - Edinburgh Buildings, 2 Station Approach, South Shields, NE33 1HR

For help after making a claim:

  • email helptoclaimreferrals@citizensadvice.org.uk and complete the form
  • face-to-face appointments appointments can be made on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between 9.30am to 3.30pm at the Citizen's Advice Bureau office in South Shields - Edinburgh Buildings, 2 Station Approach, South Shields, NE33 1HR

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.

Find where you can get help completing the online form and gain IT skills

You can also ring the Universal Credit Service centre if you 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).

Payments

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

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.


FAQs


Who will be able to claim for Universal Credit?

You meet the basic rules for Universal Credit if you:

  • are age 18 or over
  • are under the qualifying age for pension credit
  • are not in education
  • are a resident in Great Britain
  • 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

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:

Will I lose out?

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.

Will I still receive my other benefits?

Yes, you will still receive all of the benefits which are not included within Universal Credit. In most cases 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 Council 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 100% of the likely increase in entitlement and is repaid over twelve 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).

Further information can be found at GOV.UK: Universal Credit advances.

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 get support from the Citizen's Advice Bureau:

  • email helptoclaimreferrals@citizensadvice.org.uk 
  • call the Citizen's Advice Bureau National Helpline on 0800 1448 444
  • face-to-face appointments appointments can be made on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday between 9.30am to 3.30pm at the Citizen's Advice Bureau office in South Shields - Edinburgh Buildings, 2 Station Approach, South Shields, NE33 1HR
  • Use the Money Advice Service budget planner
  • Use Step Change to get help with your finances

Couples - can you claim pension credit?

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:

You can also contact the Welfare Support service by calling 0191 424 6040 or by email: welfaresupport@southtynesidehomes.org.uk

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