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Universal Credit

Introduction

Universal Credit

The current system of Benefits and Tax Credits for working-age customers means that you usually have to make separate claims for each one. So some existing Benefits are gradually being replaced by one new Benefit called Universal Credit that will be administered by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).

Further details are available on the Universal Credit pages on the GOV.UK websiteand there is also a short video on You Tube:

At present, in Adur and Worthing Universal Credit only affects single people without responsibility for children who have recently become unemployed. People who are in couples or part of a family will not be affected at the moment but Universal Credit will be introduced for residents throughout Adur and Worthing making a new Benefit claim from October 2017 onwards.

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people who are both in and out of work and on a low income. It combines some of the Benefits and tax credits that you might be getting now and will replace:

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment & Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit for most working age customers

Universal credit does not affect pensioners.

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Am I eligible?

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages and whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances.

It has already been introduced in Adur and Worthing for single people, but is being introduced for all working age customers in:

  • Southwick, Fishersgate and Portslade from October 2017
  • The rest of Adur and the whole of Worthing from April 2018

If you're already claiming the Benefits that will be combined into Universal Credit you don't need to do anything. The DWP will contact you when Universal Credit will affect you.

You can check whether you can claim Universal Credit on the eligibility pages on the GOV.UK website.

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Start of entitlement and payments

Universal Credit is paid monthly into a bank account of your choice to one person in the household. It can also be paid to another organisation like the Credit Union (website) - further information is available about Choosing a bank account for your benefit payments is on the on the Money Advice Service website.

You may also find the Squirrel App useful to help with budgeting.

When you make a new claim you will generally not be paid for the first seven days which are known as 'waiting days'. However, you should not let this delay making your claim and you should apply as soon as you are eligible to do so.

The waiting days don't apply in certain circumstances (e.g. if you're terminally ill or vulnerable, have previously claimed Universal Credit, are splitting up from or moving in with somebody who is already a Universal Credit claimant, or are moving on to it from another benefit).

The amount you get depends on your circumstances including:

  • Your income
  • Your savings
  • How many children you have

It is currently likely take at least 5 or 6 weeks before you get your first payment, but you can ask for an advanced payment (called a Budgeting Advance) if you don't have enough money to last that long - see Get budgeting help with Universal Credit - on the GOV.UK website.

If your application is successful you'll be contacted by the DWP to arrange an interview at a Jobcentre to complete your application. This is sometimes called a 'work search interview' or a 'claimant commitment interview' and you'll be seen by a member of staff who'll become your 'work coach'.

You'll meet your work coach regularly so that they can support you and help you find a job. The purpose of the interview is to:

  • Check you are who you say you are
  • Help you understand how Universal Credit works and what will happen next
  • Come up with a plan to improve your work situation, e.g. to get training or find a job
  • Arrange what you have to do in return for getting Universal Credit e.g. how many hours you need to spend looking for work each week. This is called a 'claimant commitment' and you'll have to sign it
  • Find out whether you need any support with budgeting

The interview isn't an interrogation and you're not on trial - it's a two-way conversation between you and your work coach.

Once you have submitted your claim you will be provided with details of the documents that you'll need to take with you to the interview to prove that the details in your application are correct. These will be copied and given back to you.

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How to claim

To claim Universal Credit you will need to Apply for Universal Credit using the online portal on the GOV.UK website.

This means that you'll need access to the Internet. If you don't have access to a computer, further information about:

If you're concerned about internet security, information and advice can be found on the Get Safe Online website.

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Help with with rent and Council Tax

If you would have previously needed help with your rent by claiming Housing Benefit from the Council, this will now be included in your monthly Universal Credit payment that's calculated by the DWP and is known as the 'Housing Costs Element'.

The rules for Housing Benefit mean that some customers have their payments sent directly to their landlord. However, under the rules for Universal Credit most customers will have the Housing Costs Element paid to themselves which means that as a tenant you'll be responsible for using this money to pay your rent to your landlord.

In some circumstances the Housing Costs Element can be made directly to your landlord, for example if you have rent arrears, are under threat of eviction or you find it difficult to manage payments.

Help with Council Tax is not included in Universal Credit and you will still need to make a claim for Council Tax Support with the Council's Revenues & Benefits Service, see:

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Information for landlords

The move to tenants receiving monthly household payments that include the Housing Costs Element of Universal Credit is a significant change compared to the separate Housing Benefit payments that have previously been paid.

As a consequence, Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) have been introduced to provide extra help for tenants:

  • Where there's a risk of financial harm to the claimant or their family; or
  • In order to safeguard the claimant's home

APAs can be considered at any point during the life of a Universal Credit claim and can be requested by the claimant, their representative or the landlord. An APA can be made when:

  • A claimant has rent arrears totalling at least two month's rent
  • A claimant has continually underpaid their rent over a period of time and they currently have at least one month of arrears

Most landlords must request an APA by completing a 'UC47 None-secure' form that's available on the GOV.UK website. Completed forms should be emailed to Universalcredithousing.aparequests@dwp.gsi.gov.uk. Once the form is received the DWP will contact the landlord to obtain the relevant payment details.

Other information about what Universal Credit means for both private landlords and housing associations is available under Universal Credit and rented housing - on the GOV.UK website.

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Further help and advice

The online Planning Tool Getting ready for Universal Credit provided by the DWP can help you to prepare for making a claim for Universal Credit. By providing answers to some basic questions it will tell you how ready you are for Universal Credit and will give advice about what you need to do next and the best sources of advice that are available.

You can contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 (textphone 0345 600 0743) from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Details about call charges are available on the GOV.UK website.

Further information and advice about Universal Credit is also available on the Money Advice Service website.

Getting help and advice can make all the difference to managing your money. The Councils are working with the DWP and other organisations, including Citizens Advice (Central & South Sussex), to make sure that you have access to the right support when you need it.

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