The Government is replacing the different types of working age benefits with one single new benefit called Universal Credit. This can be paid to you if you are employed or unemployed on a monthly basis. Universal Credit will also include any housing costs you are entitled to for help towards your rent.
Learn more about Universal Credit below.
Which benefits are being replaced?
Universal Credit will replace many of the means-tested or income-based benefits such as:
• Income Support
• Housing Benefit
• Income-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance
• Income-Based Employment Support Allowance
• Child Tax Credit
• Working Tax Credit
Right now all of these benefits come separately from different places e.g. Tax Credits are paid by the Inland Revenue and Housing Benefit is paid by your local council.
Which benefits are excluded?
- Disability Living Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Council Tax Support
- Contribution-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Contributory Employment and Support Allowance
- Statutory Sick Pay
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Bereavement Benefits
- Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance.
Who will be affected?
- People of working age
- People who are already in employment and only get a small amount of housing benefit
When is it happening?
Universal Credit started for some people in October 2013 and is being rolled out across the country in phases to different groups, depending on personal circumstances, until 2018.
If you can’t claim Universal Credit at the moment, your local Jobcentre can let you know which separate benefits you can claim.
Claiming Universal Credit
If you’re suitable for Universal Credit you will need to make your application online.
If you’ve got any questions, or you need to report a change of circumstances about an existing Universal Credit claim, you should ring the dedicated helpline on 0345 600 0723 or on a text phone 0345 600 0743.
It will take up to 40 minutes to complete your claim online and you’ll need the following information to hand before you get started:
- Your postcode
- Your National Insurance number
- Details of the bank, building society or Post Office account you want your Universal Credit to be paid into
- Your rent agreement (if you have one)
- Details of your savings or other capital
- Details of any income that’s not from employment e.g. from an insurance plan
- Details of any other benefits you receive
You might also need these details for people who live in your home e.g. your partner.
If your claim is successful, it will usually take around one month and seven days before you receive your first payment.
What is claimant commitment?
To be paid Universal Credit you’ll need to sign something called a Claimant Commitment contract. This contract lets you know what you’ll need to do to qualify for your Universal Credit payment.
In most cases, your Claimant Commitment contract will be drawn up during an interview with your work coach at your local Jobcentre. If you are able to look for employment, you might also be expected to attend regular interviews to discuss your progress. If you don’t do this you could lose your Universal Credit benefit.
Sanctions (Benefit Cuts)
Your Claimant Commitment contract will clearly show what will happen if you fail to meet your agreed responsibilities. You will have a cut in your benefit (a sanction) if you don’t meet one of your responsibilities and can’t give a good reason to explain why. Depending on what you failed to do, and how many times you have failed to meet your responsibilities, a sanction can last for up to three years.
If you have received a sanction and need some advice, you can speak to our Money Advice Team on 0345 60 20 540 (press option 1).
Payment of Universal Credit
Universal Credit is paid monthly, just like a salary into your bank or building society account. This will mean that if you normally receive your benefits weekly or fortnightly, you will have to swap to budgeting on a monthly basis.
For help and advice with making this shift you can speak to the Money Advice Team on 0345 60 20 540 (press option 1) and book your place on our Money Management course.
Finding work and Universal Jobmatch
There are lots of ways you can find work and improve your chances of becoming employed. Your work coach will help you to identify some clear steps that you can take – these may form part of your Claimant Commitment. Your steps could include:
- Registering with a recruitment agency
- Attending training courses
- Preparing a CV
- Taking part in the Work Programme
You can also start searching for work online through Universal Jobmatch which makes it easier for you to take control of your search.
Through Universal Jobmatch you can upload or build a new CV online, apply for jobs at a time that suits you, tailor your job preferences and receive messages when new jobs are available.
You can also get in touch with our employment and skills team and see if they can help you find the right opportunity.
What is Direct Payment and will this affect how my rent is paid?
At the moment, if you get help towards your rent it’s paid directly to us without you having to do anything. Once you transfer to Universal Credit the amount you need to pay for your home will need to be paid directly by you.
To pay your rent directly you’ll need to have a bank account so it’s really important you get this set up for your Universal Credit to go into. A bank account will also take the worry out of budgeting as you can set up direct debits for your rent and other bills so that you don’t fall behind with any important payments.
- If you don’t already have one, open a bank account for Universal Credit to be paid into.
- Set up a direct debit to pay your rent each month.
- Attend a Money Management course with our Money Advice Team for budgeting tips and tools. Call 0345 60 20 540 (press option 1) to book your place today.
What will happen if I have rent arrears?
If you fall behind with your rent payments, your Rent Payment Officer can apply to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to set up an Alternative Payment Arrangements and have direct payments for your rent paid directly to Midland Heart.
Where can I get advice?
If you are worried about how to claim Universal Credit online, or you want help to manage your monthly budget, contact our Money Advice Team on 0345 60 20 540 (press option 1).
How can I get ready for Universal Credit?
There are two main things that you’ll need to do to get the most from Universal Credit.
1. Go Online
Universal Credit is designed to be claimed online, with your claim starting the day that you submit it to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). If you don’t have access to the internet, your local Jobcentre will have computers you can use.
If you want to improve your computer skills and need some help with getting online, the Jobcentre can tell you about local services that can help you. Building your confidence will also help you to access more job vacancies and apply at a time that suits you.
2. Sort out the best way to manage your money
Universal Credit is paid monthly into a single bank account for you and your household. If you’re making a joint claim, this will usually be paid into a joint account to help you and your partner manage your money together. However, you can choose an individual account if that suits you better.
Your Universal Credit payment provides one month’s support for your household and may include an amount for your housing costs which you’ll be responsible for paying yourself.
If you’ve been used to managing your money fortnightly or having your rent paid directly to your landlord, the change to a monthly cycle might mean you need to look at some new ways to manage your money.
- Why not talk to us about the best way to pay your rent?
- If you don’t already have one, remember to set up a bank account.
- Get some expert advice on budgeting from our Money Advice Team on 0345 60 20 540 (press option 1).
Useful contacts for Universal Credit
You can visit www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk for more information and advice, or you can speak to our Money Advice Team on 0345 60 20 540 (press option 1).