Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age. It is a monthly payment, paid both to people who are out of work and to those in employment. It is replacing a range of means-tested benefits for people of working age.
What is Universal Credit replacing?
- Income support
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child tax credit
- Working tax credit
- Housing benefit
These are known as the 'legacy benefits'.
DWP: What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is gradually being rolled out across the UK in stages.
If you are making a new claim for benefits, or are already claiming benefits and have a change in your circumstances, you may have to claim Universal Credit at some point before September 2018.
Whether you will be asked to apply for Universal Credit or existing benefits will depend on your circumstances and whether you live in a live or full service area. Full service areas allow Universal Credit claims from almost everyone but live service areas still have some 'gateway conditions' which must be met in order to make a claim. The whole of the UK is expected to be full service by September 2018.
Once the full service roll out for new claims is complete, existing benefit claimants who have not had a change in circumstances, will be moved over to Universal Credit at some point between July 2019 and March 2022.
You can read the general information relevant to your situation below or find out exactly when you could be affected personally by putting your postcode into the Universal Credit postcode checker.
Universal Credit rollout to existing benefits claimants
For the time being, existing claimants who do not try to make a new claim for one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing will not be affected, even if they live in a full service area.
However, between July 2019 and March 2022 the government intends to move all existing claimants of means-tested benefits and tax credits onto Universal Credit. They have called this process 'managed migration' onto Universal Credit.
Warning - If you live in a Universal Credit area, there is nothing preventing you from opting to move from your existing means-tested benefits onto Universal Credit. However, this may not be a good idea as many families with a disabled child will be worse off under Universal Credit.
In most cases you need to make a claim for Universal Credit online. In order to do this you will first need to set up an online account via the www.gov.uk website.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) won't normally write or phone you about your Universal Credit claim. Instead they will send you messages via your online account, so you will need to check this regularly to see if there is anything they have asked you to do or any information that they have asked you to provide.
The claimant commitment
In order to be paid Universal Credit you will need to sign a 'claimant commitment' - this is an agreement between Jobcentre Plus and you, setting out what steps you need to take in order to be paid Universal Credit.
Some groups of claimants will need to look for work in order to be paid. Others, including many - but not all - full-time carers will be exempt from having to meet any work-related requirements.
DWP: How Universal Credit can help you in to work
Getting paid Universal Credit
Universal Credit is normally paid monthly in arrears, and there is usually a wait of at least six weeks before you will get your first payment. If this delay causes you hardship you can ask for a 'short term benefit advance'. This is a discretionary loan that needs to be repaid to the DWP from your future payments.
Your Universal Credit will include help with your rent. These are called ‘housing costs’ and will be paid directly to you along with your Universal Credit payment. Please speak to your Income Officer to ensure you keep up to date with your rent payments. Wandle’s preferred method of payment is Direct Debit.
Food banks and help with other emergency expenses
If you don’t have enough to live on while you wait for your first payment, you can get emergency help with things like food or items you need for your house - for example a bed or cooker.
See food banks and other crisis help in your area for how to apply.
The calculation starts with a 'maximum amount' of Universal Credit you would get depending on factors such as your family size, caring responsibilities, housing costs and childcare costs.
The amount of Universal Credit you will receive is reduced depending on what other income you have coming in.
- Earnings above certain levels will reduce your Universal Credit award.
- Other types of income will also be deducted from your Universal Credit award unless specifically disregarded (for example, both Disability Living Allowance and child support maintenance are ignored).
- Universal Credit will be reduced if you have capital above £6,000 and cannot normally be paid if your capital is above £16,000
Child disability addition for families with a disabled child
As part of the maximum amount calculation, a child disability addition is included for each dependent child in your family who gets Disability Living Allowance (DLA) (or Personal Independence Payment (PIP))
This is paid at one of two rates. The higher rate of £85.68 will be awarded for a child who:
- Is registered blind.
- Gets the highest rate of DLA care component.
- Gets the daily living component of PIP at the enhanced rate.
All other children on DLA or PIP will qualify for the lower rate of the addition. This will only be £29.10 per week.
The government has said that it will transitionally protect some existing claimants. However, this will only apply to existing claimants with no changes in their circumstances who are moved onto Universal Credit by the government as part of 'managed migration' between 2019-2022. These families will be able to receive top-up payments to ensure they are no worse off under Universal Credit.
However, if you are someone who has to claim Universal Credit because you have had a change of circumstances and tried to claim one of the legacy benefits, you will not get any transitional protection.
This means that all those families in full service areas claiming Universal Credit between now and July 2019 will not be transitionally protected.