• Universal Credit - An Overview by Kenneth Clarke

    16.06.17

    Universal Credit is the new way in which claimants receive benefits payments. It is being rolled out across the UK and the government aims to have it fully rolled out by 2022. The government designed it to simplify the benefits systems, and make payments more like one monthly wage.


    It will provide a single payment for people looking for work, those unable to work because of illness or disability, or on a low income and working. You will receive one lump sum for your household to cover all benefits (including Housing Benefit) and tax credits. It will be paid by bank transfer to each household on a monthly basis, and will be paid in arrears.

    How much?

    To find out a rough estimation of what you might be entitled to under Universal Credit, visit www.entitledto.co.uk/help/Calculating-Universal-Credit.  There is also advice on looking for work under Universal Credit on “The Daily Job Seeker”, a Tumblr page designed to guide claimants through the recruitment process.

    Roll-out


    Universal Credit is being rolled out in three stages:

    Step one: This step is complete – Universal Credit is now available in all areas of Great Britain – but only for certain people.  Whether you will need to claim Universal Credit or instead claim Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance or Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will depend on your circumstances. 
    The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) call this as the Universal Credit ‘live’ service - you may also hear it called the ‘non-digital’ service.

    Step 2: This step has started - The ‘digital’ Universal Credit service is being introduced gradually – between May 2016 and September 2018.  Once your area gets the ‘digital’ service, if your circumstances change and you need to make a new claim for any of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit – you will make a claim for Universal Credit instead. The DWP call this the Universal Credit ‘full’ service, you may also hear it called the ‘digital’ service.


    Step 3:  If you are of working age and still getting any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit by then, at some point between 2019 and 2022 you will be asked to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. The DWP call this “migration”. Follow this link to see if Universal credit is available in your area www.gov.uk/universal-credit/eligibility
     
    Who has to claim Universal Credit in the ‘non-digital’ areas?

    You are likely to need to make a claim for Universal Credit if:
    • Your employment has ended
    • You have just left school, college or university and don’t have a job that will start immediately
    • You have separated from your partner/spouse
    • You are a lone parent on Income Support, living in an area where families can claim Universal Credit, and your youngest child has turned five
    • You have been claiming Employment and Support Allowance but have been found fit for work so your award has ended
    • You have had problems with your Employment and Support Allowance which mean that your award has ended
    • You have had problems with your Jobseekers Allowance meaning that it has ended
    • You have stopped being a carer for a disabled person.
    In most ‘non-digital’ areas it is only single people who will be able to claim initially. However, there are some areas where people with children and couples can claim.

    Will I have to claim Universal Credit as soon as my area goes ‘digital’?

    You will only need to claim Universal Credit if there is a change to your circumstances that mean you would normally have to make a new claim for any of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit.

    For example, if you are claiming Housing Benefit and move to a different local authority area which has the ‘digital’ Universal Credit service, you would have to claim Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit.  If you are claiming any other benefits that are being replaced by Universal Credit – they would also stop.

    Another example is if you are found fit for work and so your Income Related Employment and Support Allowance ends. Instead of making a new claim for Income Based Jobseekers Allowance you would have to claim for Universal Credit instead. If you are claiming any other benefits that are being replaced by Universal Credit – they would also stop.

    Unlike in the ‘non-digital’ areas, there are no restrictions on who can claim Universal Credit – it does not depend on your circumstances.

    If you are already getting the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit, and you continue to be entitled to receive them, you may not need to claim Universal Credit until the ‘migration’ stage. This is expected sometime between 2019 and 2022.

    When the ‘digital’ service comes to your area, you can choose to move onto Universal Credit – you do not need to wait until a change in your circumstances.

    How will Universal Credit impact me?

    The following benefits will be replaced:
    • Income Support
    • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    • Income-based Job Seekers' Allowance
    • Housing Benefit
    • Working Tax Credit
    • Child Tax
    If you are Pension Credit age, you may not be impacted by this change unless your partner is under the Pension Credit age and you are not claiming Pension Credit.

    Please note:

    Pension Credit is not covered by Universal Credit. You must claim this separately, from the DWP Pension Service. Council Tax benefit/support is also not included and should be claimed separately from your local council.


    The main impact for council and shared ownership residents will be:
    • You will need to claim (and eventually) manage your Universal Credit online
    • You'll receive one monthly payment, paid in arrears
    • The housing element (Housing Benefit replacement) will usually be paid directly to you, rather than directly to your landlord. This means you'll need to make arrangements with them to pay your rent

    Please be advised that as of February 13th 2015, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be/is allowed to share some additional personal information about those claiming Universal Credit. This new Statutory Instrument means that Housing Associations and Landlords will also able to share information with DWP around Universal Credit claimants.  For further information visit: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/46/made.

    How can I prepare, and where can I find out more?

    A really helpful leaflet: 'What is Universal Credit & how will it affect me?', has been produced by Housing Systems Ltd.

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