Money Matters: Considering a move to Universal Credit?
Our Debt & Energy Manager Dan Bebbington has some useful advice from people who are new to or looking to claim Universal Credit.
The Government have announced they are restarting their plans to move everyone in receipt of welfare benefits onto Universal Credit by 2024.
Many people have already moved onto Universal Credit due to a change to their circumstances, like moving home or going into work, but how will this work for you?
Once you are on Universal Credit you cannot go back to claiming the benefits you were receiving before - so it’s important that you are ready to make the move.
Universal Credit brings together a wide range of benefits such as Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance or Tax Credits, but it works very differently.
Firstly, it is paid in one lump sum every month direct into your bank, and includes all of the help you are entitled to, to cover your daily living and housing costs. This means you will need to manage a monthly budget, where you may have been used to managing fortnightly or four weekly payments.
Housing costs are paid direct to you, for you to pay your rent to your landlord. Failure to pay your rent can put your home at risk, so you need to be confident that you can manage your budget effectively.
UC is claimed and managed online, so you will need access to a digital device and the confidence to manage your claim electronically.
If you’re in a relationship and living as a couple, you’ll have to make a joint claim for Universal Credit.
When you first claim, you will need to wait for five weeks until you get your first payment, but you can get help from an advance payment, which will be recovered from ongoing awards over a period of time.
Universal Credit can change from month to month if your wages fluctuate. As it links to HMRC records in most cases, you won’t need to report your pay changes constantly.
It does not include help towards your Council Tax, you will need to claim this separately, direct from your Local Authority.
There is other help available to you if you claim Universal Credit (dependant on your income and circumstances), such as dental treatment, prescriptions and free school meals. You can also claim help with childcare costs
The Government has said that ‘no-one will be worse-off as a result of moving onto the Universal Credit’ and some people will receive transitional protection to ensure their income does not reduce.
There are two very good websites which have comprehensive information and benefit calculators to help you see how it will affect your personal situation www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk, or www.moneyhelper.org.uk.
Citizens Advice can offer help to claim Universal Credit for the first time, call free on 0800 144 8444.
Everyone’s situation is different and we strongly advise you seek expert benefit advice if you are considering voluntarily moving onto Universal Credit. Wrekin Housing Group customers should contact our Money Matters Team for tailored advice, or you can speak to your local Citizens Advice.
21st June 2022