Get ready for Universal Credit in 2015

Spring 2015

Latest releases suggest that by spring 2015, 1 in 3 job centres will be taking claims for Universal Credit (UC) rather than all job centres.

This means that if you are single, newly out-of-work and living in Worcester – from 5 October 2015 you may be asked to claim Universal Credit.

The initial roll out of UC in Worcester will be limited to certain single people with no dependent children who would have made a new claim for Job Seekers Allowance can apply for Universal Credit if they meet all of the criteria which has been set by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). To claim UC you must:

  • Be of working age and fit for work.
  • Have no children.
  • Not be waiting to hear about a claim or an appeal for Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit.
  • If you're already claiming any benefits you don't need to do anything and you will be told when UC will affect you.

It is important to note that once you have claimed Universal Credit, you will no longer be able to claim other benefits, even if your circumstances change and you would come under one of the exceptions

During 2016

Current plans will see new claims to existing benefits closed during 2016. This will mean that all new benefit claimants across the country will claim UC instead of the benefits it replaces.

What are the big changes that will happen when Universal Credit starts?

  • You will have to apply online so will need access to a computer
  • Payments will be made once a month in arrears
  • Other than for people who are vulnerable you will lose your choice to have your housing costs paid directly to your landlord.
  • This means the benefit covering your rent will be paid to you as part of your Universal Credit.
  • For most working age customers you will then be responsible for paying your rent directly to your landlord.
  • This means that you will have to manage your benefit to make sure that you pay the rent on time or you may lose your home

There are things you need to know and things that you can do beforehand to make sure you're ready for the changes when they happen.

Get ready for the new single monthly payment which has started to replace six existing benefits.

  1. Universal Credit – an introduction
  2. Get ready for Universal Credit
  3. Universal Credit start dates
  4. Who is affected by Universal Credit
  5. Joint Universal Credit payments for couples
  6. Choosing a bank account for your benefit payments
  7. How to budget for a monthly benefit payment
  8. Getting to grips with paying your own rent
  9. Action plan – Get ready for Universal Credit
  10. Claiming tax credits
  11. Budget planner
  12. A guide to Universal Credit for the self-employed

How to claim Universal Credit

You can and should claim Universal Credit online via the Universal Credit Portal

Make sure you have the following information before you start:

  • your postcode
  • your National Insurance number
  • details of the bank, building society or Post Office account you want Universal Credit paid into
  • your rent agreement (if you have one)
  • details of your savings or other capital
  • details of any income that's not from work (e.g. from an insurance plan)
  • details of any other benefits you're getting

You might also need these details for people who live in your home, e.g. your partner. It should take 20 to 40 minutes to complete your claim. If you're successful, you'll usually get your first payment 1 month and 7 days after you made your claim.

What If I don't have access or never used the internet before?

If you do not have access to a computer, there are a number of places across the City where you can use a computer for free and receive support with making your online claim such as :

  • Local Jobcentre
  • Local Libraries
  • Local computer training

How you will be paid

Universal Credit is paid differently from current benefits. It'll be paid once a month, usually into your bank or building society account.

  • UC is a single payment made monthly in arrears.
  • It will be paid monthly into one bank account you choose. If you live with your partner and both claim Universal Credit you'll receive a single payment that covers you both into their or your bank account. 
  • In some cases, the DWP may split payments and have the ability to pay more frequently than once a month (e.g. if your partner's spending has caused money problems). You can get full details on Gov.uk.
  • You must have a bank account

Bank accounts and credit unions

If you don't have a bank account already, you must consider opening a basic bank account or an account with a credit union.

Credit Unions are the fastest growing financial service movements in the world, offering an ethical loan and savings policy.  6Towns operates throughout Worcestershire and beyond and works with local communities ensuring that everyone has access to banking facilities and access to affordable credit.

How to Open and 6Towns Current Account

  1. Go to 6Towns website at www.sixtowns.co.uk
  2. Click the ‘Click here to apply online' at the top of home page
  3. First Complete the ‘6Towns Membership and Current Account Application'

If you have any questions please telephone the 6Towns head office on 0121 553 3110 between 10:00 and 16:00, Monday to Friday.

6Towns Credit Union is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and all saving are fully protected. All our services can be found on our website: www.sixtowns.co.uk.

Waiting for your first benefit payment?

If your benefit is late or you're waiting for your first payment and have priority bills to pay or essential costs, then ask your Jobcentre Plus about a short-term benefit advance.

Short-term Benefit Advances (STBAs) are available to people claiming any contributory or means-tested benefit, including Universal Credit.

You cannot get a STBA without having claimed a benefit first.

You must also be able to show that you are in financial need

Short-term advances of universal credit

You may be short of money while you wait for universal credit payments to start and you meet certain criteria a  short-term advance of universal credit could help you through this time. Please note that future payments will be reduced to pay for this advance.

Who can get a short-term advance?

To be eligible for a short-term advance you must:

  • have made a claim for universal credit and
  • show you are in financial need
  • You can only get an advance if it seems likely that your claim will be successful.

Need help and support with your claim?

Worcester Jobcentre Plus will be able to advise you on Universal Credit, payments and budgeting support. If you find it difficult to manage this new monthly payment please speak to your work coach.

What if I don't t meet the criteria and need to claim an existing benefit?

If you don't meet the criteria to claim Universal Credit and you need to claim an existing benefit in most cases you can do this online by following the external links:

Your claimant commitment

You'll have to accept a ‘Claimant Commitment' if you want to get Universal Credit.

This is an agreement that you'll complete certain tasks in order to claim Universal Credit. What you agree to do will depend on things such as your health, your responsibilities at home and how much help you need to get work or increase your income.

Work while you claim Universal Credit

There are no limits to the number of hours you can work a week if you receive Universal Credit. Your payment will reduce gradually as you earn more and you won't lose all your benefits at once if you're on a low income.

Housing cost element of Universal Credit

Any help you get with your rent will be included in your UC payment and you will be responsible for paying your landlord. In some circumstances payments can be made direct to the landlord, for example, when there are rent arrears or threat of eviction or you find it difficult to manage payments.

How your Housing Costs element of Universal Credit is worked out will depend on whether you are a tenant or a homeowner. You have to be the person who is responsible for paying the rent or the mortgage to get help with your housing costs.

  • Private tenants -Your housing costs will be calculated using the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for your area. Some useful information can found here. You can visit the HB update website to find out what your eligible rent is.
  • Social Housing Tenant – Your housing costs element will be based on your eligible rent. However, a size restriction is applied when calculating your award. This means that your eligible rent may not be taken into account in full if it's considered you have more bedrooms than your household actually needs. Some useful information can be found here.
  • Homeowner - It can include help towards the interest payments on mortgages and on other loans for home purchase, certain repairs, and home improvements. It can also cover other housing costs including service charges in some circumstances. Some useful information can be found here.
  • Landlord - What you need to know if a tenant is claiming Universal Credit

Some tenants being moved onto Universal Credit will not be used to managing their own rent payments. And it might even be the first time they've used a bank account. Help information when talking with these tenants .

Help with council tax

Help with Council Tax is not included in your Universal Credit payment. The Department for Work and Pensions will no longer accept a claim for Council Tax Support at the same time as you claim UC.

You must apply for Council Tax Support through the council's Revenues and Benefits Service, and provide any evidence needed to support your claim. If you don't send your Council Tax Support claim to us when you apply for Universal Credit you may lose benefit.

Appeal a decision

You can appeal a Universal Credit decision by first contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and then appealing to a tribunal if you're still not happy with the response. Full details will be on your decision letter.

Universal Credit helpline

Contact the helpline Universal Credit helpline- Find out about call charges if:

  • you have any questions
  • your circumstances change and you're already getting Universal Credit
  • Telephone: 0345 600 0723
  • Textphone: 0345 600 0743