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Universal Credit GH

What is Universal Credit?

 

Universal Credit is for people of working age, designed to top up your income to a minimum level and help you with your housing costs (rent and some service charges). Universal Credit is for people on a low to moderate income. It does not matter whether you are working or not, or the reason why you are not working.

Universal Credit is replacing these benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

IMPORTANT: Universal Credit does not include help with your Council Tax. You must claim Council Tax Support separately, from your local council.

Universal Credit is paid in one lump sum and on a monthly basis, and includes help to pay your rent. This help isn’t paid separately, like Housing Benefit. And usually all the Universal Credit is paid straight to you, so you have to pay your rent out of this money.

Most people will get the same amount of money as they would have under the benefits listed above – it just looks like more because of the benefits all being paid together, including help with your housing costs (rent, mortgage interest and some service charges) and is paid monthly, all at once.

See the Frequently Asked Questions for how to get help with managing the change to Universal Credit.

When is Universal Credit being introduced?

Universal Credit is being rolled out in 3 stages

Step 1 is complete – Universal Credit is now available in all areas of Great Britain – but only for certain people.

The DWP refer to this as the Universal Credit ‘live’ service but you may hear people call it the ‘non-digital’ service.

From 1st January 2018 there will be no new claims for Universal Credit in ‘live’ (non-digital) areas.

This is because the government has decided to focus resources on the new, digital service computer system.

So, if your area has not yet got the Full (digital) service and you need to make a new claim for a top-up benefit from 1st January 2018 onwards, you will not be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit. Instead you will be able to claim whichever of the following benefits are appropriate for your circumstances: Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment & Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

Step 2 has started - The ‘digital’ Universal Credit service is being introduced gradually – between May 2016 and December 2018.

The ‘full’ (digital) Universal Credit service will start in

Gedling from November 2018

Once your area gets the ‘digital’ service, if a change in your circumstances means you need to make a new claim for any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit – you will make a claim for Universal Credit instead (unless you have 3 or more children).

The DWP refer to this as the Universal Credit ‘full’ service but you may hear people call it the ‘digital’ service.

 

Step 3 If you are working age and still getting any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit then, at some point between 2019 and 2022 you will be asked to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. The DWP call this stage ‘migration’.

 

Who has to claim Universal Credit in the ‘non-digital’ areas?

From 1st January 2018 there will be no new claims for Universal Credit in ‘live’ (non-digital) areas.

But, note that some people who have previously been on Universal Credit are still classed as a Universal Credit claimant, so they have to re-claim Universal Credit. This would be the case where, due to separating from their partner, someone needs to re-claim Universal Credit as a single claimant within one month of their couple claim terminating. Or, where someone has been getting Universal Credit within the last six months, then their entitlement stopped due to the level of their earnings, but following another change in their circumstances, they need a top-up again.

Up to 31st December 2017, only certain new jobseekers, depending on their circumstances, were able to claim Universal Credit in the ‘non-digital’ areas.

 

When my area goes ‘digital’ will I have to claim Universal Credit straight away?

You will only need to claim Universal Credit if a change in your circumstances means you would normally need to make a new claim for any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit.

So, for example, if you get Housing Benefit and you move to another rented house in a different local authority area, which has the ‘digital’ Universal Credit service, you would have to claim Universal Credit instead of making a new claim for Housing Benefit; any Income Support / Income Related Employment and Support Allowance / Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Tax Credits would also end.

However, if you have 3 or more children you will not be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit before the end of January 2019; instead, you will be told to claim Child Tax Credit and whichever of the following other benefits that would be appropriate for you instead: Housing Benefit; Income Support; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Based Jobseekers Allowance or Working Tax Credit.

If you are already getting one or more of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit (and you continue to be entitled to these) and you do not have a change in your circumstances that triggers a claim for Universal Credit, you may not need to claim Universal Credit until the ‘migration’ stage, sometime between 2019 and 2022.

However, when the ‘digital’ service comes to your area, if you choose to move onto Universal Credit you can do so (unless you have 3 or more children) – you do not need to wait until a change in your circumstances means you have to. So you could get advice to check if you would be better off on Universal Credit – but seek advice before making any decisions!
 

How can I prepare for Universal Credit?

To prepare for Universal Credit think about:

  • How you would manage to make a claim on-line – where you can go if you don’t have your own computer.
  • Where you can go to build up your computer skills if you’ve never been online before.
  • How you will manage when the benefits that Universal Credit is replacing are paid to you as one payment on a monthly basis.
  • How you will manage until you have received your first monthly payment (it will probably be a longer gap between payments than you have been used to – and the first payment will be one month and 7 days after your claim).
  • How you will manage when you have to pay your rent to your landlord yourself.
  • Opening a bank or credit union account. “Basic” bank accounts don’t allow you to overdraw but still charge for unmet direct debits (if there’s not enough money in the account when they come out). 
  • Setting up an email address – you will need to have one to be able to claim Universal Credit under the ‘digital’ service.

 

See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information and advice on the help you might be able to receive. If you would like to talk through some of these issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

© 2018 Housing Systems Ltd