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What you need to know about Universal Credit

Find out more about what Universal Credit is, when and how it's being introduced, the benefits it will be replacing, how the new system might affect you and how the Cystic Fibrosis Trust can help.

As the debate on Universal Credit continues, ahead of the Government’s announcement of the UK budget, we’re aware that changes to the benefits system can have a real impact on the lives of the people in the cystic fibrosis (CF) community. Here, we’ve outlined what Universal Credit is, how it differs from the current system, how it might affect you, and how we can help.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a benefit for people of working age, in or out of work. It can be claimed online (digitally) and there is no paper claim form.

Universal Credit does not depend on your National Insurance Contributions but it does take your means (income, savings and other capital) into account. You can claim Universal Credit if you are sick or disabled or have caring responsibilities. This includes if you have cystic fibrosis or are caring for someone with cystic fibrosis as this may affect whether you can work or the hours you can work.

What is it replacing?

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages across Great Britain and is replacing the following benefits:

  • Income support
  • Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Housing benefit
  • Child tax credit
  • Working tax credit

When is it being introduced and where?

Universal Credit has not yet been ‘fully’ introduced in every area of the UK.

In ‘full service areas’ you cannot make a new claim for any of the benefits listed above - you will be advised to claim Universal Credit instead.

In ‘live service areas’ you will be advised to claim Universal Credit if you meet certain ‘gateway’ conditions.

You can check if your area is a full or live service area here.

What if I am currently receiving the benefits being replaced?

If you receive any of the above benefits that Universal Credit is replacing and your circumstances do not change, you can continue to receive those benefits until you are told you will be transferred (migrated) to Universal Credit. ‘Managed migration’ will start in 2019.

How does it differ from the previous benefits system?

Universal Credit differs from the previous system in a number of ways:

1. It’s monthly – Universal Credit is assessed according to your circumstances over one calendar month and then payment is made in  one-monthly sum. ‘Alternative payment arrangements’ of Universal Credit can be made for people who struggle to manage their money. These arrangements could include being paid twice a month, having your rent paid directly to your landlord or having a payment split between you and your partner.

2. There are no rules about the number of hours you can work. Your household income, however, will affect the amount of Universal Credit you receive.

3. You will have to sign a ‘claimant commitment’ agreeing to look for work. If you are not considered to be working enough hours already you may be asked to look for more work, or you may have your benefits sanctioned.

What if I have made a claim and been refused?

If your Universal Credit claim has been refused, the first step is asking for a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. A mandatory reconsideration should be requested within one month of the date of the decision letter. If you are out of time you can still ask for a mandatory reconsideration if you have special reasons why the time limit should be extended.

If the outcome from your mandatory reconsideration is negative, the next step is to appeal. The time limit to appeal is one month, but you can ask for a ‘late appeal’ if you need to.

Decisions about sanctions can also be challenged using the same processes.

You may wish to seek further advice from our helpline, your Specialist Social Worker or a local Advice Agency (Citizens Advice for example) to help you with checking the DWP’s decision.

When will I be paid?

After you apply it can take five or six weeks for you to get your first Universal Credit payment.

After your first Universal Credit payment, you will be paid monthly.

If you think you won’t have enough money to live on, you can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit, but this has to be repaid from your benefit when you start to get this.

How can I find out more?

There are a number of different resources you can access about Universal Credit and to make the process of applying for it easier.

1. Check if you are in a full or live service area on the Universal Credit Info website. You can find out more information about full and live service areas here.

2. Find out more about the Universal Credit roll-out timetable here.

3. Find out more about what Universal Credit is and how you can claim it.

4. Take a look at the amounts that you might be paid if you do choose to claim Universal Credit.

How can the Trust help?

Our helpline or Welfare and Rights Advisor can advise you further.

Take a look at more information on applying for benefits and the other support we provide, including emergency grants, health and wellbeing grants, and holiday grants.

Please note that this news article does not constitute advice. Benefits rules change regularly. Please seek current advice about your own situation.  9/11/2017