What you need to know about Universal Credit
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages across the UK. You do not need to do anything until you hear from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about moving to Universal Credit unless you have a change in circumstances.
The government expects the national roll-out of the full digital service to be completed by December 2018. The government plans to start transferring people who are still on existing benefits or tax credits onto Universal Credit from July 2019. They plan to complete this process by March 2022.
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.
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.
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
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.
You can check if your area is a full-service area here.
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 July 2019.
Transitional Protection is an extra 'transitional' amount which tops up your Universal Credit award so that you are not worse off when you move onto Universal Credit.
Transitional Protection will only be available to people who are moved over to Universal Credit even though nothing has happened which makes them start a new benefit claim. These people are called 'managed migrants'.
Universal Credit differs from the previous system in several 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.
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.
After you apply it can take five 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.
There are a few 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 service area on the Universal Credit Info website.
2. Find out more about the Universal Credit roll-out timetable here.
4. Take a look at the amounts that you might be paid if you do choose to claim Universal Credit.
5. If your disability/health condition limits your capability for work, you can still claim, but you will need a sick note (fit-note) from your doctor and will be asked to go through a Work Capability Assessment process. More information here
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.