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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have started rolling out Universal Credit Full Service, you can see short video about this here:
Universal credit is a new means-tested benefit that will eventually replace the following current means-tested benefits:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income support
- Parts of the Social Fund
- Working Tax Credit
Other benefits (for example: disability living allowance and personal independence payment) will remain largely unchanged by the new system.
The way you make a claim and receive benefit payments will change
You will need to make claims online. Any changes to your circumstances will also need to be updated by you online. This includes if you move house, move in with your partner, have a child, and if you start or leave work. Some support has been promised for those unable to do this.
In most cases, the support you receive for housing costs will be paid direct to you as part of the one benefit payment you will get, instead of it going straight to your landlord. However, if you live in supported housing, the housing benefit part of your Universal Credit will go directly to your landlord to pay for your rent.
You will receive one payment per household. So if you and your partner live together, instead of both getting separate benefit payments, you will receive one joint payment based on your combined circumstances. However, if you are over the age of 18 and living at home or live with people who are not your partner, you will still be able to claim benefit payments in your own right.
You will get one payment per month. This is different to how it is now, where you receive payments such as Job Seeker's Allowance every 2 weeks. You will get this payment in arrears, and it will need to go into a bank account.
What you will be expected to do to find work will increase
There are some exceptions to this depending on your circumstances, like if you are between 16 and 21 without parental support and in non-advanced education and training, if you are a lone parent with children under the age of 1, or if you are a carer or foster carer.
If you are out of work you will need to sign a new Claimant Commitment with the Job Centre that will require you to do a lot more than before. You'll now be expected to spend 35 hours each week doing things to find and get yourself ready for work, such as:
- Attending regular interviews at the Job Centre to talk about what you are doing to find work
- Doing things to find work, like applying for jobs or registering with recruitment agencies
- Doing things to get yourself ready for work, like attending training, preparing your CV, and taking part in voluntary work for up to half your search hours each week
- Being available and willing to start work immediately
If you are in low-paid or part time work, you will need to continue to look for more or better paid work. As part of this, you will also need to sign a Claimant Commitment with the Job Centre that will say what they expect you to do each week to look for more or better paid work. If you don't sign the Claimant Commitment, you will not get your benefit payments.
The penalties for not doing what is expected of you are tougher
Depending on what you do, the length of time your benefit payments will be cut is different. Also, for each time you fail to do what is in your Claimant Commitment, the length of time the sanction is applied becomes longer. The table below sets out the different sanctions you could get.
you don't do what is set out in the Claimant Commitment, a range of tougher sanctions can be imposed which will mean your benefit payments will be cut.
Sanctions can be given for not turning up appointments at the Job Centre and not going to training and work arranged by them for you without good reason.
The amount you receive in benefit payments is likely to change
If you are under 25, the basic amount you will get will be less than people over this age. Also the amount you will get for housing costs as part of your Universal Credit may be less if you are under 35.
If you are out of work, there is a limit on how much you can receive in benefit payments. The limit has been set at £500 per week for couples and lone parents, and £350 per week for single adults. This amount includes housing costs.
As you get work and begin earning money, the amount you get in benefit payments will change. You can earn a small amount of money before it has any impact on the benefit payments you get. This amount is different for everyone depending on your circumstances.
For every £1 extra you earn after tax over that amount, your benefit payments will be reduced by 65p. So that will mean that you are still 35p better off for every extra £1 you earn
If you are already getting benefits but would get less when you switch onto Universal Credit, you will get a top up so that the amount you will get remains the same. This top up to your benefit payments will last until your circumstances next change or until the amount you are entitled to get under Universal Credit catches up with what you were getting before.
How can the Money Advice Team help you
- Give you advice to help you understand Universal Credit
- Help you make and manage your online claim
- Put you in touch with other people who can help
- Give you help on how to manage your money each month
Contact us details are available at the top left of this page.
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