We've created a video to help explain Universal Credit:
Here are some questions & answers about Universal Credit...
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is one benefit that replaces several existing ones, namely: Housing Benefit, Income Support, Job Seeker’s Allowance (Income-based) and Employment and Support Allowance (Income-based) and Tax Credits.
Will it save me filling out of lots of separate applications?
Unfortunately not. These will still be separate:
- Child Benefit
- Council Tax Benefit
- Disability Living Allowance and its replacement, Personal Independence Payment
- Contribution-based benefits, such as Job Seeker’s Allowance Contribution-Based and Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance.
What’s happening about Pension Credit?
Pension Credit will continue as it is. Eventually, any pensioner claiming help with their rent will get their Housing Benefit, as it is now called, paid in with their Pension Credit.
The government has not yet announced when this change will take place, and even then, it will only initially be pensioners making their first claim for Housing Benefit.
What about the changes for working-age people?
Universal Credit has already started in pilot areas. However, to make sure that any problems with the claim process are addressed, the pilot scheme has been rolled out slower than originally planned. Only single job-seekers have to apply for Universal Credit. Anyone else is still claiming Tax Credits, or Income Support and Housing Benefit etc, as normal.
When is Universal Credit coming to our area?
Universal Credit is gradually being rolled out for new job-seeking claimants during the rest of 2015. It will start in Southampton and Wiltshire before the end of April, with other areas following.
When will it affect me if I’m already receiving Tax Credits or Housing Benefit?
If your circumstances do not change, at some point between October 2015 and October 2017, you will have to claim and move across to Universal Credit.
I expect I’ll get a lot less than I get at the moment.
The rules for Universal Credit have tried to copy some of the benefits it replaces. Some people will receive more than the total of their existing benefits. Others will be entitled to less money under Universal Credit, but they will not see their benefits cut straight away. Instead, their benefits will be frozen until Universal Credit catches up. For example, if your Universal Credit award is £240 per week and you currently get £250, you will still get £250. In April, the Universal Credit rate might go up to £246, but you will stay on £250. The following year, the Universal Credit rate is £252, so you move up to £252.
How will I know when to apply?
You will receive a letter between now and October 2017, telling you that you will need to apply for Universal Credit.
Where do I get a form?
You will need to apply for Universal Credit online. If you don’t have online access at home, you will need to do this at a library or a public access point. The website is: www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit
I’ve never used a computer. That last answer filled me with dread!
Don’t panic! There’s lots of time to become computer-literate before the changes come in, and lots of places that can help. If you’re looking for a free or low cost computer course, then you can call 0800 77 1234 to be directed to your nearest UK Online Centre or text ‘online’ and your postcode to 80809. Texts cost 25p + your standard network charge. Ask friends or relatives, and join your local library. You’ll normally only need two forms of identity to join.
How am I going to send my wage slips in if it’s all online?
The plan is that you won’t have to. The DWP will directly receive details of your earnings each month from Revenue and Customs, and adjust your Universal Credit accordingly. If you earned less, you’ll receive more, and if you earned more, you’ll receive less.
What about my rent increase letter? Will you still tell them, so I don’t have to?
No. At the time of writing, we do not think that landlords will be able to tell Universal Credit about your rent increase. You will need to tell them yourself, and report it online. If we hear any more on this issue, we will tell you.
Will they still pay you my Housing Benefit?
No. You will receive one payment of Universal Credit, including all the money to support you and your family, including the money to pay your rent. You will then need to pay your rent yourself out of this money. So effectively your ‘Housing Benefit’ as it is now, will be paid to you.
Won’t people spend the money?
The evidence from the pilot schemes suggests that this is happening to some extent. The government is determined that the majority of people will have their housing element paid to them, and be able to manage the responsibility of paying their rent. However, the government says some people will still have their Universal Credit paid straight to their landlord if they are vulnerable. Vulnerable people include those with addictions, severe debt problems or a learning disability. However, you won’t be allowed to have the money paid straight to your landlord just because it would be easier for you.
How do I pay my rent from my Universal Credit?
The easiest way would be to set-up a Direct Debit that can be paid from your bank account direct to your rent account when your Universal Credit payment is due. Alternatively, you can set up a standing order, pay online, or by mobile phone app by scanning the QR code on your rent statement. You can pay over the phone by debit card or credit card, or you can pay by payment card at a Paypoint location.
Anything else I should know?
The other major change is that Universal Credit will be paid monthly, on the same date each month. Some Tax Credits are paid four-weekly, but the change to monthly payments is a big shift for all the other benefits. There will need to be some form of bridging payment for some people who move from a weekly payment to a monthly payment, and the government is analysing the pilot areas to decide what form this will take.
What is Radian doing to prepare?
We have increased the size of the benefits team. We are also working hard to keep residents informed, and we are looking at how we can support people to go online. We are looking to increase the dates on which we allow direct debit payments and we’re keeping a close eye on the plans for Universal Credit, which are still changing slightly.
So is some of it still likely to change?
Universal Credit will be introduced and the above is correct at the time of updating the website. We’ll tell you here about any changes to the plans for Universal Credit.