Universal Credit is a new means-tested benefit intended to bring together and replace a number of existing benefits (including Housing Benefit; Child Tax Credit; Employment and Support Allowance; JSA; Income Support; Working Tax Credit). It is for people of “working age” (broadly 18-pension age) with limited savings, in a range of different circumstances, including people who have along-term health condition or are disabled.
Timetable for introduction.
UC is being introduced nationally over a number of years. In Buckinghamshire, new benefit claims from single unemployed people are made as Universal Credit, but it is expected that, from September 2018, all new benefit claims in Bucks will be made as UC. Until then, the so-called “legacy benefits” will continue to be used.
However, existing benefit claimants whose circumstances do not change, including those on ESA, are not expected to be moved to Universal Credit until at least 2019-2022. The detailed rules and arrangements have yet to be announced. ‘Transitional protection’ is intended to ensure that claimants are not worse off when transferring from their current benefits onto UC.
The details of Universal Credit are complicated and you are strongly advised to seek expert help in claiming it. There are web resources from reputable organisations such as Citizens Advice , Turn2Us , or entitledto which will help you calculate how much UC you might be entitled to.
The overall amount that claimants get will be worked out by comparing their basic financial needs (for which there are set amounts) with their financial resources.
In calculating needs, there is a nominal Standard Allowance – the amount depends whether a claimant is single, making a joint claim, or are under 25 – plus additional set “elements” paid to cover different needs. These are:
- Work capability (i.e. as ESA)
- Housing costs
- Childcare costs
- Caring responsibilities
The overall total (“maximum amount”) is the basic amount the law says a claimant needs to live on each month.
From this figure, amounts will be deducted for income, including a proportion of earnings from work. The resulting figure will be a claimant’s universal credit for the period.
All UC claimants must accept a “Claimant Commitment”, and may be required to carry out a work-related requirement. Claimants will be then placed in one of four conditionality groups – depending on their circumstances
* Work focused interview requirement only – to assess prospects, and identify opportunities
* Work preparation requirements – action to improve chances of obtaining paid – egs. attending skills assessment, improving personal presentation, training, work experience
* Work search requirements – action to get paid work – searching for work, making job applications, maintaining on-line profile
* Work availability – able to attend interview or take up work immediately
If a claimant who is required to undertake any of these activities does not carry it out, he or she may be sanctioned –i.e. have their benefits reduced or stopped for a period.