Universal Credit is a new benefit for people with a low income either in or out of work, 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 a long-term health condition or are disabled. It is paid monthly.
Timetable for introduction.
UC is being introduced nationally over a number of years. In Buckinghamshire, new benefit claims or people already receiving one of the six superseded benefits whose circumstances have changed, are made as UC.
Existing benefit claimants of the so-called “legacy benefits” whose circumstances do not change, including those on ESA, are expected to be gradually moved to Universal Credit through a process called “managed migration” between 2019 and 2023. The detailed arrangements have yet to be announced. It is intended that there will be ‘Transitional protection’ to ensure that claimants are not worse off when transferring from their current benefits to UC.
Claiming Universal Credit
Citizens Advice offers support to help claimants through every step of making a claim for Universal Credit, with practical support to people to get their first payment on time and be ready to manage it when it arrives. BuDS strongly advises you to use this expert help, or an appropriate alternative, if you wish to claim UC. There are also web resources from reputable organisations such as Turn2Us , or entitledto which can give an indication of how much UC you might be entitled to.
The details of Universal Credit are complicated. The overall amount that claimants get is 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 an additional sum to cover different needs. These are:
- Disability or health condition
- 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.