Universal Credit (UC) was introduced in 2013 as a single benefit to replace 6 existing Benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based job seeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit. You could be eligible for UC if you are between 18 and state pension age, are on a low income or out of work and you have savings of £16.000 or less.
The gradual introduction of UC has been subject to many changes as evidence of difficulties for applicants (much supplied by Citizens Advice) has been brought to the attention of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). We now have a situation in Surrey whereby many new claimants will have to apply for UC, while those who are already on any of the legacy benefits will stay on them for now unless their situation changes.
Where do we go from here?
In January, after Amber Rudd took over at DWP she outlined current and intended changes.
- Migration of people still on the six ‘legacy’ benefits to UC – before going ahead with this, she would seek powers to hold a pilot, during which 10.000 people would be supported through the process. The pilot would begin in July 2019. The aim would be to provide tailored help with applications. Monitoring and adjusting would take place during the pilot and afterwards migration would happen gradually and be completed by the end of 2023.
- Alternative payment arrangements – in order to mirror the world of work, UC payments are made monthly in arrears and the money goes straight to the claimants, but this doesn’t work for everyone. Currently around 60% of claimants apply for an advance payment to tide them over until they get their first payment. 20% of those with housing costs have their rents paid directly to landlords because a vulnerability or special need has been identified and 2% of those unable to budget receive payment every 1 or 2 weeks.
- Women’s economic empowerment – UC is paid as one payment per household, but the question of whether the recipient should be the main carer in the household is being considered. To encourage people into work 85% of child care costs are claimable but they must first be paid by the claimant. If this requirement stops claimants from starting work, the Flexible Support Fund can be used.
- Cancelling the extension of the 2 child policy – New UC claimants can only claim for up to two children, but this rule will not now be applied retrospectively. Every child born before April 2017 can be supported by UC.
- FROM APRIL 2019 CITIZENS ADVICE WILL BE PROVIDING SPECIFIC SUPPORT to help new UC claimants with their initial claim up to first payment. Our April article will explain how this service will operate.
To find out more about UC visit our website or https://www.gov.uk/universalcredit
If you’re worried about Universal Credit – or something else?
Don’t put it off – Citizens Advice Waverley can almost certainly help. For free, independent, confidential advice call:
0344 848 7969
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