Universal Credit

Get ready for the changes that Universal Credit is bringing

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Managing on Universal Credit

Being on Universal Credit will be different. This section reminds you about the main changes and what you need to think about

UC payments can change monthly

Your Universal Credit payment will be reassessed every month automatically.

If you live with someone their earnings and entitlements will be added to yours to work out what the entire household is due. This amount can go up or down every month depending on changes in your earnings and entitlements.

Things to remember include:

  • You will receive your payments every calendar month (not fortnightly or four weekly)
  • Each month is called an assessment period. If you earn in this period your Universal Credit will be reduced ( but at a rate of 63p for every £1 earned – from April 2017 – so that you are better off in work)
  • If you earn more than the maximum permitted amount in any assessment period you will not receive any Universal Credit and will need to reapply when your earnings  are below the maximum
  • If your  earnings are paid more frequently, e.g. weekly or fortnightly or four weekly you could end up earning more than the maximum in an assessment period and not receive any universal credit – this is a bit complicated and you need to prepare yourself – click here for more guidance
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Managing claims online

Full digital Universal Credit service means you manage every aspect of your claim yourself.

Once you are on the full digital service all your conversations and correspondence with the DWP (including your Job Centre) will be and your online account – once you get comfortable with this you can keep track of your situation and report changes more easily, but it may take time to get used to.

The full digital service is being rolled out in the local area at these times –

Peterborough – November 2017

Fenland and East Cambs – May 2018

Cambridge City and South Cambs – June 2018

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk – July 2018

Remember – you will need to get used to accessing your online account regularly so that you are up to date with all of your correspondence and messages related to your claim and job seeking.

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Save money by being paid monthly

Being paid monthly should save you money

  • Shopping in bulk, taking advantage of discounts and multi buys (but only when you need what is on offer!)
  • Shifting from prepaid to credit meters and getting better deals from your utility companies
  • Setting aside money each month for occasions like birthdays, Christmas and holidays and not panic buying / borrowing

Remember – once you get used to being online there are huge advantages – the average saved each year by a low income family using the internet to compare prices, shop and get better deals is over £500!

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Paying your rent

You will be responsible for paying your rent yourself direct to your landlord.

You will need to decide the best way to pay – landlords will usually offer different options – standing orders, direct debits, swipe card, pay point etc.

Once you know the date that your monthly Universal Credit payment arrives in your account it is a good idea to organise your rent payment as soon as possible afterwards so that this priority bill is paid and you do not find yourself short of money when your rent is due.

You must let the Universal Credit service centre know as soon as you receive any notification of changes to your rent  so that they can adjust  your payment

Remember – because you are managing rent payments yourself the landlord will expect payments on time – they will not have information about your Universal Credit claim so if you are experiencing problems you need to tell them quickly. If you get behind with your rent your housing will be at risk

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Alternative Payment Arrangements

This means that the way your Universal Credit is paid can be altered.

It will be a temporary arrangement and you or your support worker or landlord will have to prove that an Alternative Payment Arrangement is vital to protect you from financial harm.

There are three main types:

  • Paying the housing part of your Universal Credit claim direct to your landlord / housing association if your home is at risk
  • More frequent than monthly payments
  • A split payment of an award between partners – particularly where there is likelihood of abuse or underlying problems with addiction

When  can it be requested?

  • At the start of your claim
  • Identified by Work Coach
  • From information received by the claimant, their representative, case worker, landlord – phoning 0345 600 0723

Remember – there is no automatic right to an alternative arrangement – you will have to prove why you cannot manage. Talk to your work coach and / or a qualified benefits adviser at your Housing Association or Advice agency as soon as you think you are likely to have problems

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Managing claimant commitment

Your claimant commitment sets out what you have to do in return for receiving Universal Credit.

Even if you find a job, you will need to keep looking for additional or higher paid work until your household earnings exceed the maximum allowed for Universal Credit.

If you are offered work and turn it down without the agreement of your Work coach you may be sanctioned. You will need to explain why you cannot accept the work and must have good reason. Here are some of the reasons that could give you good cause to turn down work:

  • the hours offered would make it impossible for you to pick up your children from school
  • it would take over 90 minutes to get to work (you’re usually expected to travel up to 90 minutes to work)
  • travel costs to the job would be too high to make it worthwhile
  • childcare costs would be too high to make it worthwhile
  • the job would have a negative impact on your mental health condition
  • the job would put your physical health at risk
  • the job would have a detrimental impact on your caring responsibilities
  • you have a sincere religious or conscientious objection to the type of work

IF YOU ARE NOT SURE GET ADVICE!

For more detailed information and help about  Universal Credit these two websites are essential:

GOV.UK

CITIZENS ADVICE

Also see our ideas on finding work here

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