Universal Credit

Get ready for the changes that Universal Credit is bringing

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Managing the transition

Managing the transition onto Universal Credit may be challenging.

You will have to wait at least 6 weeks for your first payment (7 weeks if you are a new claimant).

In the initial trials for Universal Credit quite a lot of people found this hard:

  • No money saved so nothing to help cover this time without money in
  • Getting behind on important bills like rent
  • Having to borrow with extra unexpected costs
  • Feeling stressed about the change and not sure who to talk to.

If you have not started claiming yet look again at our page managing your money – these are skills that will really help you through the transition.

Make a money plan

Your money plan for this 6 – 7 weeks transition will need to include everything you are likely to need to buy and pay for.

Use the detailed budget planner to think about everything.

If you are not sure what you are spending try keeping a spending diary for at least 2 weeks – this will help you keep an eye on everything that goes out (and get everyone that you live with to keep one!)

Once you have a list of everything that goes out think about when this happens – you can jot this down on a calendar or in a diary.

If you request help from the Jobcentre (see Advance payment below) you will need to prove that you cannot manage – preparing your money plan for the month and showing them your bills and living costs will help make the case.

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Paying the priority bills

Once you know all the costs you have coming up you need to sort these into:

  • Priority bills – these are the ones you must keep up with -housing. heating and lighting, court fees, maintenance, council tax, TV licence. Try to get ahead as much as possible  with these as soon as you can
  • Other bills – see if you can change payment dates on any of these and make sure you are getting the best deals that you can
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Advance payment

You can request an  ‘Advance Payment’ if you think that you will not be able to pay your essential bills and look after yourself and the people you live with whilst you are waiting for your first payment.

The advance payment is up to half of the total monthly Universal Credit claim.

You pay it back from your monthly payments

  • over 6 months if you are a new claimant
  • over 12 months if you are an existing claimant

You can only make one claim per household.

The advance payment can be requested at any time after your claim has been accepted up to the last 3 working days of your assessment period (the assessment period is the calendar month with day 1 being the day your claim was valid from)

You won’t get an advance payment automatically

You must prove that you face difficulty in managing your living expenses – if you have prepared your money plan for the month you can show this to the Jobcentre along with copies of your bills.

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Other help

If you are struggling to make ends meet, feed your family and keep warm there is other help available:

  • FOODBANKS – there are foodbanks in lots of different areas. They provide food and basic household needs. You will need to get a voucher from your support worker, advice agency or housing association
  • GRANTS – there are different grant schemes that may be able to help in a crisis. These have limited funds and not everyone is successful. Ask at your support worker, advice agency or download our grants directory on Help in a Crisis
  • FUEL OR CLOTHING VOUCHERS  – like grants these are not always available but are worth asking about – again ask your support worker, advice agency or go to Help in a Crisis to find out more
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Borrowing

Think very carefully before borrowing money for living expenses.

If you borrow now for day to day costs you need to be confident that more money coming in future to pay back the debt otherwise you could be a lot worse off with the costs of borrowing as well.

Talk to your account provider about help they can give.

If you are feeling desperate beware of anyone offering easy cash – they may be a loan shark – these are people who are not licenced to lend money and borrowing from them is very expensive and can be dangerous. They may be friendly at first but turn nasty quickly and keep increasing costs.

If you think you know of a loan shark in your area or have borrowed from one there is a confidential helpline – REPORT IT – they are criminals.

For more about borrowing click here

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