Universal Credit: What it Replaces, What it Covers and How to Claim.
Universal Credit was announced by the then Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith, at the Conservative Party Annual Conference in 2010. The reform was stated to be aimed at reducing complexity in applications and bringing benefits to more people. Hence the Universal in Universal Credit. The main goal was and is to remove income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefits, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support. In their place, there would be a single payment, adaptable, universal credit whose aim was to provide more comprehensive cover to more people, in a simpler process. while also encouraging people to get back to work and off benefits, where possible.
What Is Being Replaced And Why?
The Universal Credit was aimed at replacing the six, means-tested benefits and credits listed above while replacing it with a single, variable credit moving forwards. The initial thought behind the process was that each of the individual credits currently available did little to encourage those claiming them to re-enter full-time work where available. The Universal Credit system would be means tested in much the same way as before but would take into account all the individual factors previously considered across disparate benefits systems and put them into a single application and single monthly payment. The structure of the Universal Credits system is designed to taper off gradually as the claimant re-enters full time or part time work.
What To Do As A First Time Claimant.
Details of how to claim and the initial claim process are available here and should be studied by anyone looking to claim Universal Credit. Give them a call if you need anything clarifying. Once an online application has been made, the Universal Credit team will assess your application and decide how much you are eligible for in terms of monthly credit allowance. You will also need to accept a ‘Claimant Commitment’ that operates much in the same way as the Job Seekers Allowance system does. The Claimant Commitment is an agreement between both parties that the claimant will carry out a variety of tasks based around finding employment and improving their possibility of finding employment in the future. There are a variety of other factors, for instance, with the child tax credits and housing benefits based claims that will also be taken into account. Those deemed ‘Unconditional Claimants’ for example, the severely disabled and carers, will not be subject to a Claimant Commitment.
What If You Are Already Claiming Under The Legacy Benefits System?
Currently, the process of moving to Universal Credit is only in its initial stages. There has been a successful pilot scheme but a full roll out has been delayed and as yet has not begun in earnest. Due to a number of issues, DWP has chosen to push back initial rollouts, however as of the end of 2015 Universal Credit was available in half of the job centres in the UK with the aim of having it in all of them by the end of 2016. This doesn’t mean that all claimants will have to be switched over by the end of 2016, just that the Universal Credit will be available nationwide by the end of 2016. The government’s aim is to have the scheme fully rolled out by 2021. If you believe that you could benefit from Universal Credit over your current benefits claims then you can discuss that in person with an advisor at your local Job Centre, or you can speak to one of the team by contacting the Universal Credit Number 0843 455 0035.
Transitionary Help For Current Claimants.
Due to the fact that the Universal Credits system will be paid out monthly rather than fortnightly or weekly, as per some previous claims, the government has pledged to help with initial budgetary concerns that may arise. The government are offering Personal Budgeting Support (PBS), by the way of a budgeting loan that will help individuals adjust to the new payment plan. Essentially it will work out as a smaller, more frequent payment that will eventually be rolled into the full Universal Credit pay out as current claimants get used to the new system. As with all benefits systems, each application for PBS will be considered on its own merits. You new Universal Credit payment is paid every calendar month, this leaves you crossing over from a fortnightly payment to monthly. So to help you fund this transition you can apply for an interest-free loan, call the budgeting loan number on 0843 455 0031.
What To Do Now?
If you are a current claimant of the legacy benefits system then you can continue as you are and wait for information on proposed moves through to the new system. If you would like to enquire about moving sooner you can contact the Universal Credit on 0843 455 0035 or the national team on the numbers available below. Making a Universal Credit claim for the first time, then you need to discuss with an agent whether it would be better to apply for the old system or, as is more likely, you will need to begin a claim for Universal Credits. As the scheme is now in the rollout and phaseout period. The government are keen to have all new claims for benefits directed through the Universal Credit scheme.
Universal Credit helpline number.
Telephone: 0843 455 0035.