Universal Credit: Frequently Asked Questions
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit, aimed at ensuring claimants are better off in work, was introduced in 2013 as a new benefit available to those out of employment or in low paid work. It replaces a number of different including Jobseekers Allowance, housing benefits, Tax Credits, child-care benefits and Income Support. It is paid as one monthly payment to a bank or building account instead of a number of separate payments. Where both partners are in receipt of Universal Credit a single payment is now made to cover both. It is still being introduced across the UK slowly. One area at a time, until everyone receiving one of the benefits it replaces will receive Universal Credit instead. This should be completed by 2017.
How do I apply?
Those already receiving benefits do not need to apply as they have or will be contacted directly. New claimants need to apply on-line at their local job centre. You will need to complete a Claimant Commitment which indicates the criteria you must agree to follow if you wish to continue receiving Universal Credit. There is also a helpline to answer questions.
How does it help people return to work?
Claimants receive expert help and support from the job centre to enable them to find new or better employment. You can also continue to be paid Universal Credit when you start work or increase your hours so your benefits do not end all at once. There is no limit to the number of hours worked and the amount you are paid reduces gradually as you earn more to keep your earnings topped up. It can also increase if your earnings go down so you do not need to reapply if your circumstances change. Parents can receive help with childcare even if they do not work many hours a week.
What is the Claimant Commitment?
The Claimant Commitment is a document you sign to show you agree that you will undertake certain requirements if you wish to keep receiving credit. Your personal circumstances and your health will be taken into account when tasks are decided as you will be put in a “work-related group”. All tasks are designed to support you in finding future employment.
What if I don’t maintain the Claimant Commitment?
Your benefit will be stopped or reduced if you do not maintain the agreement. You can appeal against the decision and hardship grants can be applied for where needed.
What benefits does it replace?
It replaces Jobseekers Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support.
What if I’m Disabled?
Most benefits for disabled people continue unchanged but the disability element of tax credits is no longer be available. You will undertake a Work Capability Assessment which will determine if you are unfit for work. The government maintains that the amount people receive should not go down if their circumstances change but Citizens Advice figures suggest that a significant number of disabled people will see a reduction in the amount they are given.
What if I move in with someone on Universal Credit?
If you are claiming any of the above benefits you will have to end your claim and apply for Universal Credit which will be allocated in one amount with your partner’s. This will continue until one of you no is no longer eligible for Universal Credit or if you decide to live apart.