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Universal Credit

The basics

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs

You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work.

If you’re already claiming a different benefit you may need to move to Universal Credit when you experience a change in circumstances. Most people can no longer make a new claim for one of these benefits and will have to claim Universal Credit instead:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

I’ve received a letter telling me to apply for Universal Credit

In phases, from April 2023 to 2028/9, the Government will write to those still on legacy benefits (listed above) to say that their benefit claims will stop and they must claim Universal Credit. This is called ‘managed migration’ and the letters will be called ‘migration notices’

The first phase will last from April 2023 to March 2024 but will only affect people who get tax credits only. If you get tax credits and another benefit (for instance child tax credit and employment and support allowance) you won’t be affected.

The information we have at the moment is limited but we do know that from July 2023 customers in County Durham who get tax credits only will start to receive migration notices.

If you receive a ‘migration notice’ don’t ignore it.

You’ll need to claim Universal Credit within 3 months of the letter being sent to you – if you don’t your existing benefits will stop.

If you receive a migration notice please speak to our Money Matters team as soon as possible. They will be able to

  • Explain the migration process and time limits
  • Work out the best time within the 3 months window for you to claim Universal Credit and make sure you’re getting everything you should be
  • Explain what will happen to your existing benefit and discuss the swap to monthly payments
  • Work out your likely Universal Credit entitlement and provide tips to ensure your award is assessed correctly from the start
  • Consider any known debts that could be deducted from your Universal Credit award

What’s different with Universal Credit?

  • It's online so you need an e-mail address to claim. You will need to keep checking your account frequently to manage your claim.
  • Payments are made directly into a bank, building society, post office or credit union account. They are made monthly in arrears.
  • It's a single monthly payment that combines your income-related living expenses including rent. This means you will have to budget, make your money last longer and pay your rent. If you need help with Council Tax, you will need to make a separate claim for Council Tax Support, this is done through your Council.
  • Your housing costs (the amount you get towards your rent), may not cover all the rent you have to pay, and you may need to make up the shortfall – especially if you are affected by the bedroom tax, have non-dependents living with you, or have ineligible service charges like water rates included in your rent.

FAQ's about Universal Credit

You can get an advance payment from the jobcentre to help cover the gap between the date you claim and the date you get your first payment (usually around six weeks). If you haven’t already, you can arrange for an advance payment of UC from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This is a loan that must be paid back within 12 months, reducing the amount of UC you will get in the future. You’ll need to think carefully about whether you can manage with a reduction on your monthly UC payment. To find out more click here.

In some circumstances, you can ask to have your Universal Credit paid differently to help you manage your money. You can get paid every two weeks instead of every month. If you have difficulty managing your rent payments, you can also ask about getting your rent paid straight to Karbon instead of it being paid to you, these are known as Alternative Payment Arrangements (APA).

The application is online now if you get confused or are unable to complete it, speak to the Money Matters Team for help in filling it in. If you’re expected to look for work you’ll get an online account to record any change of circumstances and activities relating to your job searches. Your work coach will speak to you through your online journal, too. If, like me, you aren’t familiar with digital tools, you’ll need to learn some basic skills. This will mean you can do things like copy and paste web addresses as evidence of jobs you’ve applied for and forward emails to the people who need to see them. Improve your digital skills for free with our Foundations for Life Team

You need to be honest with your work coach. Let them know what you can and can’t do. Tell them about any health issues or difficulties you will have applying for jobs or taking job offers. It’s important that your work coach has realistic expectations of what you are able to do, and that you understand your claimant commitment. If you think your claimant commitment is incorrect let us know and we will help you to challenge it if so.

Make sure you report all changes in circumstances via your journal, or through the UC Helpline. Failure to report changes, including changes in your rent and household, might result in underpayments or overpayments, and you could get a civil penalty of £50.

First make sure you’re claiming any other benefits you’re entitled to, including Council Tax Reduction or health-related benefits like Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The Money Matters Team can help; whether it’s budgeting and debt advice, applying for grants, knowing your entitlements or help with food or fuel, get in touch!

Council Tax Benefit (or Council Tax Reduction), is not paid as part of Universal Credit. You will need to make a separate claim for help towards your council tax. Apply for Council Tax Reduction here or contact your local council offices for more information.

Get in touch with us

For help applying or any of your benefit queries, contact us

You can also contact the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644

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