Welfare Support & Advice
Digital or “Full” Universal Credit
Universal Credit is finally being introduced to Leeds in full online on the 10th October 2018.
Here is a quick reminder, it will replace:
- Income based JSA
- Income based ESA
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit;
It affects working age people (18 yr. olds to 65 yr. olds (pension credit age)) including couples and families with children.
From 10th October 2018, if you are unemployed or have a low income and if you have a financial change, such as stopping a benefit; losing a job; getting a new job, adding a partner or separating from a partner and you want to claim a benefit you may have to apply for Universal Credit for financial help; (not if you are adding Working tax Credit to Child Tax Credits).
Let us give you a quick reminder of Universal Credit:
- It pays you a living allowance and housing costs (for rent).
- It pays you while you work (0 hours to 30 hours), tapering off as you earn more.
- No need to supply wage slips.
- Gives you all the money once a month, into your bank account;
- Pays you up to five weeks late or in “arrears”;
- It has much more strict conditions than old benefits;
- It is applied for and managed online.
To apply successfully you must have:
- A mobile phone number
- An email address
- A bank account
- Proof of ID
- A rent statement
Watch this video on applying for digital Universal Credit to learn more about claiming.
Should I claim Universal Credit?
You may have no choice (if you don’t already have a benefit). But if:
- You already have a benefit that only needs updating, and are told to make a new claim, get advice first.
- You think you will be better off under Universal Credit, get advice, you may not be.
- Your benefit stops and you want to appeal that, get advice.
Tell Unity when you are going to apply for Universal Credit
Our Income Management Officers may be available to help you apply online for Universal Credit. They also offer help completing forms for other benefits and signposting to debt advice. Plus, do not forget Leeds Benefit Service can still help with Discretionary Housing Payments for spare bedroom payments, reduced benefits under the Benefit Cap and for arrears in general (all of which still apply under Universal Credit).
From the 10th October 2018, how to claim:
- Visit www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit and complete the online form.
- You will have 28 days to complete your claim, but it only starts on the day you complete it.
- If you have no internet at home nor a mobile phone with internet, use a computer at the job centre or library.
- If you have trouble using a computer ask your job centre, library or Unity for help.
- You will need your personal details, financial details and those of the other people in your home, including children. You will also need details of your bills such as rent.
- If you have a partner at home they will also have to make a claim, which you will link to your claim when they are both finished.
- You will need to verify or prove your identity, using a website provided to you or by making an appointment at the job centre.
- Your rent will have to be checked with your landlord. Remember if you received housing benefit, or your landlord received it for you, you paid rent.
- If you are already on Housing Benefit, complete a change of circumstances form with them, to get a two week run on.
- You will be invited to meet your work coach and sign a claim commitment. This means you will be agreeing to look for work or training and gain employment as your work coach believes is correct for you. You will have to upload evidence regularly that you are doing this.
- You will then wait five weeks for your first payment. If you will struggle to pay bills, before that first payment you can apply for an advance loan online, but this will be repaid out of your claim for the next twelve months. You can claim all or part of your estimated payment. Be careful do not borrow more than you need.
- If you will struggle to pay rent or are in arrears already, you or your landlord can apply for the housing costs to be paid to you more frequently, or paid to your landlord while you are in arrears. Ask your work coach about this at any time.
- Whether Universal Credit is paid to you or your landlord it is your responsibility to ensure your rent is paid in advance.
- Whilst your claim is being decided and during the life of your claim you will have to log into your online “journal”. This is your Universal Credit claim website. You will get messages or “to dos” from your work coach, see your claim amounts, submit your questions and changes, and upload your evidence of work or looking for work on your online “journal”. You must complete the “to dos” sent to you on your journal by your work coach to receive your money.
For more detailed information on all the above visit: www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/
What should you do now to prepare?
- Learn to use the internet on either a computer, a tablet or a smartphone;
- Create an email address for yourself and get used to using it;
- Open a basic bank account (not post office) if you don’t already have one;
- Get used to paying bills by Standing Order or Direct Debit, so you can pay your rent in this way;
- Or download the ALLPAY app to your smartphone, you can use it to pay your rent, or register on the website www.allpayments.net to pay your rent that way instead;
- Save a little bit of money from your current earnings or benefit each payday, so that when you have to wait five weeks to get any Universal Credit money you have some savings to use for essentials. For more advice on saving, click here
- Trying budgeting monthly, imagining how much money you will get per month and spending from that budget each week, so that you realise if you will overspend and run out of money when you have to change to getting monthly pay. See this budget planner for a useful aid to swapping from weekly to monthly budgeting;
- Get debt advice now to help with any debts that will only get worse under Universal Credit. Stepchange can help you get started .
How can Unity help you prepare
Unity holds regular digital inclusion lessons (help with learning the internet), ESOL lessons (help with learning English), a Job Club, help with My Work Search and Universal Jobmatch, all through our Employment Services. They offer a drop in service at Unity Business Centre (Between 11:00am and 1:00pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) or telephone them on 0113 200 7700.
When your claim is active:
- Log in to your journal regularly;
- Inform the Job Centre of any changes to your circumstances using your online journal;
- Record any things you can’t do, problems or questions for your work coach on your journal;
- Remember that the circumstances of other people at home will affect your claim;
- Your money will be worked out according to who is living with you, any disabilities and your rent. Money may then be deducted due to any work you or others do, any other money you receive, any spare bedrooms and to repay advances, loans, arrears and benefit overpayments;
- If you are working the amount of Universal Credit you receive is affected by the amount you are paid from work and the date you are paid (not the date you work);
- You will be paid a month and seven days after you submit your claim, and the same date each month after.
- If your claim goes to £0 due to your earnings increasing, contact the JobCentre to see if you need to re-apply.
Unity will not be able to see or talk about your claim with the Job Centre, so to help you we need you to show us your claim.
If you are on an old benefit and you have no reason to believe you will change benefit yourself, the Department of Work and Pensions may write to you from 2019 to advise you to claim Universal Credit. If you receive such a letter, you should go online to start your UC claim, because your old claim will be closed soon after.
Lastly, there have been many stories in the news about the delay in paying Universal Credit causing lots of debt. For many this is true, which is why it is important that you tell Unity when you apply and that you work with our Income Management Team and Housing Team to help you apply successfully. We can help you get advance payments if you need them, get the housing cost paid correctly and paid to Unity if necessary. However, we cannot do this on your behalf; we can only help you to do it, through your online claim.