We've pulled together a list of frequently asked questions relating to universal credit.

  1. When will universal credit start?
  2. My housing benefit currently gets paid to my landlord, will this change? mark and jane
  3. How will universal credit be paid
  4. How much universal credit will I get?
  5. Do I have to have a bank account?
  6. How can I claim universal credit?
  7. What information will i need for my claim?
  8. What is the 'Claimant Commitment Form'?
  9. How does UC affect housing costs for under 22 years old?
  10. How will UC affect my free NHS Prescriptions?

 

When will universal credit start?

Universal Credit went live in selected areas in April 2013 and is only available to certain claimants in the most simple of circumstances.  There is a long list of conditions dependant on the area in order to be eligible for UC so many claimants have found they have not been able to get UC but can claim the ‘usual’ legacy benefits.

From May 2016 a digital service is being rolled out in certain areas and there will be no restrictions on who can claim.  As it is rolled out nationally there will be no new claims for existing benefits.  The full rollout is expected to be completed by 2021. If you already receive one of the benefits universal credit is due to replace, you will continue to do so until you are told you need to claim universal credit instead. This change will take several years to complete, so it could be a long time before it is your turn.  

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In most cases, any financial support you get to help pay your rent will be included in your universal credit award, and paid to you on a monthly basis. Therefore, it will be your responsibility to pay the rent to your landlord yourself.

However, if you have rent arrears of two months or more, your landlord can request that an amount is deducted from your universal credit award and paid directly to them. This may not, however, cover your full rent and therefore you would still be required to make up the shortfall to your landlord.  

If you feel that you will have difficulties with paying your rent and are worried about falling into arrears, you can ask the DWP to make an ‘alternative payment arrangement’. This is where the DWP pay an amount out of your universal credit award to your landlord, with any remaining entitlement paid to you. This may not, however, cover your full rent and under these circumstances you would still be required to pay the shortfall to your landlord.

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How will universal credit be paid?

Universal credit will be paid once a month into your chosen personal account. Universal credit will only be paid as a single payment, so if you have a partner, and you have more than one account, you will need to choose which account it is paid into. Your first payment will be made one calendar month and 7 days after the date that you made the claim and then monthly after that.

If you think you will find it difficult to manage while waiting for this first payment you can ask the DWP for an advance payment. This will be paid back out of your future universal credit payments. Some claimants, can get their universal credit payments split and paid twice a month, but you would have to apply to the DWP for this and provide and explain the reason why you would not be able to manage receiving monthly payments. 

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How much universal credit will I get?

Universal credit is a ‘family’ benefit. This means that what you are entitled to will depend on the circumstances of you, your partner and any dependent children. Most claimants will receive a similar amount of universal credit to the amount they received from the benefits that it is replacing. But the rules are different and this means that: 

  • Some people who cannot claim one of the six benefits it is replacing could claim universal credit
  • Some people will be better off under universal credit
  • Some people may be worse off, although many will be entitled to have their current level of benefits protected for a while

 Please talk to our income services team on 0345 305 5335 or email incomeservices@jjhousing.co.uk.

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Do I have to have a bank account?

You will need an account for universal credit to be paid into, however UC can be paid into several different types of accounts. For more information on choosing an account please read our Basic Bank Accounts Guide.pdf [pdf] 281KB. You can also visit the money advice service.

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How can I claim universal credit?

You will need to apply online via the internet. This applies to someone making a new claim as well as someone moving onto universal credit from one of the benefits it is replacing. If you don’t have access to the internet at home, you will be able to use the computers at your local Jobcentre, community centre, library or local council offices to make the application. 

If you need help making your claim online you can get advice at your Jobcentre, local council, or you can get help over the phone via the UC helpline on 0345 600 4272 (please not this is not currently free of charge and can be expensive from a mobile phones).

Alternatively you can contact our income services team for help and support on 0345 305 5335 or email incomeservices@jjhousing.co.uk.

It is extremely important that you report any changes to your circumstances on line or via the helpline immediately. This could be a new job, changes in your household or a rent increase for example.

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What information will i need for my claim?

Make sure you have the following information:

Checklist
tick 

National insurance number for you and your partners

tick Your postcode
tick

Your eligible rent if you are living in social housing, this can be different from your full rent. Make sure to check with your landlord, so you get paid the right amount

tick Details of any children, relatives or friends who live with you including their name, date of birth, age and income
tick Your landlords name and address tick Details of any savings
tick Account details of where you want your universal credit to be paid tick Estimated gross wage (if you're working)
tick Details of any other income you receive tick Your contact details

Once you’ve made your claim, most people will have to go to the Jobcentre for an interview, to sign their ‘claimant commitment’, to provide documents and to discuss your personal budgeting needs. 

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What is the 'Claimant Commitment Form'?

To claim universal credit, you and your partner (if applicable) will need to agree and sign a 'Claimant Commitment Form'.

This will outline what you (and your partner) need to do in order to be paid, and continue to receive, your full universal credit award. If you are fit enough to work you will need to look for work, most people fit enough to work will be expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work. Some people, i.e. those with children under 13, will not be expected to spend as much time looking for work. And some, i.e.  those with a child under one, who are unfit for work or certain carers, will not be expected to do any work search. Part-time and lower paid workers will also have to show they are looking for more hours or higher paid work.

Failing to keep to your claimant commitment will mean losing some of your universal credit for a period of time, this is called a sanction.

Hardship payments will be available to some people faced by such a sanction but this is a loan that will need to be repaid.

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How does UC affect housing costs for under 22 years old?

From 1st April a small proportion of young people aged 18-21 will be excluded from having a housing costs element included in their full digital service universal credit award.

This does not affect anyone on housing benefit.  It is only the universal credit regulations that are being changed and only for new claims made after 1 April 2017 or for claimants on the full digital service.

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How will UC affect my free NHS Prescriptions?

Not everyone getting Universal Credit is entitled to free prescriptions. You’re only entitled if your earnings during your last assessment period were:

  • £435 or less
  • £935 or less if your Universal Credit includes a payment for a child or you have limited capability for work or work-related activity

'Last assessment period’ means the assessment period that ended immediately before the date you claim free prescriptions.

If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, the earnings limit applies to the joint income of you and your partner. Your earnings are shown on your statement as 'Your total take-home pay for this period'.

If you’re entitled to free prescriptions through Universal Credit, you must tick the income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance box on the back of your prescription.
A tick box for Universal Credit, will be added to the form soon.

For more information on who can claim free prescriptions and how to apply for help with NHS charges, visit www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/healthcosts

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