Universal Credit – Frequently Asked Questions
Here is a list of the questions we are frequently asked about Universal Credit:
When Will Universal Credit Start?
My Housing Benefit Currently Gets Paid To My Landlord - Will This Change?
How And When Will Universal Credit Be Paid?
How Much Universal Credit Will I Get?
Do I Have To Have A Bank Account
What’s Best For Me?
How Will I Claim Universal Credit?
What Information Do I Need Before I Make A Claim?
Question - WHEN WILL UNIVERSAL CREDIT START?
Universal Credit is being rolled-out in the Tayside area from November 2015. It will initially only affect single people who are looking for work but will gradually be rolled-out to couples and families with children.
If you already receive one of the benefits Universal Credit is due to replace, you will continue to do so as normal until you are told you need to claim Universal Credit instead. This change will likely take several years to complete – so it could be a long time before it is your turn.
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Question - MY HOUSING BENEFIT GETS PAID TO MY LANDLORD - WILL THIS CHANGE?
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. You’ll then pay your full rent to your landlord yourself.
However, if you are two months or more in arrears with your rent, your landlord can request that an amount be taken out of your Universal Credit award and paid directly to them. This may not, however, cover your full rent and there may be a shortfall for you to pay.
If you feel that you would be unable to cope with paying your rent and are worried about falling into arrears, you can ask the DWP to consider you for ‘alternative payment arrangements’. 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 there may be a shortfall for you to pay.
Micah and her baby get Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit. At some point in 2016 she is told she has to claim Universal Credit. Her Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit stop. Instead she gets the same amount of money paid into her Basic Bank account. She pays her rent and other bills by direct debit. Her Child Benefit carries on being paid as usual.
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Question - HOW AND WHEN WILL UNIVERSAL CREDIT BE PAID?
Universal Credit will be paid once a month into an account that you choose. Universal Credit can 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 up to 14 days after your date of claim and then calendar 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 people, rather than having monthly payments, can get the amount split and paid twice a month - but you will have to ask for this and explain why you cannot manage monthly payments.
Sam transfers onto Universal Credit in 2016. He has a number of debts and so asks the DWP for an advance payment and to be paid twice a month. The DWP agree to his request – to ensure that he does not fall behind with his repayments. They will review his case in 3 months.
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Question - HOW MUCH UNIVERSAL CREDIT WILL I GET?
Universal Credit is a ‘family’ benefit. This means how much you receive depends on your, your partner’s and any dependent children’s personal circumstances i.e.... being unfit for work, your housing costs, how many children you have, whether any of your children are disabled and so on, as well as certain income you already have coming in.
Most people will receive a similar level of Universal Credit to the amount they receive 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 Sandie Fitzpatrick or Kerry Brown on 0345 177 2244 for further details.
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Question - dO I HAVE TO HAVE A BANK ACCOUNT?
No. You will need an account for Universal Credit to be paid into, but Universal Credit can be paid into several different types of account. Universal Credit can be paid into a:
- Post Office® card account - this is a type of account specifically designed for receiving benefits. It can only be accessed at a Post Office during opening hours, and does not allow Direct Debits or standing orders to pay rent or bills.
- Basic Bank Account - this allows you to have many of the same features as a current account without going overdrawn. Most allow Direct Debits and standing orders.
- Credit Union Current Account - many Credit Unions offer a current account where benefits and wages can be paid in, direct debits and standing orders can be arranged, and other banking facilities are available such as ‘jam jar’ accounts – see below.
- ‘Jam jar’ account (also called a budgeting account) - this is a new type of account that divides your money into several ‘pots’ so you can keep money to pay bills separate from your spending money. It often has a monthly fee.
- Current Account - this could be with a bank or building society. This type of account has the widest range of facilities, but you will normally need to pass a credit check to open one. And unlike ‘basic’ accounts you can become overdrawn and face charges.
- Prepaid Card Account - a card you can pay your Universal Credit onto. You can use the card to pay in shops, but you won’t be able to set up direct debits or standing orders for bills or rent. You may be charged to set up the card, to receive payments, or use cash machines.
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Question - WHAT’S BEST FOR ME?
The best type of account will depend on exactly how you wish to use it. For example, if you want to ensure your rent is paid and you have access to your money at any time of the day but don’t want to risk going overdrawn, then it may be best to have a basic bank account. If you want to be able to put your income into various ‘pots’ to ensure your bills are paid then maybe a ‘jam jar’ account is best.
For more information on choosing an account, speak to a Benefits Adviser or take a look at the Money Advice Service website: moneyadviceservice.co.uk
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Question - HOW WILL I CLAIM UNIVERSAL CREDIT?
You will apply online - on the internet. This applies to someone making a new claim for Universal Credit 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 Job Centre, a local 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 Job Centre, or from your local council, or you can get help over the phone (the Universal Credit helpline number is not currently free of charge and can be expensive from a mobile phone- so ask the DWP to call you back).
You will need to report any changes online (or via the helpline)- such as losing or getting a job, changes in your household, a rent increase.
If you do not feel confident using a computer, or don’t have access to the internet Don’t Worry! Help is available. Sandie Fitzpatrick or Kerry Brown, our Welfare Reform Officers will be contacting all of our tenants to make sure you get all the help you need.
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Question - wHAT INFORMATION DO I NEED BEFORE I MAKE A CLAIM?
At present you cannot save your claim and come back later. Therefore you’ll need to have all of your information to hand before your start your claim. You will need:
- Your (and your partner’s) National Insurance number.
- Your postcode.
- Your landlord’s name and address.
- 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.
- Details of any children / relatives / friends who live with you including their name, date of birth, age and income.
- Account details of where you want your Universal Credit to be paid - account number and sort code.
- Details of any savings.
- If working - your estimated gross wage.
- Details of any other income you receive.
- Your email address, landline and / or mobile phone number.
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