Universal Credit

Universal Credit is being introduced in Surrey Heath from 28 November 2018 and is a significant change to the Welfare Benefits system for working age claimants. It is a single monthly payment and will replace the following benefits:

  • Income-based Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits

Who can claim Universal Credit?

If you currently receive any of the above benefits you will not get Universal Credit at the same time. Your current benefit payments will continue until you are migrated to Universal Credit. You do not need to claim Universal Credit until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advise you to.

You will need to make a Universal Credit claim if you are starting a new claim or have a significant change of circumstance to one of your current benefits.

For a comprehensive guide to Universal Credits including how to claim, how you are paid and what you may be entitled to go to https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

What is different about Universal Credit?

Universal Credit will be a single payment each month on the same day, rather than weekly or fortnightly. Your rent will usually be paid directly to you as part of this instead of you getting a separate housing benefit payment sent to your landlord.

Your single Universal Credit payment will be paid directly into your bank, building society, Post Office or credit union account. It is important that you budget for such changes and ensure that your rent is kept up to date, as well as priority payments such as your Council Tax and utilities. You will need to manage your account online including updating information online if you work. Your payment will be adjusted if necessary.

It usually takes 6 weeks from when your old benefits stop and you get your first Universal Credit payment and you will receive an additional 2 weeks Housing Benefit at your full eligible rent level to assist you with your transition into Universal Credits. You can ask for an advance payment when you visit the Job Centre for the first time if you don’t think you’ll have enough money to live on while you wait for your first payment.

If you're already claiming any benefits that will be combined into Universal Credit, you don't need to do anything unless you have a significant change or need to claim one of these benefits. The DWP will also contact you when Universal Credit will affect you.

How to apply for Universal Credit

If you are eligible to receive Universal Credit, you will need to apply online using the steps below.

  1. Set up an online account at www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. You will need an email address to apply. You can do this from your smartphone, desktop computer or tablet. You will need your National Insurance number, housing information such as amount of your rent, income and savings, childcare situation and if you are in receipt of any other benefits.
  2. You will be required to verify your identity which can be done using the following link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/introducing-govuk-verify/introducing-govuk-verify. Use your account to start a claim. If you experience difficulties with this you can go back to your Universal Credit account and click on “I can’t do this online” which will advise you how you can confirm your identity at the Job Centre instead.

Support with Universal Credit

Citizens Advice Surrey Heath can offer free and confidential advice to assist you to register an online account, complete an application, manage your money, as well as assist with the management of any ongoing claims. This is called Universal Support service.

To contact Citizens Advice Surrey Heath call 03444 111 444, or visit www.citizensadvicesurreyheath.org.uk/contact-us/

You can also get advice by calling the Universal Credit Service Helpline on 0800 328 5644.

For more information about Universal Credit visit www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk.

Extra help towards your rent

Sometimes the Housing Element of Universal Credit may not be enough for you to pay your rent.

The Discretionary Housing Payment scheme may be able to help you. Each application we receive will be considered on its own merits. Payments are made at our discretion if we believe you need extra short-term financial support.

Information for landlords

The move to tenants receiving monthly household payments that include the Housing Costs Element of Universal Credit is a significant change compared to the separate Housing Benefit payments that have previously been paid.

Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) have been introduced to provide extra help for tenants:

  • where there's a risk of financial harm to the claimant or their family; or
  • In order to safeguard the claimant's home
  • APAs can be considered at any point during the life of a Universal Credit claim and can be requested by the claimant, their representative or the landlord. An APA can be made when:
  • a claimant has rent arrears totaling at least two month's rent
  • a claimant has continually underpaid their rent over a period of time and they currently have at least one month of arrears

Further information can be found on the GOV.UK website on what Universal Credit means for Private Landlords and Housing Associations and applying for an APA.