From March 1, 2020 to May 26, 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has received more than 3 million individual claims for Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is a payment intended to help people out of work or on a low income with living costs.
It’s replacing six legacy benefits including Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Working Tax Credit.
And as the furlough scheme winds down in October, more people are expected to apply as job losses become widespread across the country.
Almost nine million workers – including over 628,000 Scots – are on furlough across the UK, with the state paying for up to 80 per cent of an employee’s salary while they stay at home.
And money-saving expert, Martin Lewis, predicts that up to a million people could be facing redundancy.
He said: “I’m afraid to say, due to the change in furlough coming on August 1, I think hundreds of thousands of people – possibly a million – could face redundancy in the next six weeks.”
Which means more financial uncertainty for many households across Scotland and for anyone who has never applied for government assistance before it can seem a bit daunting and confusing, but fortunately, eligibility for Universal Credit is straightforward and applying online doesn’t take that long.
There’s no need to call the hotline during the application process either, if there are any queries with your claim, someone will get in touch either by phone or the online portal.
This should also speed up your claim and in turn, get your first payment issued faster – it can take up to five weeks.
But you can also ask for an advance on the day you apply and pay it back over a 12-month period.
Here’s everything you need to know about applying, how much you can get and links to free online calculators that can work out exactly what your entitlement is.
How to claim Universal Credit
The UK Government says a person may be able to get Universal Credit if:
You’re on a low income or out of work
You’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
You’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)
You and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
You live in the UK
If you live with your partner their income and savings will be taken into account, even if they are not eligible for Universal Credit.
It’s worth noting that you won’t be able to get any of the means-tested benefits if your capital and savings amount to more than the upper limit of £16,000.
However, your savings and capital (or your partner’s savings, capital and income) are not taken into account when claiming ‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and this particular benefit can be obtained at the same time as Universal Credit – or on its own.
‘New Style’ JSA is a contribution-based benefit. This means you may be able to get it if you’ve paid enough National Insurance (NI) contributions in the two full tax years before the year you’re claiming in.
It’s paid fortnightly and if you qualify, you can get ‘New Style’ JSA for up to 182 days.
If you qualify for both ‘New Style’ JSA and Universal Credit, any ‘New Style’ JSA you receive will be taken into account as income for Universal Credit.
To make a claim for Universal Credit, visit the gov.uk webpsite here.
How much will you get?
Universal Credit has undergone significant changes as a result of both the coronavirus pandemic and the new 2020/2021 tax year.
The UK Government has placed a £1,000 per year boost on the benefit to help those struggling during the crisis, in addition to the 1.7 per cent increase because of the new tax year.
Different people are entitled to different amounts, however, the UK Government has provided a chart on standard allowances for certain groups.
Be aware that you have to apply as a couple if you and your partner live together – you do not need to be married.
What you’ll get paid each month
- For those who are single and 25 or over – £409.89
- For those single and under 25 – £342.72
- For those in a couple where either are 25 or over – £594.04 (for you both)
- For those in a couple where either are under 25 – £488.59 (for you both)
Extra amounts you may be entitled to
You may get more money on top of your standard allowance if you have children or a disability.
If you have children
If you have one or two children, you’ll get an extra amount for each child.
If you have three or more children, you’ll get an extra amount for at least two children.
You can only get an extra amount for more children if any of the following are true:
- Your children were born before 6 April 2017
- You were already claiming for 3 or more children before 6 April 2017
How much you’ll get:
- For your first child – £281.25 (born before 6 April 2017), £235.83 (born on or after 6 April 2017)
- For your second child and any other eligible children – £235.83 per child
- If you have a disabled or severely disabled child – £128.25 or £400.29
- If you need help with childcare costs – up to 85 per cent of your costs (up to £646.35 for one child and £1,108.04 for 2 or more children)
If you have a disability or health condition
How much you’ll get:
If you have limited capability for work and work-related activity – £341.92 extra per month
If you have limited capability for work and you started your health-related Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claim before 3 April 2017 – £128.25 extra per month
If you care for a severely disabled person
How much you’ll get
If you provide care for at least 35 hours a week for a severely disabled person who receives a disability-related benefit – £162.92 extra per month.
What if you have a job?
There is no limit to how many hours you can work while claiming Universal Credit, but only people on a low income are eligible, and this threshold depends on individual circumstances.
The amount a working person receives is dependent on how much they earn.
It reduces as someone earns more – for each £1 a claimant earns in their job, their payment will reduce by 63p, with the aim being that their payments will gradually reduce until they are financially independent.
That is, unless the person is eligible for a Work Allowance, which includes those who have responsibility for a child and those whose working ability is affected by a disability or health condition.
In these circumstances, they will be able to earn up to a set amount without their benefits being affected.
The set amount is £292 per month for people who already have extra help to cover housing costs, and £512 per month for people who do not.
For anything they earn above that amount, the £1 to 63p rule will apply.
You could get money to help pay your housing costs. How much you get depends on your age and circumstances, but the payment can cover rent and some service charges.
If you’re a homeowner, you might be able to get a loan to help with interest payments on your mortgage or other loans you’ve taken out for your home.
What documents you need to apply for Universal Credit
Your bank, building society or credit union account details
An email address
Information about your housing, for example how much rent you pay
Details of your income, for example payslips
Details of savings and any investments, like shares or a property that you rent out
Details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs
If you don’t provide the right information when you apply it might affect when you get paid or how much you get.
Verifying your identity online
You’ll need some proof of identity for this, for example your:
Debit or credit card
To make a claim for Universal Credit, visit the gov.uk webpsite here.
You can also use an independent benefits calculator to find out:
These are free to use, anonymous, and have replaced the Benefits Adviser service.
Turn2us – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours
Policy in Practice – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit, how these are calculated and how your benefits will be affected if you start work or change your working hours
entitledto – for information on income-related benefits, tax credits, contribution-based benefits, Council Tax Reduction, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit and how your benefits will be affected if you start work
What you’ll need
You’ll need accurate information about your:
Income, including your partner’s
Existing benefits and pensions (including anyone living with you)
Outgoings (such as rent, mortgage, childcare payments)
Council Tax bill
For more information about Universal Credit, visit the gov.uk website here.
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