What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new Social Security benefit administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It has been introduced gradually across the UK from April 2013, and was rolled out to East Dunbartonshire in December 2015. Universal Credit will combine the current means-tested support for adults of working age, including those with children, into one benefit, but it currently only affects certain groups of people that live in East Dunbartonshire as detailed below. More information is also given in the Universal Credit leaflet in the documents section.
Which benefits will Universal Credit replace?
Once you’ve claimed Universal Credit, any individual benefits that it replaces will stop and you’ll start getting a single Universal Credit payment instead. Universal Credit will replace:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income-based Employment & Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
What about other benefits and other income types?
Universal Credit will not replace:
- Attendance allowance
- Bereavement Benefits
- Carer’s Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Contributory-based Employment and Support Allowance
- Contributory-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Council Tax Reduction
- Disability living allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Maternity Allowance
- Parts of the Social Fund
- Pension Credit
- Personal Independence Payment
- Statutory Maternity Pay
- Statutory Sick Pay
- War Pension
Who will be able to claim?
Anyone of working age, aged 18 or over, including:
- A parent, including a lone parent
- Someone who is ill or disabled
- A carer
- Someone who is unemployed
- Someone who is employed or self employed
Some 16 and 17 year-olds may be able to claim depending on their circumstances.
However, whether you are able to claim will depend on where you live and your personal circumstances. Universal Credit is only available to working age people who meet the conditions to claim. There are different conditions for Universal Credit ‘live service’ and Universal Credit ‘full service’.
Under Universal Credit live service, all single job seekers in East Dunbartonshire could make new claims to Universal Credit from December 2015. However, the Universal Credit live service was closed to new claims from January 2018. New claims can be made for Job Seekers Allowance and Housing Benefit instead, as long as the claimant does not live in a full service area.
Anyone already receiving Universal Credit under the live service conditions will continue to receive it unless they have a change in their circumstances that means they are no longer entitled, or they ask for their claim to be terminated so they can claim other benefits.
Universal Credit full service was introduced in some areas of East Dunbartonshire from November 2016. Full service is available to all people in or out of work, those on low incomes, families (with less than 3 children, until February 2019), and those with disabilities IF they live at an address with a specific postcode that is served by the Kirkintilloch Jobcentre.
This means that those who live at an address with a postcode of G64 4, G66 1, G66 2, G66 3, G66 4, G66 5, G66 7 or G66 8 will claim Universal Credit full service instead of applying for one of the six different types of financial help that it will replace.
To see a map that shows the post code areas in East Dunbartonshire that anyone can claim in.
How can you claim Universal Credit?
Universal Credit can only be claimed if you meet the current criteria set by the DWP. The Jobcentre will inform customers as to whether or not they meet the criteria to claim Universal Credit.
The full list of jobcentres where you can claim Universal Credit is listed by the DWP.
If you live in an area where Universal Credit can be claimed, you can claim Universal Credit online. If you have any questions then you can also call the Universal Credit helpline: live service 0800 328 9344 or full service 0800 328 5644.
The DWP has published information about how to claim Universal Credit.
You should also contact the DWP if your circumstances change and you’re already getting Universal Credit. The Department for Work and Pensions want clients to inform them of any changes in their personal, financial or household circumstances straight away and use the online system wherever possible. If your circumstances change and you are also claiming Council Tax Reduction or Discretionary Housing Payments from the Council then it is your responsibility to tell the Council about these changes as and when they happen.
What will happen to existing benefit and Tax Credit claimants once Universal Credit is introduced?
If you are already in receipt of one of the benefits or Tax Credits that are to be replaced when Universal Credit is introduced, you will continue to receive that benefit or Tax Credit until either your circumstances change or the DWP contact you to transfer your claim across to the new benefit. The process to transfer existing claimants is due to be completed by 2022.
How much will you get?
The amount of Universal Credit you will receive will depend on your family circumstances and on other income you have. If you are eligible, a standard allowance will be paid to you and your partner where applicable (couples must make a joint claim). Additional amounts will be paid according to your family circumstances such as amounts for each child, an amount for a carer or housing costs.
Universal Credit will be capped at a maximum of £384.62 per week (see the Benefit Cap section for more information). This means that where your family’s circumstances incur a total Universal Credit payment of above £384.62 per week, you will only receive the maximum of £384.62. Any shortfall will be reduced from your housing costs and will have to be met by yourself.
Universal Credit will be administered by the DWP and normally paid directly to claimants (one member of a household) on a monthly basis.
Will housing costs be paid directly to landlords?
Previously, Housing Benefit was paid directly to landlords where claimants’ circumstances allowed this. The introduction of Universal Credit will see housing costs included in Universal Credit and normally paid directly to the claimant. It will be the responsibility of the claimant to pay their rent to their landlord (or lender in the case of a mortgage).
If you are having difficulty paying your rent then you should contact your landlord as soon as possible for help and advice. If your Universal Credit payment contains an amount for housing costs then you may also be able to get additional financial assistance from the Council’s Discretionary Housing Payment fund.
For more information about Universal Credit, contact the Citizens Advice Bureau on 0141 775 3220 or the Department for Work and Pensions on 0800 169 0310.