The current complex system of working-age benefits and Tax Credits is being gradually replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit. At present, Universal Credit only affects newly unemployed single people without responsibility for children. People who are in couples or part of a family will not be affected by Universal Credit at this time.
Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work, which merges together some of the benefits and tax credits that you might be getting now.
Universal Credit will replace:
- Income Related Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Related Employment Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
Am I eligible for Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages. Whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances. Universal Credit will be introduced in Peterborough on 14 December 2015. At first, only single people, without responsibility for children, who make a new Jobseekers Allowance application, can claim Universal Credit.
Existing benefit claimants
If you're already claiming any benefits you don't need to do anything. You'll be told when Universal Credit will affect you.
New benefit claimants
To claim Universal Credit you must:
- be of working age and fit for work
- have no children
- not be waiting to hear about a claim or an appeal for Job Seeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or Housing Benefit
There are other certain conditions that may mean you cannot claim Universal Credit. You can check for eligibility for benefits on GOV.UK.
What you need to know about Universal Credit
Universal Credit payments
Universal Credit is paid in the following ways:
- It will be paid monthly into a bank account of your choice.
- If you get help with your rent, this will be included in your monthly payment – you’ll then pay your landlord directly.
- It will take at least 5 or 6 weeks before you get your first payment, but you can ask for an advance payment if you don't have enough money to last that long.
- If your application is successful, you’ll be contacted by the DWP to arrange an interview at a Jobcentre to complete your application. It’s important that you prepare for your interview – read our advice on how you should prepare.
Universal Credit and waiting days
If you make a new claim for Universal Credit you will not be paid for the first seven days. These days are known as waiting days. However, you should not let this delay your claim and apply as soon as you are eligible to do so.
The seven days waiting period won’t apply if you are in certain circumstances, for example if you’re terminally ill or vulnerable, have previously claimed Universal Credit, are splitting up from or moving in with a Universal Credit claimant, or are moving on to it from another benefit.
If you are worried about how you will manage for money until you get paid, you may want to visit Citizens Advice at 16-17 St Marks Street, Peterborough for advice around managing your budget and how to access further support.
How to claim Universal Credit
To claim Universal Credit you will need to apply through the online portal.
You'll be expected to claim Universal Credit online, this means you'll need to have access to a fast stable broadband connection and be able to use the Internet.
If you don't have access to a computer or the internet, you can access computers and Wi-Fi internet in libraries across Peterborough.
If you need help to get online, Central Library will have someone to help you on the following days:
- Tuesday 10am - 1pm
- Wednesday 2pm - 4pm
- Thursday 2pm - 4pm
Alternatively, you can take a beginners course at a UK Online centre. To find a centre near you, visit UK Online Centres or phone 0800 77 1234.
If you can use a computer a little but aren't confident using the internet, try the Online Basics course on Learn My Way. You can do this free course online straight away.
If you're concerned about internet security, go to the Get Safe Online website for information and advice.
Preparing for your Universal Credit interview
You'll need to go to an interview at a Jobcentre to finish your application - this is sometimes called a ‘work search interview’ or ‘claimant commitment interview’.
The interview will be with a member of staff who'll become your 'work coach' while you’re getting Universal Credit. You’ll meet your work coach regularly - they should support you and help you find a job.
The purpose of the interview is to:
- check you are who you say you are
- help you understand how Universal Credit works and what will happen next
- come up with a plan to improve your work situation - eg, to get training or find a job
- arrange what you have to do in return for getting Universal Credit - eg, how many hours you need to spend looking for work - this is called a 'claimant commitment' and you'll have to sign it
- find out if you need any support with budgeting
The interview isn’t an interrogation and you’re not on trial - it’s a two-way conversation between you and your work coach.
What you need to bring to the interview
You’ll have to take documents that prove the details in your online application are correct. These will be copied and given back to you. If you can, contact the Jobcentre in advance to let them know and explain your reasons to them.
You’ll need to provide evidence of:
- your identity, eg passport, driving licence or EEA national identity card. If you don’t have photo ID, the Jobcentre might ask you security questions about yourself and use other evidence to identify you - this may delay your claim as they might reschedule the interview while they carry out checks to confirm your identity
- your address, eg an official letter from a bank or energy company
- your NI number - you can find this on a payslip or a letter from HMRC - call the helpline on 0300 200 3500 (textphone 0300 200 3519) if you can’t find your NI number
- your bank, building society or credit union account, eg a bank statement or bank card - ask your bank for a copy of a statement if you don’t have one (you might have to pay for an extra copy)
- how much rent you pay - this can be found on your rent agreement, ask your landlord or letting agent for a copy if you don’t have one
- your landlord’s address - this can be found on your rent agreement, ask your landlord or letting agent for a copy if you don’t have one
- any savings you have and any other ‘capital’ investments, eg shares or property - you’ll need a bank statement to show your savings or details of property you own
- any income you get that's not from work, eg from a pension or insurance plan
- details of how much you earn from work, eg recent payslips
- how much you pay for childcare (if you want to claim for childcare costs), eg an invoice or receipt
- a P45 if you’ve left work
- any other benefits you’re getting, eg benefits letters or a bank statement
If you can’t provide the right evidence, you should contact the Universal Credit helpline and explain why. You might be able to get more time to get the documents together.
Universal Credit helpline:
Telephone: 0345 600 0723
Textphone: 0345 600 0743
Open Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm
Calls to this number can cost up to 9p a minute from a landline, or between 8p and 40p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay) - you can call and ask them to call you back.
Universal Credit payments
Universal Credit will be paid monthly to one person in the household, usually into your bank or building society account or an account with an alternative provider like a credit union. Further information is available from the Money Advice Service.
Help with housing costs
Any help you get with your rent will be included in your Universal Credit payment and as the tenant you are responsible for paying your rent to your landlord. In some circumstances payments can be made direct to the landlord, for example, when there are rent arrears or threat of eviction or you find it difficult to manage payments.
Information about what Universal Credit means for Landlords is available from GOV.UK.
Help with Council Tax
Help with Council Tax is not included in your Universal Credit payment. The Department for Work and Pensions will no longer accept a claim for Council Tax Support at the same time as you claim Universal Credit. You must apply for council tax support through the council's Revenues and Benefits Service, and provide any evidence needed to support your claim.
Further help and advice
The Universal Credit online planning tool is provided by GOV.UK and can help you to prepare for making a claim for Universal Credit. By providing answers to some basic questions, it will tell you how ready you are for Universal Credit, it will also provide advice on what you need to do next and the best sources of advice on offer.
Further information and advice is also available from the Money Advice Service.
Getting help and advice can make all the difference to managing your money. We are working with the Department for Work and Pensions along with other organisations, including the Citizens Advice Bureau, to make sure that you have access to the right support when you need it. The Peterborough Community Assistance Scheme supports people facing hardship and requiring urgent assistance, the scheme provides advice on helping you to manage your money better. Contact the Peterborough Citizen’s Advice Bureau to find out more.