Universal Credit is in the process of replacing everyone’s benefits. This process is proving to be an agonisingly slow one, and those that have been on benefits for a while may find that they are still receiving their different types of benefits, rather than one big Universal Credit payment. Whilst they may be switched over sometime in the near future, there have been so many scuppered plans for the complete switch over to Universal Credit since it was first introduced in 2013, it is looking like it could be 2018 before the changeover is completely in place. If you are new to benefits, however, and have applied recently, or are about to apply, then you will be put straight onto a Universal Credit payment plan, which will see monthly payments go into your bank account as opposed to the weekly payments of previous means-tested benefits such as Job Seeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit. If you are struggling and are looking to apply for Universal Credit ASAP, here’s how to know if you qualify.
What is it?
Universal Credit is designed for those that are on a low income or are out of work completely. You may be eligible to claim Universal Credit both if you are single or part of a couple – there are payments available for each. Because the Universal Credit payments are happening in stages, it very much depends on your area as to whether you will be able to claim it or not. You can look online at the Government website or call the contact number to see whether your postcode is in the available areas. If you are claiming as part of a couple, or are living in a household with another adult, you will be treated as connected, even if only one of you is eligible to claim. You are considered as a single claimant if you are married or in a civil partnership with the person that you are living with, or if you consider them a partner even if you are not married to them. A single payment that covers you both will be received monthly if you are living with a partner.
You can use your Universal Credit towards a number of things, and the benefits that it will replace are; income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance and income-related employment and support allowances – these include; Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, and Housing Benefit. This means that payments will go towards things such as paying rent. Whereas before, your Housing Benefit used to go on paying your rent, you will now have to arrange to pay your Housing Benefit yourself, using your monthly payment. You Universal Credit payments will reduce gradually as you earn more and there are no limits on the number of hours you can work a week if you are a claimant of Universal Credit. There are websites that you can visit that will give you advice on budgeting, planning and saving when you begin to receive Universal Credit as your payment will have to last you for the month.
How Do I Qualify?
To qualify for the payments whether you are single or in a marriage or partnership then you must be a British citizen who has not left the UK for a continuous period of more than four weeks in the past two years, be aged between 18 and 60 and have been registered with a National Insurance number. The DWP will also look to see whether or not the claimant has their own bank account or equivalent such as a post office account or building society account. You must be able to act alone and not need an appointee or another person to act on your behalf during the claim and if you have any children in your care, you will not be eligible to receive Universal Credit if you are claiming Disability Living Allowance on their behalf.
You will also not qualify for Universal Credit if you have been pregnant in the last fifteen weeks or are pregnant at the moment and you must be fit for work – although you will not qualify if you are self-employed. If you are applying as part of a partnership, you will only be eligible to receive payment if you are taking home less than £541 per month between you. You also cannot be in full-time education or training and have savings that amount to £16, 000 or more. If you have savings of over £6, 000 you will again, receive less Universal Credit than those that don’t. If you already get benefit payments for the things listed above, you cannot apply for Universal Credit. Your benefits will be switched over as and when the time comes, and you will be informed before this happens by letter from the DWP. For further eligibility information, you can call the Universal Credit contact number.
Claiming Universal Credit is simple and can be done online via the Government website. Somebody will be in touch once you have filled out the application form and you may be required to attend an interview that will be held at your local Job Centre Plus. If your application is successful, you will receive your first Universal Credit payment after around six weeks. Along with your first monthly payment, you will receive a statement confirming your pay dates from now on, how much you are going to receive and what bank account it is going to be paid into. An advance payment can be requested if you do not have enough money to live off while your Universal Credit application is being processed which will then be repaid through your Universal Credit payments (you will receive lower amounts until your advanced payment has been paid back).