What is Universal Credit – And Can I Claim It?
There’s been something of a shake-up to the British welfare system over the past few years, and, understandably, many people on benefits are confused as to what happens next! Universal Credit is a benefits package that’s swept in over the last decade to simplify and replace many existing (‘legacy’) payment schemes.
But what exactly is Universal Credit, anyway – and are you entitled to it?
Universal Credit – In Brief
Universal Credit is a monthly benefit paid to eligible recipients across the UK – with some residents in Scotland being eligible for two payments each month. It’s generally available to people over 18 years of age.
Does Universal Credit Replace Other UK Benefits?
Universal Credit was rolled out to help streamline traditional benefits in the British welfare system such as income support, child tax credit, jobseeker’s allowance (income-based), working tax credits, employment and support allowance (income-based) and housing benefits.
Some people already registered for benefits will continue to receive the above – but, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is working to migrate recipients on a case-by-case basis gradually.
Will I Have to Change Over to Universal Credit?
Eventually, yes – you’ll need to ‘migrate’ over to Universal Credit when you receive notice in writing. You’ll also need to set up on UC if you need to make any changes to existing benefits listed above. That even includes if you need to change your residential address – so keep it in mind!
You’ll also stop getting the phased-out benefits if your partner claims Universal Credit – and pension credit will also cease in this regard.
Am I Eligible for Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is designed for UK citizens who have low income, whether through being unable to work or who are seeking employment between jobs. As mentioned, they’ll need to be over 18 years of age but not old enough to seek a state pension. You’ll also need less than £16,000 in savings, any available money or investments.
Remember that the more you work, the less UC you’ll be entitled to. This means for each £1 you make, 55p will be deducted from your total monthly amount due. This may change from year to year.
You’ll need to apply with your partner if you live together, and that also applies if they’re ineligible for the benefit. If you claim and you’re from or live in the European Union, Switzerland, or European Economic Area, you may need to gain ‘settled status’ from the government.
Can I Claim Universal Credit if I’m 16 Years Old?
While the typical rule is that you can’t claim Universal Credit if you’re younger than 18, some exceptions can apply. These include if you’re caring for a disabled person, if you have your own child or are pregnant (due to give birth in 11 weeks or less), or if you lack parental support. Other circumstances vary, so it’s worth consulting the DWP for advice.
How Much Could I Get From Universal Credit?
The amount of Universal Credit you could receive each month depends on your age and status. The lowest you’ll receive is if you’re single and younger than 25 years old – while the highest will apply to claimants older than 25 and who live with their partner. The actual amounts you’ll be due from UC may change from year to year, so do make sure to check GOV UK for the latest advice.
You can claim extra money for your children if they’re younger than five years old (typically), though these rules are subject to change. You could also claim back a maximum of 85% of childcare fees if you’re actively working – again, these rates may change, so keep up to date with GOV UK for more details.
Disabled claimants may also receive extra monthly payments on a case-by-case basis – and the same may apply if you care for someone registered as severely disabled, too.
What Might Affect the Amount of Universal Credit I Receive?
If you’re in full-time work, be prepared to reduce a small amount of your Universal Credit for each £1 you receive – the latest stats are available at GOV UK. Other factors that can reduce the amount you’re due include any outstanding debt you may have for power bills, council tax, or if you owe fines to the court. If you’re behind on child maintenance payments, too, they will further affect your potential for Universal Credit.
A threshold in place can dictate how much you can earn before Universal Credit starts to get reduced – be sure to discuss this with a DWP advisor.
Is It Easy to Claim Universal Credit?
The government recently made it easier to apply for UC online, meaning you’ll need to fill out details about your income, savings etc. through a web form. Be prepared for claims to take some time to go through – you may be entitled to an advance payment while your claim first processes, but you’ll need to pay this back.
If you need help claiming Universal Credit, there’s an official helpline you can call (0800 328 5644) – or, there’s a ‘help to claim’ service that can guide you through your first application. It’s also a good idea to speak to services such as Citizens Advice, who may be able to point you in the direction of an alternative benefit solution where appropriate.
Is It Worth Claiming Universal Credit?
That really depends on your circumstances – this benefit is means-tested and regularly reviewed, and it exists to support people who are struggling to make ends meet between jobs or who are unable to. It’s worth using an online benefits calculator to work out what you may be entitled to – and what other options exist that may be more suitable.
Alternatively, why not speak to a financial advisor if you’re worried about making ends meet? It’s never been more straightforward to take charge of your money – and plenty of options are available if you’re starting to worry. Don’t let money worries get you down – support is available if you know the right places to look.
If you’re slightly over the threshold for universal credit and need a short term loan now, LoanBird has you covered! Don’t worry if you have a pretty bad credit score either, as we have direct payday loan lenders that specialise in subaverage credit. Apply with us today to check your eligibility.