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Universal Credit

As you may know, the government began introducing a number of reforms to our welfare system in 2013; this process is still ongoing today and is not expected to be fully rolled out until 2022.

It is important that you know what changes are happening and how they will affect you. Some of these changes may make it more difficult for you to pay your rent. Paying your rent is your responsibility but we are here to help you if you are having any money worries or if you need help and support in understanding the changes

To help you understand how these changes will affect you, we have prepared the following information and guides for you.

If you can't find the answer to your question, or you want to discuss this in more detail then please contact your Income Advisor on 03332 404 444.

For information on the following, please see below:

  • Universal Credit
  • Preparing for Universal Credit
  • Digital Universal Credit
  • Under-occupation deduction (Bedroom tax)
  • Universal Credit

    Universal Credit is a new benefit that is being rolled out across the UK for people of working age (over 18 and under pension credit age 60 years and 6 months) whether you are in or out of work. It has already been introduced in King's Lynn and West Norfolk, and will continue to roll out until 2022.

    Universal Credit is replacing these benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • How

    Universal Credit is paid in one lump sum on a monthly basis and will be paid directly to you.

  • You will get paid on the same date every month (if this date falls on a weekend or bank holiday you will be paid on the Friday prior). There will be a basic rate for all claimants called the 'standard allowance' and extra amounts for people in different circumstances - for example if they have children, a disability or need help with housing costs.

  • You can only claim Universal Credit online.

  • You will be expected to claim Universal Credit online at www.gov.uk/universal-credit
  • There is also a helpful video that can be found here, about how to make a claim for Universal Credit.

  • Throughout 2018, claims will be moved across to the 'Full/Digital' service; this will be depend one which jobcentre you fall under in West Norfolk. This will be rolled out as follows:

  • Properties under the Dereham jobcentre service - June 2018
  • Properties under the Thetford jobcentre service - September 2018
  • Properties under the Wisbech jobcentre service - September 2018
  • Properties under the King's Lynn jobcentre service - November 2018

  • From these dates, depending on where you live, you will be expected to manage your Universal Credit claim through an online account to personally access your claim.

  • Important note - The online claim form asks "Do you pay rent?" This means "Are you liable to pay rent?" the answer will always be yes if you/your partner has a tenancy, even if you've not actually been paying us any rent because Housing Benefit has been paying for it.
  • You will be responsible for paying your own rent.

  • Your monthly Universal Credit payment will include your Housing Costs element to help you to pay your rent. Housing Costs are not paid separately like Housing Benefit and usually all of the Universal Credit payment is paid straight to you so you have to pay your rent out of this money.
  • Important note - The online claim form asks how much rent you pay. This is the full rent you are charged - not the shortfall you've been paying if you have been getting partial Housing Benefit. If you don't know how much rent you are paying please ask us before you complete your claim.

  • You will need a bank account to receive Universal Credit

  • Your monthly Universal Credit payment will be paid into a bank, building society or credit union account. If you have a joint Universal Credit claim you will need to decide who's bank account will be used to receive the payments, or maybe think about opening a joint account.
  • If you need help to open a bank account please see our bank account help guide.
  • Important - Universal Credit does not include help with your Council Tax. You must claim Council Tax Support separately from your local council.

    How

    Although you will receive all or part of your Universal Credit payment every month, you are still required to pay your rent in line with the terms of your tenancy agreement.

    It is important that you answer the questions on your claim form about your rent correctly. If you guess or submit incorrect information then you might not get all (or any!) of your Housing Costs paid as part of your Universal Credit claim.

    When you first claim for Universal Credit your first payment will not be made until at least five weeks after you submit your claim. During this time you can apply for an advance by calling the Department for Work and Pensions on 0800 3289 344. This advance will then be taken back out of future Universal Credit payments.

    The easiest way to manage your rent payments is to pay by Direct Debit. We can set your Direct Debit up for payment on any date of the month; contact us to set up a Direct Debit over the phone or in person at our offices. Your Direct Debit can be set up for the same date as your Universal Credit payment date.

    You can also pay your rent at our offices, over the phone, online, Allpay App, by Standing Order, or by using your Allpay card at the Post Office or paypoint outlet. See the ways to pay rent page for more information.

    How

    Every claim gets reassessed once a month, at the end of your 'monthly assessment period'. Your 'monthly assessment period' is dictated by the date of your original claim, and the amount of Universal Credit you receive each month is determined by your circumstances on the last day of your 'monthly assessment period'. You will receive your payment 7 days after the end of your 'monthly asessment period'.

    If you or your partner is working, your wages information will be collected from HMRC. You do not need to provide any income details, unless you are self-employed or you are specifically asked to provide these by the Department for Work and Pensions. More information on how much you'll receive, can be found here.

    This video explains how Universal Credit can top up your earnings and help you with childcare costs, no matter how many hours a week you work, whether it is full-time, part-time or temporary work.

    If you have any non-dependents living with you a fixed amount of £72.16 per month will be deducted from your Housing Costs for each non-dependent who is living with you and is age 21 or over, regardless of their income. This is called a Housing Cost Contribution. There are some exclusions to this. For further information talk to your Income Advisor or take a look here

    When

    Universal Credit is already here and is being phased across different areas of the country. Currently West Norfolk is on the "Live/Gateway" service. The rollout of Universal Credit in this area is currently suspended, with no new Universal Credit claims being accepted between January and November 2018. Those already claiming Universal Credit will remain on it.

    Throughout 2018, claims will be moved across to the 'Full/Digital' service; this will be depend one which jobcentre you fall under in West Norfolk. This will be rolled out as follows:

  • Properties under the Dereham jobcentre service - June 2018
  • Properties under the Thetford jobcentre service - September 2018
  • Properties under the Wisbech jobcentre service - September 2018
  • Properties under the King's Lynn jobcentre service - November 2018

  • Once each area moves onto the 'Full/Digital' service there will be no restrictions on who can claim.

    The change in circumstance table here gives examples of changes in circumstances and whether these mean you will complete a new claim for Universal Credit or remain on your existing legacy benefits. Please note that if these changes occur while your area is still on the “Live/Gateway” service then you will remain on your existing legacy benefits. New claims for Universal Credit will only be allowed in “Full/Digital” Universal Credit areas.

    If you are already receiving any of the benefits which are being replaced by Universal Credit and you continue to be entitled to these, you may not need to claim for Universal Credit until the 'migration stage', sometime between 2019 and 2022. The DWP will contact you to tell you when you need to apply for Universal Credit.

    When the 'Full/Digitial' service comes to our area, you can choose to move onto Universal Credit from your existing benefits should you wish to - you do not need to wait for a change in circumstances to occur before you have to. If you want any advice on whether you may be "better off" on Universal Credit, please speak to your Income Advisor today.

    If you move to a different area then you might need to claim for Universal Credit sooner. You can check on this map for up-to-date information about who can claim Universal Credit in your area.

    What

    All Universal Credit claims are completed online. An appointment will then be arranged for you to attend at your local job centre. This appointment will be within 5 days of your online claim.

    You must attend this appointment - if you are unable to attend you will need to rearrange by calling the Universal Credit telephone line 0800 328 9344.

    You will need to take all of the evidence and documents that the Department for Work and Pensions request to this appointment.

    At your appointment, after checking through your documentation, you will meet with your allocated work coach; they will help you to draw up a 'Claimant Commitment' which sets out what actions you need to take to prepare/look for work. It will also explain what will happen if you don't keep to the terms of your Claimant Commitment and the sanctions (penalties) that you will be subject to.

    Important - Make sure that your Claimant Commitment is realistic and achievable. If you don't think it is and you need help to challenge this then talk to the job centre or your Income Advisor at Freebridge Community Housing.

    If for any reason you can't do something that is on your Claimant Commitment (for example you are unwell), you must tell the Department for Work and Pensions immediately. If you fail to tell them, you may have some or all of your Universal Credit sanctioned (not paid).

    What

    If you haven't already done so, it is vital that you talk to your Income Advisor to agree an affordable payment arrangement.

    If you are in serious rent arrears, or have a vulnerability that means you cannot easily manage your rent payments, we can help you to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement. If this is agreed, any housing costs that you are awarded will be paid directly to us instead of being paid to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment.

    If you do not talk to your Income Advisor about your rent arrears and/or your arrears do not reduce, you will be at risk of legal action which may result in court costs being added to your rent account and you will be at risk of losing your home.

    How

    Request our 'Universal Credit Survival Guide which includes:

  • 'Are you ready for Universal Credit?' checklist
  • A guide on getting ready for Universal Credit
  • 'What does Universal Credit mean to me?' booklet
  • A budget planner
  • To request a pack, please contact the Income Team on 03332 404 444.

    If you are told to claim for Universal Credit then please call your Income Advisor on 03332 404 444. We can help to support you through the claim process and beyond to ensure that your rent account is paid up to date and to help with budgeting to cover all of your outgoings.

    If you are already claiming Universal Credit and you don't receive all of the money you were expecting, or you are told your claim is sanctioned then please call your Income Advisor on 03332 404 444. If you think this is wrong or unjust then we can help to ask the job centre to reconsider their decision.

    If you are already claiming Universal Credit and have a "spare bedroom" then we can help you to apply for Discretionary Housing Payment from your local council. See 'Under-occupation deduction' further down the page for more information.

    What

    These benefits will continue to be paid to you seperately to your monthly Universal Credit payments:

  • Child Benefit
  • Council Tax Support
  • Disability Living Allowance / Personal Independence Payment
  • Carers Allowance
  • Contribution-Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Contributory Employment and Support Allowance
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Bereavement Benefits
  • Getting ready for Universal Credit

    Universal Credit is going to have a big impact on the way in which benefits are paid to you. There are lots of things you can do now to make sure you are ready for your move over to Universal Credit.

    We have put together a 'Universal Credit Survival Guide' to help you to get ready for Universal Credit, which can be seen below.

  • 'Are you ready for Universal Credit?' checklist
  • A guide on getting ready for Universal Credit
  • 'What does Universal Credit mean to me?' booklet
  • A budget planner
  • To request a paper copy of the pack, please contact the Income Team on 03332 404 444.

    Digital Universal Credit

    Currently in West Norfolk all Universal Credit claims are part of the 'Live/Gateway' service. Throughout 2018, claims will be moved across to the 'Full/Digital' service; this will be depend one which jobcentre you fall under in West Norfolk. This will be rolled out as follows:

  • Properties under the Dereham jobcentre service - June 2018
  • Properties under the Thetford jobcentre service - September 2018
  • Properties under the Wisbech jobcentre service - September 2018
  • Properties under the King's Lynn jobcentre service - November 2018

  • This means depending on where you live, from the dates above all Universal Credit claimants will have an online account to personally access and manage their Universal Credit claim.

    You will need an email address and telephone number in order to set up your online account. You won't be able to claim Universal Credit without one!

    For further information on the rollout of this please click here.

    When you login to your online account you will be able to:

  • Contact your work coach via an online journal
  • Check details of payments
  • Notify changes and circumstances, and
  • Search for a job.
  • You will be expected to report all changes in circumstances online and check regularly for messages from your work coach. You can also ask questions about your claim through your journal.

    Do you have internet access? If you have any concerns about how you will manage your claim online please see the 'Preparing for Universal Credit' guide above, or come into our Juniper House office to speak to us.

    Under-Occupation Deduction or "Bedroom Tax"

    The under-occupation deduction, more commonly known as "bedroom tax" was introduced on 1 April 2013. This means that your housing benefit / housing costs under Universal Credit will be reduced if, according to the government guidelines, you have more bedrooms than they think you need.

    If you, (or you and your partner) are of Pension Credit age then you will not be affected by the under-occupation deduction.

    Your housing benefit / housing costs element of your Universal Credit claim will be reduced by an amount equal to 14% of your rent if you are regarded as having one "extra" bedroom, or by 25% of your rent if you have two or more "extra" bedrooms.

    The deduction will be made regardless of the size of the bedroom, whether you use it or not and regardless of what you use if for if it is used as a different room to a bedroom.

    How many bedrooms am I allowed?

    The guidelines state that:

  • A single person aged 16 or over needs their own bedroom
  • A couple needs their own bedroom
  • A boy and a girl are expected to share a bedroom if they are both under 10
  • 2 boys or 2 girls are expected to share a bedroom if they are both under 16
  • Children who stay with you part of the time are not taken into account if you are not in receipt of Child Benefit for that child
  • Foster children are not taken into account (see special circumstances below)
  • There are special circumstances where an extra bedroom may be allowed. There are:

    If two people are unable to share a bedroom due to a disability

  • If your local council (for Housing Benefit) or the DWP (for Universal Credit) accept that if, because of a child's disability, there would be disruption to the sleep of another child if they shared a bedroom, then the disabled child can be allocated their own bedroom if they are getting the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance.
  • If, due to one member of the couple's physical or mental disability, they cannot reasonably share a bedroom they will be allocated an extra bedroom. The disabled person must be in receipt of the Daily Living Component of Personal Independence Payment, the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, the high rate of Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment.
  • A room for an overnight carer

  • If you or your partner are disabled and needs overnight care "regularly" for someone who does not normally live with you, then the carer may be allocated a bedroom.
  • It is up to the council (for Housing Benefit) or the DWP (for Universal Credit) to decide if it is "regularly" and can be allocated a bedroom.
  • For Universal Credit the person requiring the care must be getting either Personal Independence Payment (daily living component) or the high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance.
  • From 1 April 2017, the rules are extended to cover children, foster children or non-dependents who regularly receive the overnight care; an extra room may be allocated for thir carer.
  • For Universal Credit, the child or person requiring the care must be getting either Personal Independence Payment (daily living component) or the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Armed Forces Independence Payment.
  • Foster Carers

  • If someone in the household is a foster carer, only one extra bedroom is allowed regardless of the number of foster children in residence; the rule will still apply during gaps between fostering (if the gap is less than 12 months).
  • Armed Forces

  • If a son or daughter is in the armed forces but normally lives with you, they will retain their bedroom whilst away on operations.
  • Away at University

  • If a son or daughter who normally lives with you is away at college or university, they will retain their bedroom whilst away from home, so long as they intend to return (and to return), within 52 weeks (Housing Benefit) or 6 months (Universal Credit).
  • For further information on the under-occupation deduction and how this may affect you, please speak to us at Freebridge Community Housing.

    Please see our useful booklet 'What does the Under-Occupation Deduction mean to me?'.

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