Universal Credit – how we can help

Universal Credit (UC) is is a one-off payment designed to replace a number of other benefits, and is designed for people of working age who are on a low income or out of work.

The changes can leave people anxious about how they will budget and make ends meet. Our Financial Inclusion Service can help Tenants who are worried or struggling. Financial Inclusion Officer Barry Wood talks us through a recent case.

“I worked with a Tenant who had been unexpectedly made redundant – they then had to make a claim for UC which has replaced the old Job Seekers Allowance. Their housing costs were also to be paid through UC.

They had received notice of their first UC payment and were confused about what they were getting and worried that they would not be able to afford to pay all their monthly commitments as well as put food on the table.

We went through their UC payment (claimants receive this through their online account which is set up when they first make their claim). This provided details of their living allowance and the amount they were awarded for housing costs to pay their rent. This also details what has been deducted from their award – in this case there was a deduction for an advance they were granted which needs to be repaid back to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

I then did an Income and Expenditure form with them which shows their monthly outgoings against what they have as income. This showed that there were more outgoings than income, which was obviously worrying for the Tenant.

What I helped with:

  • The Tenant had an extra bedroom – a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) application was submitted to Scottish Borders Council – this is a Scottish Government fund that is able to be applied for to pay the cost of an extra bedroom that the DWP will not cover – this means that her whole rent cost is now covered.
  • We called DWP while I was at her home and arranged for an appointment with her work coach at the Job Centre – they took in their Income & Expenditure that was completed with me and agreed that the Tenant could not afford to pay the advance repayments at the rate the DWP had set – their Job Coach arranged for the repayments to be set over a longer period therefore reducing them to an affordable amount each month.
  • The Tenant’s monthly commitments were looked at in more detail – especially their Gas and Electricity. I gave tips on how to save energy (close doors when in a room, don’t leave lights on or heating turned up in rooms you are not using, wear a jumper if it’s a wee bit cooler). These are things folk know already but few of us actually do it. We did a comparison on the cost of Gas and Electricity – there were cheaper tariffs out there and the Tenant had not looked at changing suppliers since she moved in. She was therefore paying a standard tariff which can be more costly.
  • Mobile phone – the Tenant was paying approximately £50pm for the phone (Contract). On looking at what they actually used they were paying for more data, text and calls than they needed – after contacting their supplier the cost of this was reduced to an amount that was more manageable without losing any facility – they did not break their contract but reduced it.
  • Food shopping – by looking at their spending habits this was another saving. They tended to do a daily shop at their local convenience store as well as their paper shops. A lot of our tenant find that this is an expensive way to shop – by planning meals for the week then you can make an educated guess as to what you need & shop at one of the larger stores where prices are more favourable – if doing a larger shop then some of these store will deliver for free or even £1 if you order online at certain times of the day (saving on petrol or bus fares if you need to travel).
  • Bank Fees – the Tenant was being charged £15 per month to have their account – they were not using any of the perks this gives you (eg: hotel room discounts, car breakdown cover – did not have a car etc) and they did not have an overdraft. I suggested that they should challenge this with their bank and get another account with no charges and ask about a claim for PPI at the same time.
  • UC payments – Tenant felt that because she used to get paid weekly while working and was used to having a more regular income she would struggle to budget properly from month to month – arranged for her UC payment to be paid every 2 weeks (in Scotland) and helped work out a budget plan going forward to ensure that her monthly bills were always covered.

Due to the above being put in place then tenant was happy that they are able to afford to keep their home as well as live comfortably on the income provided by the Government. Their stress levels have reduced drastically and they can now put more effort into looking for new employment. They also know that SBHA are there in the background in case anything goes wrong that they need to call upon our help again.”

For information about what you will need to apply, see our guide.