Universal Credit – a guide

What is Universal Credit?

From the 13th June, new benefit claimants in the Scottish Borders will be asked to apply for Universal Credit. This 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.

For now, only new claimants are affected – if you already get benefits, you don’t need to do anything until you hear from the Department of Work and Pensions about moving to Universal Credit, unless you have a change in circumstances.

Universal Credit replaces the following benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income Related Employment Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits

In Scotland, you can arrange to have the Housing Element of Universal Credit paid direct to your landlord. You can also arrange to have your Universal Credit paid every 2 weeks, rather than every 4.

You will need to let the Department of Work and Pensions know if you wish to do either of these things. Because it can take up to six weeks to receive your first payment when you first make a claim, you need to let your landlord know that you have made a claim, so that they understand why your rent may be late.

You will need to apply for Universal Credit and administer your account online, and you will need a bank or building society account for the benefit to be paid into.

For comprehensive information and access to the online application form, see the Department of Work and Pensions’ Universal Credit pages.

Things to think about

To prepare for Universal Credit, think about:

  • How you would manage to make a claim on-line – where you can go if you don’t have your own computer.
  • Where you can go to build up your computer skills if you’ve never been online before.
  • How you will manage when the benefits that Universal Credit is replacing are paid to you as one payment on a monthly basis.
  • How you will manage until you have received your first monthly payment (it will probably be a longer gap between payments than you have been used to – and the first payment will be one month and 7 days or one month and 14 days after your claim).
  • How you will manage when you have to pay your rent to your landlord yourself.
  • Opening a bank or credit union account. “Basic” bank accounts don’t allow you to overdraw but still charge for unmet direct debits (if there’s not enough money in the account when they come out).  

Checklist – information to gather before you make your claim

In order to make your claim, you will need to be able to provide some information:

  • Postcode
  • Your email address (you will need to administer your account online)
  • The type of accommodation that you live in (e.g. Housing Association property)
  • National Insurance number
  • Details of bank, building society, sort code and account number (you will need an account for the money to be paid into)
  • Landlord’s name and address
  • Details of rent and what is included in rent breakdown
  • Details of rent-free weeks
  • Details of any earnings
  • Details of any income not from work
  • Details of savings
  • Details of any other benefits that you receive

IMPORTANT: 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 have a tenancy, even if you’ve not actually been paying us any rent because you’ve been getting Housing Benefit to pay it.

IMPORTANT: The online claim form asks how much rent you pay. This is the full “eligible rent”– not the shortfall you’ve been paying if you’ve been getting part Housing Benefit. Ask us if you’re not sure what this is.

IMPORTANT: If you answer these questions incorrectly then you might not get all (or any) of the help with your rent included in your Universal Credit award!

Many of the online claim questions have a box next to them saying “What does this mean?” It’s a good idea to click on these even if you think you know what the question means, just to be certain.

If you need any help, ring the helpline number 0345 6000723 or ask us for assistance

Where else can I get help or get online?

If you are not able to get online at home or need help to complete your form, you can get help at

  • Jobcentre Plus office – 0800 169 0190 (TEXTPHONE for those with speech or hearing difficulties – 0800 169 0314)
  • your local library – www.liveborders.org.uk/librariesandarchives
  • SBC Contact centre – call 0300 100 1800
  • Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) office – details of your local office numbers at www.cas.org.uk
  • SBHA Head Office – Whinfield Road, Selkirk, call 01750 724444

 

Scottish Borders Council have provided a comprehensive guide, with contact details for all the places where you can access help. See the guide here.