Universal credit

What is Universal Credit?

The Government has been making a number of changes to the benefit system over the past few years, but the biggest of them so far is the introduction of Universal Credit (UC). 

UC is a new benefit for people of working age it replaces these benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support (IS) 
  • Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
  • Budgeting loans and Crisis loans.

Instead of getting different types of benefits at different times, any of these benefits you are entitled to will be included in one monthly UC payment.

This payment will be paid directly to you and you need a bank account to get it.

If you do not have a bank account or you are having difficulties managing your account, you may want to look at fee-free bank accounts that offer banking services without the worry of getting into debt. You also need to be prepared to manage your monthly budget to make sure that you pay your rent and other important bills.

UC claims can only be managed online, so if you need help to get online, please contact us.

Who is affected?

From November 2018, if you need to make a new benefit claim in Northampton, you will get UC. Some single people in Northampton have already started to claim UC because it was introduced for this group for a certain period of time.

If you are claiming benefits already you will not yet be affected. The Government plans to move everyone in Northampton to UC at the end of 2019. If this changes, we will update this page.

What does this mean for me?

Well, as with much in life – preparation is the key. Even if you don’t claim benefits now, you may in the future so there are a few things you need to know.

  • All claims for UC are made online – there is no paper process.
  • All UC payments are direct to a bank account – there is no other way to receive money.
  • All UC payments are made one month in arrears – if you don’t have savings, you will be unable to keep up with your important payments while you wait for a claim to be paid.
  • If you claim Housing Benefit this it is currently paid direct to your rent account. Under UC an amount for housing costs will be included in the UC payment you receive. This means that when you switch to UC, you will become responsible for making rent payments to your account.

Advance payments

If you need help to pay your bills or cover other costs while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can apply to get an advance.

The most you can get as an advance is the amount of your first estimated payment.

How to apply

You can apply for an advance payment in your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach.

You’ll need to:

  • explain why you need an advance
  • verify your identity (you do this online when you submit your Universal Credit claim or at your first Jobcentre Plus interview)
  • provide bank account details for the advance (talk to your work coach if you cannot open an account)

You’ll usually find out the same day if you can get an advance.

If you need help

Call the Universal Credit helpline if you need help applying for an advance payment.

The Universal Credit full service helpline is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 - 18:00.
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

How you pay back your advance

You start paying it back out of your first payment.

You can choose how many months you pay the advance back over. You must pay it back within 12 months. You don’t pay interest on it - the total amount you pay back is the same.

Example: your first estimated payment is £251.77 and you get £251.77 as an advance. You choose to pay back your advance over 12 months, which is £20.98 per month. You’ll get £230.79 on your first payment date - this is your first payment minus the bit you’re repaying (£251.77 minus £20.98).

 

The good news

If you prepare for all of the above, there are loads of benefits to being online, having a bank account and starting to save. If you don’t access the internet, you could be missing out on the best deals for shopping, household bills, insurance and more. Having a bank account means you can pay for bills using direct debit, which can save you time and money. As for savings, even a small amount each week or month can build up and could prevent you from having to borrow money at a high rate if an unexpected expense crops up.

 

Watch the video below

This useful video tells you everything you need to know about applying for Universal Credit.

 

 

Helpful links and phone numbers for Universal Credit

Where do I go for help?

You can get help about all of the above from a number of places – for more information on UC you can speak to your local Citizens Advice Bureau by calling 03444 889 629 or visit their website.

If you visit the Money Advice Service website you can read more about UC and also find advice about setting up a bank account and all the different types of accounts available. You can also get personalised advice using their online questionnaire

You can also find advice about banking on the Credit Union’s website. Or, you can always speak to your housing or rent income officer at NPH – we are here to help.

 

There are a number of places in Northampton where you can get support to use the internet and make online applications.

You can visit the One Stop Shop at the Guildhall to use one of their computers between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday – Friday. If you need extra support to access online services, there are a number of advisors available to help between 16:00 and 17:00.

Local libraries often have low cost internet services and Northamptonshire County Council offer adult learning courses, which can be free if you get certain benefits. The Adult Learning team at Northamptonshire County Council can be contacted on 0300 126 1000.

 

Help with other benefits

Organisations who can help

If you are having difficulties with your benefits or need extra help to claim, there is help available locally at Community Law Service and Central and East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice Bureau.