Universal Credit is a new government benefit for working age people on a low income or who are out of work. Since 20 June 2018, most new benefit claimants in Islington, and some people who are on benefits now but whose circumstances change, have been moved to Universal Credit.
Others who are already receiving benefits will at some point be moved over to Universal Credit (probably by 2023) but the government has not yet told us when this change will start.
Universal Credit is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Islington Council and partners are here to help residents understand and prepare for the changes.
Which benefits does Universal Credit replace?
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
What’s different about Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is paid differently to previous benefits and tax credits. It is a single monthly payment into a credit union, bank or building society account, and includes any money for your rent. You will need to pay rent to your landlord directly, and you will also need to pay any bills.
There is at least a five-week delay between applying for Universal Credit and getting your first payment, so you should start thinking about what you need to do in advance. The delay will be longer if your claim is incomplete.
You will need to apply separately for council tax support.
You can indicate that you want to claim council tax support when you make your claim for Universal Credit. Or, you can contact the Council directly to make a claim.
How will Universal Credit work?
You will need to verify your ID online and get a bank account
You will need some proof of identity to do this, like a credit or debit card, driving license or passport. You can sign up now to the government’s Verify service before you claim, which would save you time.
You will need a credit union, bank or building society account. Find out about fee-free basic bank accounts.
Universal Credit will be paid monthly into this bank account. Money for your rent (what would have been your housing benefit) will be paid straight to you, it will not go to your landlord. You will be responsible for paying your rent, in full, directly to your landlord. You may be able to apply for your rent to go direct to your landlord, you should speak to your work coach about this.
You will need to get online
Most people will be expected to manage their Universal Credit claim online, so you will need internet access.
You will also need an email address and to verify your identity online.
You can use computers at our libraries, and there are also facilities to make your claim at your local job centre and at 222 Upper Street.
If you need help using a computer you can take an Adult and Community Learning course.
The Islington Computer Skills Centre offers free training for Islington residents aged 19 and above who are unemployed or low waged and receiving benefits.
You will need to keep the DWP updated about your circumstances – you are responsible for this and it can affect your payments.
Citizens Advice can help you set up an email address and bank account, call them on 0800 144 8444 or speak to one of their local advisers at Finsbury Park and Barnsbury Job Centres.
You will need to budget
You will need to budget so you can pay your rent and council tax and your other living costs every month.
There is at least a five-week delay between applying for Universal Credit and getting your first payment. The delay will be longer if your claim is incomplete.
You can apply for an advance payment, which is repayable over 12 months and it means your monthly payments will be lower.
Some claimants’ money will go up when they move to Universal Credit, and some will go down.
If you need help with budgeting speak to your work coach at the job centre who can help you get independent advice.
Support with Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a big change from any benefits or tax credits you may get now, and you need to be ready to manage your claim differently.
If you claim benefits and your circumstances are likely to change soon – if you are planning to have a child, or to move, or to take a job – please contact the Universal Credit helpline: 0800 328 5644 open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.
For help completing your application visit our two job centres in the borough:
You can also get help from Citizens Advice via their website, by calling 0800 144 8444 or speaking to one of their local advisers based at either job centre.
If you are worried about paying your rent or support with your living costs visit our money advice pages or free independent advice organisations.
If you are facing extreme hardship the Resident Support Scheme may be able to help you.
People who are reaching pension age
If you are reaching state pension age you will no longer qualify for Universal Credit. You will need to make a new claim for Housing Benefit from the date that you reach state pension age. You will need to complete a claim form for Housing Benefit and send it to our benefits service as soon as possible.
Mixed age couples
From 15 May 2019, couples where one member of the couple is pension credit qualifying age and the other member is under pension age (they are working age) will now usually need to claim Universal Credit. Those already in receipt of Pension Credit or Housing Benefit on 14 May 2019 will remain entitled to those benefits.
You can still claim backdated Housing Benefit on or after 15 May 2019 if you are already pension age before this date. You must make your claim by 13 August 2019. Your claim date will be automatically backdated to a date before the change in rules.