Universal Credit - Hertfordshire County Council

 
Universal Credit

                   February 2019
Introduction
Universal credit is a new means-tested benefit administered by the Department for
Work and Pensions (DWP). It is gradually replacing the majority of means-tested
benefits and tax credits (known as legacy benefits) currently paid to people under
pension age (pension age was equalised at 65 for both men and women in 2018 and
is rising to 66 by 2020).

An area where UC has been fully introduced is known as a full service area. The
national rollout of ‘full service’ is now complete except for:

       families with more than two children who will be redirected to the benefits that
        universal credit is replacing until 1 February 2019; and
       from 16 January 2019, claimants who receive the severe disability premium in
        their legacy benefits are unable to claim UC

Hertfordshire timetable for full service roll-out

All areas of Hertfordshire are now ‘full service’.

This means that ‘legacy benefits’ i.e. income support, income-based jobseeker’s
allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit and
tax credits are abolished for new claims and replaced by universal credit unless you
were getting a severe disability premium in a legacy benefit within the last month.

Managed migration

Existing recipients of legacy benefits will eventually be moved onto UC. The
Government will pilot a small number of existing legacy benefit claimants (10,000) in
2019 and evaluate the pilot before migrating all remaining claimants onto UC.
Anyone receiving the severe disability premium in their legacy benefits will be moved
onto UC as part of this process but will receive transitional protection..

Seek advice first if you are unsure which benefit you should claim.

The DWP announced a range of changes to UC in the Autumn Budget – see the
appendix for a summary.

Which benefits are affected?

The following benefits (known as legacy benefits) will eventually be replaced by
universal credit:

       income support
       income-based jobseeker’s allowance (IBJSA)

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   income-related employment & support allowance (IRESA)
       housing benefit
       child tax credit (CTC)
       working tax credit (WTC)

Many benefits will remain including:

       contribution-based JSA
       contributory ESA
       pension credit
       state pension
       carer’s allowance
       child benefit and guardian’s allowance
       social fund maternity grant, funeral payments, winter fuel payments and cold
        weather payments
       health benefits
       statutory sick pay
       statutory maternity/ adoption/paternity pay/ shared parental pay
       attendance allowance
       personal independence payment (PIP)
       disability living allowance (DLA for children)
       bereavement support payment
       council tax support

Universal credit may be paid on top of some other benefits, for example,
contribution-based JSA, contributory ESA or carer’s allowance, to bring you up to a
specific level which is determined by your circumstances.

What are the general rules for universal credit?

Claimants will usually have to satisfy the following:

       be aged between 18 and pension credit age (although some 16-17 year olds
        may be able to claim - see below)
       be present, habitually resident and with the right to reside in Great Britain
       not be ’receiving education’ (see below)
       have no more than £16,000 capital
       have income below certain levels
       accept a ‘claimant commitment’ (see page 14)

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There will be additional rules depending on the reason why you are claiming
universal credit, for example, if you are unemployed or unable to work due to ill
health.

Which 16/17 year olds can claim?

Some 16 and 17 year olds may eventually be able to qualify for universal credit
including those who:

       have dependent children
       are unable to work due to ill health or disability i.e. have passed the work
        capability assessment or have a medical certificate in the initial assessment
        period
       are caring for a severely disabled person
       are pregnant from week 29 of pregnancy
       have given birth within the last 15 weeks
       are without parental support i.e. have no parent or are living away from home
        due to estrangement, serious risk etc

Which students can claim?

You can’t get universal credit if you are ‘receiving education’ i.e. if you are:

       aged 16-19 in non-advanced education of at least 12 hours a week up to the
        31 August following your 19th birthday
       on a full-time course of advanced education
       on another full-time course of study or training for which a maintenance loan
        or grant is provided

In addition, if you are on some other type of course but the DWP believes it is not
compatible with work-related requirements – you will be treated as though you are
‘receiving education’ and be excluded from universal credit.

There are some exceptions to the ‘receiving education’ rule:

       young people without parental support in non-advanced education until the
        end of the academic year in which they are 21
       those with dependent children
       lone foster parents
       disabled students (i.e. entitled to DLA/PIP and have limited capability for
        work)
       students in couples with no children where the other adult is entitled to UC
       students over pension credit age in mixed age couples
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Couples
Couples must usually claim jointly and must both sign the claimant commitment. If
one of a couple fails to sign then, subject to a cooling off period, the couple will not
be entitled to universal credit.

A person who is a member of a couple may claim as a single person in certain
circumstances, for example, where one partner does not satisfy the immigration and
residence rules, or is under 18 and not entitled to UC. A single person’s allowance is
paid although both partners’ income and capital counts.

Temporarily separated partners no longer count as a couple if the separation
exceeds or is expected to exceed 6 months.

From 1 February 2019 payments for dependent children will be included in new
claims for pension credit as long as people are not already getting tax credits or have
been claiming tax credits in the previous year.

From 15 May 2019, couples where one partner is under pension credit age, and the
other over, won’t be able to make a new claim for pension credit; they will have to
claim universal credit instead. However, any couples already getting pension credit
will continue to receive it.

Can I work and get universal credit?

There are no set limit to the number of hours people can work although the amount
you earn may affect the amount of universal credit you can get – see below.

Can I do voluntary work?

You are allowed to do voluntary work but only for a maximum of half the hours you
are expected to look for work in a week. For example, you can volunteer for 17 and
a half hours a week if you’re expected to look for full time work of 35 hours a week.

How is universal credit calculated?

Universal credit is a means tested system. It is calculated as follows:

Step 1: Find out maximum universal credit by adding together the standard
allowance and elements that apply (see overleaf)

Step 2: Calculate income (see p.11)

Step 3: Universal credit elements minus income = universal credit

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Step 4: If maximum universal credit is lower than the relevant benefit cap figure –
this is universal credit entitlement; if not - apply benefit cap unless exempt (p.13)
How much are the universal credit elements?

Universal credit will be made up of monthly amounts for the following:

Standard allowance
       single claimant under 25 - £251.77
       single claimant aged 25 or over- £317.82
       couple both aged under 25 - £395.20
       couple one aged 25 or over - £498.89

Child elements
       first child - £277.08 (only payable to claimants who are responsible for a child
        born before 6 April 2017)

       each child - £231.67

Until 1 February 2019, families with more than two children must claim child tax
credit and other legacy benefits instead of UC.
From 1 February 2019, families with more than two children can claim UC. Claimants
are restricted for payments to two children unless they were born before 6 April 2017
or are in one of the exception categories:
There are a number of exceptions to the ‘two child policy’ including the following:
multiple births, adopted children, non-parental caring arrangements, children born as
a result of non-consensual conception and children born to a child under 16.
Households already in receipt of UC or CTC are also protected if their claim ends for
less than six months.
The disabled child and childcare elements (see below) will continue to apply to all
children who meet the criteria, including those children who do not attract a child
element.

       disabled child higher rate - £383.86 for a child who gets the highest rate DLA
        care component, the enhanced rate PIP daily living component or who is
        registered blind

       disabled child lower rate - £126.11 for a child who gets any other rate of DLA
        or PIP.
Limited capability for work element
If you have limited capability for work, because you are ill or disabled, you may get
an extra element if you pass a test similar to that used for employment and support
allowance (ESA):
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   limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA) - £328.32 for those who
        do not have to engage in any work-related activity
Those who claimed before 3 April 2017 may get an additional amount for limited
capability for work (LCW) - £126.11; this is for those who will have to engage in
some work preparation. There is protection from removal of the LCW element for
new claimants from 3 April 2017 where:

       the award of UC included the LCW element immediately before 3 April 2017;
       the award of UC included an amount for having LCWRA before 3 April 2017
        and it is subsequently decided that the claimant has LCW;
       before 3 April 2017 it had yet to be decided whether a claimant had LCW and
        the claimant provided medical evidence of this and a decision is made on or
        after that date that the claimant has LCW, including on appeal or revision;
       UC is revised after a successful appeal or decision not to award ESA where
        the claim was made before 3 April 2017;
       the claimant was entitled to ESA (or received credits) immediately before 3
        April 2017 and then claims UC, provided they were continuously entitled to
        ESA or credits from 3 April 2017 up to the date of the UC claim;
       claimants are moving from claims based on incapacity for work or disability to
        UC

If you are part of a couple and both of you have limited capability for work or for
work-related activity, the award can only include one element although it is the
higher of the two.

There are special rules which affect whether you can get the LCW element or the
LCWRA element if you are working. You are usually treated as not having limited
capability for work if your weekly earnings are at least the level of earnings you
would receive for 16 hours paid at the national living wage. However this may not
apply if you:

       are automatically treated as having LCW or LCWRA due to specific
        circumstances or
       are treated as having limited capability for work-related activity
       have already been found to have LCW before starting to earn this amount,
        although the DWP may still subsequently reassess you or
       are entitled to DLA, PIP or attendance allowance

People who are earning at least 16 times the national living wage who have not had
a work capability assessment cannot be referred for one unless they are entitled to
attendance allowance, DLA or PIP.

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Carer element

       £156.45

You will get this if you are caring for a severely disabled person (getting attendance
allowance, mid or highest DLA care component or the daily living component of PIP)
for at least 35 hours a week. You don’t have to claim carer's allowance and are
not subject to the carer’s allowance earnings limit. However, if someone else is
getting carer’s allowance you can’t get a carer element in respect of the same
disabled person.

You also won’t be able to get the carer element and limited capability for work
element together. This will affect carers who also have a health problem.

Remember that if you get the carer element, the person you look after won’t be able
to get a severe disability premium in any means-tested benefits they claim.

Childcare element

An amount for childcare costs can be included if you pay for registered childcare in
order to work. There is no set number of hours you need to work to get this.

You will get 85% of your relevant childcare costs up to a maximum of:

       £646.35 per month for one child
       £1,108.04 per month for two or more children

If you are part of a couple both of you must be in work unless one of you is unable to
look after a child because they:

       have limited capability for work or limited capability for work related activity or
       provide regular and substantial care to a severely disabled person (getting
        attendance allowance, mid or highest DLA care or PIP daily living component)
        for at least 35 hours a week or
       are temporarily absent, for example, in hospital
Housing element

You can get some help with housing costs if you are a renter or have a mortgage –
see below.

What help can I get with housing costs?

Owner occupiers

From April 2018, you can only get help with mortgage interest through a loan.

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Existing claimants who were receiving help with mortgage interest should have
received a letter from SERCO, operating on behalf of the DWP, offering a loan,
secured on the property, to be repaid (with interest) when the house is sold or when
the claimant returns to work.

The loan is optional but, if not required, homeowners will have to make alternative
arrangements to pay their mortgage themselves.

Renters

Renters can get help to pay their rent through universal credit.

If you are a private tenant your housing element will depend on the number of
rooms you need in the same way as in the local housing allowance (LHA) scheme.

If you live in social housing your rent may be reduced if you are considered to be
under occupying the property.

Housing costs will usually be paid direct to the claimant although you can ask for the
rent to go direct to the landlord in a number of circumstances including if you are
vulnerable, in debt or have rent arrears. See Alternative Payment Arrangements in
later section.

From April 2018, those already on housing benefit prior to their UC claim will receive
a ‘transition to UC housing payment’ for the first two weeks of their UC claim. They
will also be paid the housing element (if eligible) through UC, effectively receiving a
double payment for two weeks.

Also, from April 2018, people in temporary accommodation are paid their housing
costs through housing benefit, even if receiving UC for themselves and children.

Housing costs contribution

If you are renting, you will have flat rate deductions of £72.16 a month from your
benefit for each non-dependant you have living with you, such as an adult son or
daughter. This is called a housing costs contribution.

No deduction will be made if you or your partner:

       is registered blind
       receives middle or highest rate DLA care component
       receives attendance allowance
       receives either of the daily living components of PIP
No deduction will be made for certain people who live with you i.e. those who are:

       aged under 21
       responsible for a child under 5
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   getting pension credit
       getting middle or highest rate DLA care component, attendance allowance or
        either of the daily living components of PIP
       getting carer's allowance
       prisoners on temporary release
       a son or daughter in the armed forces who is away on operations

No deduction is made for owner occupiers with non-dependants.

If you live in the following ‘specified accommodation’ your housing support will be
paid by housing benefit rather than universal credit:

       supported exempt accommodation i.e. accommodation provided by a county
        council, housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation
        where that body, or a person acting on their behalf, provides the claimant
        with care, support or supervision
       supported housing, as above, but where the landlord does not provide the
        care, support or supervision
       domestic violence refuges
       housing authority non self-contained supported housing (such as hostels)

From April 2018, people on universal credit in temporary accommodation also have
their housing costs paid through housing benefit.

How is income treated?

Most income will be deducted from the total of the elements you are entitled to.
However, certain types of income are treated differently.

Earnings

Universal credit will be reduced by 63% of net earnings after certain disregards,
called work allowances, have been applied (see below).

Earnings of employed and self-employed claimants will be assessed on a monthly
basis net of tax, national insurance contributions and 100% of pension contributions.

Earnings from employed workers will be reported through ‘real-time information’
(RTI) provided by HM Revenue and Customs. However, you will need to declare
any earnings which are not reported this way, such as earnings from self-
employment, casual work or if notified by the DWP.

Self-employed people will be subject to more scrutiny to ensure their work is genuine
and meets certain conditions. Income must be reported on a simplified ‘cash income
basis’ but the DWP will assume that you are earning a certain amount (‘minimum
income floor’) which will apply to claimants subject to full work-related requirements

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(see below) after a year’s self-employment. This will usually be set at 35 times the
hourly rate for national living wage.

Statutory sick pay, statutory maternity pay, statutory adoption pay and statutory
paternity pay all count as earnings.

Work allowance

Some earnings are ignored for those with children or limited capability for work. A
monthly disregard, called a work allowance, is applied as outlined in the box below.
The maximum work allowance will apply to claimants who are owner occupiers or
have no housing costs and the minimum one to those with rental costs.

                              Maximum disregard               Minimum disregard

Couple with children         £409                         £198

      Lone parent            £409                         £198

  Limited capability         £409                         £198
       for work

Only one work allowance will be allowed for each household.

Other income

Unearned income will be treated as a monthly amount. Most income and benefits will
cause universal credit to be reduced pound for pound, for example, carer’s
allowance, contribution-based JSA and contributory ESA will count in full.

DLA, PIP, most income currently disregarded for income support (such as child
benefit and child maintenance) and all war pensions/armed forces payments will be
disregarded in full.

Repeat claims within six months

From 11 April 2018 a ‘surplus earnings’ rule is applied if you leave universal credit
but re-apply within a six month period. Earnings that are in excess of £2500 above
the household’s universal credit award income threshold will be accounted for in
subsequent calculations over a six month period.

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Can I have any savings?

Capital under £6,000 is disregarded but if you have capital over £16,000 you will not
be able to get universal credit. Capital between £6,000 - £16,000 will be treated as
giving you a ‘tariff income’ of £4.35 per month for each £250 (or part of £250) you
have between these amounts.

What is the benefit cap?

There is a limit on the total amount of benefit that can be paid to a household. The
amount of the cap in Hertfordshire is currently £1,116.67 per month for single
claimants and £1,666.67 per month for couples and people with children.
The benefits subject to the cap include universal credit as well as others, like JSA,
ESA, carer’s allowance and child benefit.

The following benefits will not be included when working out your total amount of
benefit:
    bereavement support payment
    council tax support
    discretionary housing payments
    housing payments for those in ‘specified accommodation’ (p.9)
    social fund payments
    local welfare assistance scheme
    budgeting advances
    cold weather payments
    community care grants
    short term benefit/universal credit advances
    funeral payments
    sure start maternity grants
    pension credit
    payments from social services such as fostering, adoption, special
       guardianship and residence order allowances
    state pension
    statutory adoption pay
    statutory maternity/paternity pay
    shared parental pay
    statutory sick pay
    carer’s allowance and guardian’s allowance

Childcare costs will also be excluded from the cap.

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The cap will be applied by reducing the universal credit award. However, it will
not apply if:

       you are getting a war pension, DLA, PIP, attendance allowance, industrial
        injuries benefit
       you have a dependent child who gets DLA or PIP
       you are assessed as having limited capability for work related activity
       carer’s allowance, guardian’s allowance or UC that includes the carers
        element

It also won’t apply to households where someone works and has net monthly wages
of an amount equal to working 16 hours a week at the national living wage converted
to a net monthly amount (couples’ earnings can be added together).
There will be a ‘grace period’ for those who earned this amount in each of the
previous 12 months. In these circumstances the cap won’t be applied for nine
months.

If you are affected by the benefit cap you may be able to get additional help through
a discretionary housing payment. These are paid by your local housing benefit
authority and you must have rent to pay in order to get one.

What is the claimant commitment?

In order to get universal credit, you will have to accept a claimant commitment which
lists your responsibilities. These may include:

       work related requirements
       warnings about sanctions
       duty to notify changes in circumstances

There are four types of work related requirements:

       no work-related requirements
       work-focused interview only
       work preparation requirement
       all work-related requirements

Work-related requirements

No work-related requirements

You will be able to claim universal credit without having to satisfy any work seeking
activity if you:

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   are in work earning above your individual earnings threshold; this is the
        amount that you would earn working 35 hours a week at national living wage
        (can be less if you have caring responsibilities) or 16 hours a week if you are
        subject to work preparation or work focused interviews only
       have limited capability for work-related activity because of ill health or
        disability (i.e. like those who are currently in the support group for ESA)
       have caring responsibilities for one or more severely disabled persons (who
        get attendance allowance, DLA mid or highest care component or PIP daily
        living component) for at least 35 hours a week
       are a recent victim of domestic violence - for 13 weeks or 26 weeks where the
        claimant is the primary carer of a child
       have reached the qualifying age for state pension credit
       are a lone parent or lead carer in a couple with a child aged under 1
       are the ‘lead’ foster parent of a child under one
       are pregnant and it is 11 weeks or less before the expected date of birth
       have given birth within last 15 weeks
       are ‘lead’ adopter - for up to one year after adoption
       are aged 16-21, without parental support and are in full time non-advanced
        education
       are a student with student income

Work focused interviews

You will have to attend work focused interviews if you are a:

       lone parent or lead carer in a couple with a child aged 1
       lead foster parent of a child aged 1 - 16 (or up to 19 in some circumstances if
        the young person has additional needs meaning they require full-time care);
        in exceptional circumstances, where a foster child has care needs that require
        full-time care by two adults, then both members of the fostering couple may
        only be required to participate in work-focused interviews
       where one of above applied within last 8 weeks and you expect to resume
        being a foster parent
       ‘friend or family’ carer of a child under 16, for the first year after child enters
        the household

Work preparation requirement

You will be expected to prepare for a move into work, additional work, or better paid
work although you will not have to take steps to apply for, or take up, this work.

You will be placed in this group if you:

       have limited capability for work because of health or disability – (i.e. like those
        who are currently in the work-related activity group for ESA) or
       are the lead carer of a child aged 2
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All work-related requirements

Everyone else will be subject to all work-related requirements, similar to JSA rules.
You will be required to look for and be available for work. You will usually be
expected to look for full time work of 35 hours a week but this can be less in certain
circumstances, for example if you have caring responsibilities for a disabled person
or child aged 3-13 or have physical or mental health problems.

If you are caring for children below school the number of hours you are expected to
comply with a work search requirement in any week will be the number of hours that
the DWP consider is compatible with your caring responsibilities.

If you have a partner you may be placed in different conditionality groups, for
example, if one of you has responsibility for a child.

There is also a one month suspension of work-search requirements if you have to
provide additional care and support to a child following either the death of a parent,
sibling, previous responsible carer or a person living in the same household as the
child, or the child experiencing or witnessing violence or abuse. This can be
accessed once every six months for a total period up to two years.

What is the earnings threshold?

There is a new concept in universal credit of ‘in-work’ conditionality i.e. you will have
to engage in the relevant work focused interviews, work preparation or job seeking
for more, or better-paid, work if your earnings are under a certain amount.

Your individual earnings threshold is worked out by multiplying the amount you
would earn at the hourly rate of the national living wage by the relevant number of
hours that you are expected to work. The default threshold is 35 x national living
wage but this figure can be adjusted to take into account caring responsibilities or
health conditions.

If you are subject to work preparation or work focused interviews only, the earnings
threshold is based on 16 x national living wage.

Couples must combine each member’s individual earnings threshold. If the
household earnings are above this amount, then both claimants, regardless of their
individual earnings, won’t be subject to work related requirements. However, if the
combined household earnings are below the joint threshold, whoever earns below
their own individual threshold will be subject to conditionality.

What will happen if I do not meet the work-related requirements?

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Sanctions, in the form of benefit reductions, can be applied if you do not meet your
work-related requirements. There are higher, medium, lower and lowest level
sanctions.
Higher level sanctions

These will apply if you are subject to all work related requirements and you fail, for
no good reason, to apply for a specific vacancy, take up an offer of paid work or
undertake required mandatory work activity.

This will also apply if you stop working voluntarily or through misconduct, or lose pay
permanently or fall below your earnings conditionality threshold.

The higher level sanction will normally be the loss of the standard allowance for 3
months for a first failure, 6 months for a second failure and 3 years for a subsequent
failure within a year.

Medium level sanctions

These will apply if you are subject to all work related requirements but fail, for no
good reason, to look or be available for work.

The sanction will be the loss of the standard allowance for 4 weeks for a first failure
and 3 months for subsequent medium level failures within a year.

Lower level sanctions

These will apply if you are subject to all work related requirements or the work
preparation requirement.

They will be used if you fail, for no good reason, to undertake specified work
preparation action or attend a work focused interview.

The sanction will be the loss of the standard allowance until the requirement is met
plus a further fixed period sanction of 1 week for a first failure, 2 weeks for a second
failure and 4 weeks for a subsequent failure within a year.

Lowest level sanction

These apply if you are required to attend work focused interviews only and fail to do
so, for no good reason. You will lose 40% of the personal allowance until an
interview is attended.

ESA claimants will be subject to 20% deduction, instead of 40% unless they are still
getting the work-related activity component.

Sanctions should be reasonable taking into account health, caring responsibilities
etc, and whether you have shown any good cause for non-compliance.

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You can appeal against a sanction decision and may also be able to get a hardship
payment.

Hardship payments

To get a hardship payment you must show that your ‘immediate and most basic’
essential needs cannot be met due to the sanction being applied. Hardship
payments are paid at a daily rate based on 60% of the sanctioned amount and need
to be repaid.

You can ask for a hardship payment where you have:

       met any compliance conditions required of you
       complied with work search & preparation requirements in previous 7 days
       made every effort to access alternative sources of support
       stopped incurring expenditure which does not relate to immediate basic and
        essential needs
       accepted that payments are recoverable

Phone the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644 (if you have an online
account) or 0800 328 9344 (if you do not have an online account) to apply for a
hardship payment. You will need to re-apply every month.

How will I claim universal credit?

Universal credit is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions. It is an
online system and claims should be made via www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

If you cannot claim online you should be able to get help over the telephone or in
your local jobcentre - phone the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 9344. Your
local council or housing association may also be able to help.

After submitting a claim the DWP will contact you to tell you the date of your
personalised work search interview and what evidence you need to bring. A text
message should confirm the details. You will also be asked to confirm your identify
(if you have not verified your ID online) and any requested documents will be
checked. You are then taken through your claim details and must sign a form to
confirm that you accept/understand the elements that make up your universal credit
payment. You will then discuss and sign your ‘claimant commitment’ – see page 14.

Backdating of UC will be limited to a maximum of one month but only for specific
circumstances detailed in the regulations (i.e. not automatically and no general ‘good
cause’). These include grounds of disability, illness, and official on-line application
system failure.

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How will universal credit be paid?

Universal credit will cover daily living costs and housing costs. Payments will go
direct into your bank account and you may want to consider setting up direct debits
to pay your regular bills.

UC is assessed and paid monthly in arrears.

You can ask for a universal credit advance if you don’t have enough money to live
on before your first payment is due or if you are waiting for a change in circumstance
to be processed.
You can get up to a month’s worth of UC within five days of your claim. This will be
recovered over a twleve month period.

You may also ask be able to get a budgeting advance for help with one off needs if
you have been on benefit for six months and satisfy other rules. Contact the
Universal Credit Helpline – 0800 328 5644 (if you have an online account) or 0800
328 9344 (if you do not have an online account).

Can I get help managing on universal credit?

The DWP is working with councils, social landlords and private and voluntary
organisations to set up support. This will involve third party organisations helping
people to make and manage a claim, get online, find work, access budgeting support
and pay their rent.

Money advice and budgeting support should be offered when you make a claim.
This will range from signposting to online services to referrals for local face to face
advice.

If you would struggle to manage monthly payments, you can also ask the DWP to
put alternative payment arrangements in place, for example, direct payment to
landlords, more regular payments or split payments for couples.

You will have to request these and are more likely to be eligible if you have learning
difficulties, severe debt, addiction or mental health problems, are homeless or
subject to domestic violence.

People who had rent paid directly to their landlord on housing benefit should be able
to continue to have their UC housing element paid to the landlord when they claim
UC. Direct payments to landlords may be agreed from the start of a claim, for
example, where a tenant is already in rent arrears. A rent arrears hotline and
emergency email address have been set up for social landlords.

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See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-rented-
housing--2 for further information for landlords.

What about changes in circumstances?

Each assessment period lasts a month and starts on the same date, based on your
initial date of claim. There will be a duty to notify changes in circumstances and a
civil penalty of £50 for failing to do so without good cause. In full service areas you
are expected to report changes online.

Changes are generally effective from the start of the assessment period in which
they are notified so it is important to tell the DWP in time. However, if the change is
not advantageous to you it will be backdated to the start of the assessment period in
which it occurred. You may want to time changes to make sure that you don’t miss
out.

For example, if you move from more expensive to cheaper accommodation, you will
get the lower amount back to the start of the assessment period in which the change
occurred so you might want to move as close to the start of the assessment period
as possible – otherwise you will have a shortfall in the rent for your original
accommodation. On the other hand, if you move to more expensive accommodation
and notify the DWP before the end of the assessment period in which the change
occurred, you will get the higher amount for the whole of the period.

Changes to PAYE earnings should be reported automatically via ‘real-time’
information from HM Revenue and Customs. However you must still report changes
to non-PAYE earnings and any other income. Self-employed people will also have to
notify the DWP of their income.

As universal credit is calculated monthly in arrears, it means that if your pay goes up
in one month, for one month only, the following month may be financially difficult for
you. This is because your benefit will have gone down due to the previous month’s
higher wages.

What happens if I’m paid too much universal credit?

All payments of universal credit are recoverable. There is a code of practise to allow
for non-recovery in cases of official error and hardship at the DWP’s discretion.

Will universal credit act as a passport to other benefits?

Receipt of certain benefits ‘passport’ claimants on to a range of other benefits.

Free school meals

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Prior to April 2018 every UC claimant was entitled to free school meals for their
children. However, for new claims for free school meals from 1 April 2018 this will be
restricted to claimants with earnings under £7,400 pa. Those already in receipt of
free school meals are protected.

Health benefits

You can get health benefits if you have nil earnings. Otherwise your monthly
earnings must be below one of the following thresholds:

       those with children and or LCW/LCWRA - net earnings £935 or less
       everyone else – net earnings £435 or less

Healthy Start

There is entitlement to healthy start vouchers and vitamins if you are getting
universal credit and have net earnings of £408 or less a month.

I am currently receiving legacy benefits – when will I be
transferred to universal credit?

The DWP is planning to move most existing claimants of ‘legacy’ benefits to
universal credit by 2024. This is called ‘managed migration’. The DWP have said
they will pilot a small scale migration of 10,000 claimants in 2019 and evaluate this
before migrating all other claimants

However if you live in a UC ‘full service’ area and have a change of circumstances
that would usually prompt a claim for a different or additional existing benefit or tax
credit under the old rules, you may have to apply for universal credit at that point.
This is called ‘natural migration’. Examples include:

       someone on income support in a full service area who has to begin looking for
        work because their child reaches 5
       a person on JSA or income support has their first child in a full service area
       a housing benefit claimant moves from a live service area to new rented
        accommodation in a full service area.

However, this does not apply to claimants who were receiving the severe
disability premium in their legacy benefits within the last month. In these
circumstances people will be able to continue to make a new claim for a legacy
benefit.

I am currently receiving ‘legacy’ benefits – will I be worse off?

This depends on the way you move across to universal credit.

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If you are part of the ‘managed migration’ process the Government has said you will
get cash protection if your universal credit is less than what you got under the old
system. We do not have detailed information about how transitional protection will
operate.

If you come on to universal credit as a result of a change of circumstance meaning
you need to apply for universal credit instead i.e. ‘natural migration’, you will not get
transitional protection. The Government has recently said that claimants who get the
severe disability premium in their current benefits will only be moved onto UC
through managed migration so they receive transitional protection.

Can I appeal a universal credit decision?

You will be sent an online notice setting out the universal credit ‘outcome decision’
and any award. If you disagree with your outcome decision you can ask for a
reconsideration within one month. If you are still unsatisfied you can ask for an
appeal to a First Tier Tribunal within a month of getting the new decision. However,
you must ask for a mandatory reconsideration first. You may be allowed up to 13
months to challenge a decision if there are good reasons for the delay.

Appendix – 2018 Universal Credit Budget Proposals

       From December 2018 entitlement to housing support in universal credit for
        18-21 year olds is reinstated

       From 1 February 2019, people who receive the severe disability premium in
        existing legacy benefits will not be able to claim universal credit when they
        have a change of circumstance. This means they should benefit from
        transitional protection when they are part of the managed migration process.
        Some of those who have already missed out should also be compensated.

       From April 2019, the universal credit work allowance (i.e. the amount a
        claimant can earn before their universal credit is reduced) for those with
        children or who have been assessed as having limited capability for work, will
        be increased by £1,000.

       From July 2019, tax credits claimants with capital over £16,000 (who would
        not otherwise be eligible for UC) will have their capital over £16,000 ignored
        for 12 months from the point at which they are moved onto UC.

       Self-employed claimants transitioning to UC will get a 12-month grace period
        where they are exempt from the Minimum Income Floor; this applies from July
        2019 for those moving across by managed migration and from September
        2020 for those moving across due to a change in circumstance.

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   From October 2019, the maximum rate at which deductions can be made
        from a UC award is to be reduced from 40% to 30% of the standard allowance
        and from October 2021, the period over which advances will be recovered will
        be increased from 12 to 16 months.

       The scope of the surplus earnings policy in UC will continue to affect large
        earnings spikes above £2,500 only until April 2020, when it will revert to
        affecting smaller earnings spikes of £300, as originally intended

       It looks as though the managed migration of people from legacy benefits to
        UC will now start in January 2020 and end in June 2024 although there will be
        a small scale pilot of 10,000 claimants taking place in 2019.

       From July 2020, income support, IBJSA and IRESA claimants will continue to
        receive these benefits for a fortnight during their move to UC. However no
        such run-on has been announced for tax credit claimants.

     October 2023 is the new date for transfer of rent support from housing benefit
        to pension credit.

Further help and advice

DWP
Universal credit helpline (if you have an online account)             0800 328 5644
Universal credit helpline (if you don’t have an online account)       0800 328 9344
Online information:                                      www.gov.uk/universal-credit
Toolkit: www.gov.uk/universal-credit-toolkit-for-partner-organisations
Citizens Advice (CA)                                0344 4111 444
Online information:                                 www.adviceguide.org.uk
Information about local CA and opening times:       www.hcas.org.uk/
How you can contact Hertfordshire County Council
Our website
Visit our website for more information about support for carers and adult social care -
make a referral for care services or apply online for meals on wheels or a Blue
Badge
www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/adults

If you would like more information about benefits and debt you can find a wide range
of Money Advice Unit factsheets
www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/benefits

Hertfordshire Directory
Find national and local community groups, charities, services and activities
www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/directory

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HertsHelp
Independent support, guidance and information to get the most out of life
Telephone: 0300 123 4044
Minicom: 0300 456 2364
Email: info@hertshelp.net

Call us
For information and advice on how to get care and support
Telephone: 0300 123 4042 Text Message: 07507 306911
Textphone: 0300 123 4041

Calls to 0300 cost no more than a national rate call to a 01 or 02 number

If you are worried that you or someone you know is at risk of abuse or neglect
Call us on 0300 123 4042 (24 hours a day)
If you need help to understand
Call 0300 123 4042 if you would like help to understand this information or need it in a
different format. You can also ask to speak to someone in your own language.
This information is correct at time of print. It is for guidance only and is not an authoritative statement
                                                   of the law.

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