February 2018 will see the increased rollout of the Universal Credit in Shropshire. Universal Credit is the Government’s new benefit for people under pension age.
From February 2018 single people, couples and families making a new claim to any of the following benefits: Income Support, the income-based elements of Jobseeker’s or Employment and Support Allowances, Housing Benefit, and the child and working Tax Credits, may be asked to claim Universal Credit instead. Because Tax Credits are affected, these changes could affect people who are in work. It will be up to Jobcentre Plus to decide what needs to be claimed, but we expect that many more Shropshire people will need to claim this new benefit and be subject to its rules from next February.
To help people prepare for this, Shropshire Council has planned a series of updates throughout the year telling people what changes to expect and where they can find help. These updates will use learning both from working with Jobcentre Plus, housing providers and voluntary and community sector organisations during the rollout of Universal Credit so far, and from other areas of the country where full rollout has already begun.
Changes under Universal Credit
Universal Credit will change things:
- People will need to be able to get online. New claims for Universal Credit will be made online, and eventually all changes and updates will need to be done through a personal online portal.
- Universal Credit is paid calendar monthly in arrears, which may be different to the way a person’s current benefits are paid.
- It may take up to six weeks for the first Universal Credit to come through, and we would encourage people to start thinking about budgeting for this as soon as possible.
- Instead of local councils paying rent through Housing Benefit, Jobcentre Plus take on the responsibility and pay through the Universal Credit instead. So the money to pay the rent is included in Universal Credit, and the person claiming will have to pay this over to the landlord, it will not come separately.
- Where this might risk a person’s tenancy, or where the person may have difficulty budgeting, Jobcentre Plus can put in temporary arrangements to pay the rent to the landlord whilst the person gets help with budgeting.
- Universal Credit doesn’t just affect people out of work. It incorporates Working Tax Credits which are claimed by people in work.
- Help with mortgage costs under Universal Credit doesn’t start until the claim is 3 months old, and help with mortgages will only be given if the person claiming is not doing any paid work.
- There are changes for self-employed people: a minimum income from their business will be assumed when assessing entitlement.
- There is a £16,000 limit on savings under Universal Credit. This has always applied to out of work benefits, but because Universal Credit replaces the Working Tax Credit this limit on savings will apply to people in work too.
- Universal Credit makes taking up work much easier because it can carry on when someone moves into work. A person does not have to sign off one benefit and then claim another because they have started work.
- To get Universal Credit you must sign up to a Claimant Commitment which is an agreement with Jobcentre Plus in return for the benefit. This might mean agreeing to look for work or better paid work or taking up an offer of training to improve prospects. What you agree to will depend on your circumstances.
- These Claimant Commitments are important because, having signed up to one, benefit can be affected by not doing as agreed.
Chris Westwood, Shropshire Council’s customer services and welfare reform manager, said:
“Universal Credit won’t affect everyone just yet, and because it is for people who are of working age it generally won’t affect pensioners at all. We expect this rollout from February 2018: after that time, anyone whose circumstances change and who has to claim one of the six affected benefits, for example changing from out of work to sick, might have to claim Universal Credit instead. Jobcentre Plus will make the decision on whether someone is affected and what they have to claim.
“The council’s welfare reform and support team have been working with their Jobcentre Plus colleagues, and those in partner agencies such as housing and the voluntary and community sector, to prepare for Universal Credit introduction. This will continue in the run up to February’s rollout date.”
Find out more about the Universal Credit and how you can prepare for it by going to the ‘work and benefits’ tab on the Money Advice website, or visit this link: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/categories/universal-credit