Universal credit (UC) is a single monthly payment which has started to replace six existing benefits. If you’re of working age, UC will replace:
- Housing benefit
- Jobseekers' allowance
- Income support
- Child tax credit
- Working tax credit
- Income-related employment and support allowance
At the moment who can claim UC depends on where you live, in most of Oxfordshire it is only being rolled out to single people who make a new claim, but it will be rolled out to couples and families from October 2017. If you live in Swindon or Wiltshire or parts of Oxfordshire where your nearest jobcentre is Swindon, UC is already being rolled out to everyone including couples and families. UC is paid in one monthly payment direct to you and your rent, if you currently receive Housing Benefit, is no longer paid directly to Soha. It becomes your responsibility to ensure your rent is paid. If you feel you will have any problem doing this you should contact us straight away.
Five top tips for a successful universal credit claim
There are a few differences to the universal credit claiming process that could leave you out of pocket if you don't get them right first time. Here are our top five tips for making sure the process works for you:
Contact us as soon as you know you'll need to claim or are being moved across to universal credit
Unlike housing benefit, where the local authority contacts your landlord to confirm your rent details, universal credit relies on you to provide them. It's very important that you get in touch so we can provide the correct details so you get enough money to pay your rent. We can also help with other parts of your claim, for example providing you with an up to date rent statement.
Make a claim for council tax relief with your local authority
If you currently claim housing benefit, you automatically get help paying your council tax. This doesn't happen with UC, so you'll need to make a separate claim. You can do this online or call us or your local authority for a paper form.
Try to build up credit on your rent account to use as a buffer against arrears
UC is paid in arrears, and you won't receive your first payment until at least five weeks after your claim. This could leave you behind with your rent. If you currently claim housing benefit, you'll eventually be moved over to UC, so building up even a small credit on your rent account now could help you avoid arrears under universal credit.
Open a bank account
UC is paid monthly, so having a bank account you can use to pay by standing order or direct debit is vital. If your current bank account can't do either of these, consider switching to one that can.
Get used to budgeting monthly
As UC is paid monthly it's important that you get used to budgeting your money this way. If you currently receive payments at different times of the month you may find this tricky, but you can start by grouping the money you receive into one pot and thinking about it as one lump sum. Use the Money Advice Service's free budget planner to help.