Universal credit

Universal Credit is a new benefit which supports people who are on a low income or out of work, and helps ensure that you are better off in work than on benefits. Universal Credit will give you the support you need to prepare for work, move into work, or earn more. In return for this support, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to find work or increase your earnings. Universal Credit is being introduced in stages. It became available to single people of working age in Argyll and Bute from 7th March 2016.

However the government has announced a pause in the rollout of Universal Credit in its Autumn Statement for LIVE service areas. Argyll and Bute is a LIVE service area. This means that Universal Credit LIVE service will cease to take new claims from 1 January 2018. Existing Universal Credit claimants in Argyll and Bute will be unaffected and their claim will be maintained. However someone making a claim in Argyll and Bute after 31 December 2017 will be directed to claim one of the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income Support (IS); and/or
  • Housing Benefit (HB) as appropriate to their circumstances. If you have claimed ESA, JSA or IS with the Job Centre Plus then this data will have been passed to the Council for the HB assessment and you do not need to do anything more. If you have not claimed any of these benefits then you can claim HB by requesting an application form at a local Customer Service Point, or by downloading a form from https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/council-and-government/housing-benefit-and-council-tax-benefit.
  • Child Tax Credits and/or Working Tax Credits with HM Revenue and Customs.

There is an exception. If a claimant has claimed Universal Credit in Argyll and Bute since 7 March 2016 but they have not received any payment of Universal Credit for a period of 6 months then they will be directed to claim HB, JSA, ESA, IS, Child Tax credits and/or Working Tax Credits. However if the period where no Universal Credit has been received, due to income levels, is less than 6 months then they should reclaim Universal Credit via the Job Centre Plus.

We do not expect Universal Credit to be rolled out to working age families or couples until September 2018 at the earliest.

Universal Credit will replace:

• Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

• Income Support

• Working Tax Credit

• Child Tax Credit

• Housing Benefit

Whether you can claim it will depend on your personal circumstances. Find out more on eligibility.  Here are some detailed guides to Universal Credit.

If I claim Universal Credit what will I get?

The amount of Universal Credit you’ll get depends on your circumstances and your income.  It can include support for housing. If you get Universal Credit to help you with housing, you will be responsible for paying your rent to your landlord.

You will need to make a separate claim for any Council Tax Reduction to the Council.

Can I Work whilst claiming Universal Credit?

There are no limits to the number of hours you can work in a week if you get Universal Credit. Your payment will reduce gradually as you earn more. You won’t lose all your benefits at once if you’re on a low income.

Personal Budgeting under Universal Credit

Most people will receive one monthly payment directly into their account.  You may not have been used to managing your budget monthly. If you need help, the DWP will refer you for Personal Budgeting Support.  Alternatively you can contact:

What do I need to make my claim?

You should only claim Universal Credit in Argyll and Bute if you have already been in receipt of Universal Credit since 7 March 2016 and no longer than 6 months has elapsed since you last received a Universal Credit payment. If you have not previously claimed Universal Credit in the area then you should contact the Job Centre Plus to claim ESA, JSA or IS as appropriate; HM Revenue and Customs to claim Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit as appropriate; for information in relation to claiming HB go to https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/council-and-government/housing-benefit-and-council-tax-benefit

You will be expected to make your claim online. Before you start your claim you will need to have the following information at hand: your postcode, your National Insurance Number, details of the account you want UC paid into, your rent agreement (if applying for housing costs), details of any savings you have, details of any income that is not from work and details of any other benefits you are getting.

It should take around 20-40 minutes to complete the UC application.

What happens after I apply?

After you complete your application, the DWP’s Universal Credit Service Centre will phone you to arrange an interview at your local Jobcentre to verify your application. Your application will then be sent to a Universal Credit Service Centre. Once this happens, the DWP will send you a letter letting you know the outcome of your claim.

Where can I use a computer?

Applications for Universal Credit must be made on-line. Public access to computers is provided at your local Library. 

Access to computers can also be provided at your local Job Centre Plus office.

Help before your Universal Credit Payments start

When you first apply for Universal Credit, you will have to wait at least 5-6 weeks from the date of claim to get your first payment.  After this, it will be paid monthly. If you are in difficulty whilst you are waiting for your first payment, DWP may be able to offer you an advance which is repaid over an agreed period.

What if I am landlord in Argyll and Bute?

Information on how landlords may be impacted by Universal Credit.