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Universal Credit

Universal Credit is live in West Dunbartonshire from 28 November 2018.

Following the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the Government introduced changes to the Welfare Benefit system that could have wide ranging impact on household incomes. Please find below information on Universal Credit.  However, changes may happen rapidly so you can check their own website for more details or up to date advice www.gov.uk/universal-credit.

Should you find that you are struggling with Universal Credit or simply wish some advice or assistance, you can contact the Rent Team on 0141 941 1044.

It is a single means tested benefit payable to people of working age who are on a low income. It does not depend on your national insurance contributions and is not taxable. You can claim it if you are looking for work, if you are unable to work through sickness or disability, if you are a lone parent, if you are caring for someone or if you are working and your wages are low.

If you make a new claim or have a change in your circumstances, you will now be transferred onto Universal Credit and cannot be transferred back onto any of the benefits covered by Universal Credit.

If you are currently in receipt of any of the 6 benefits now being covered by Universal Credit, the Department of Working Pensions will contact you when your benefit is being changed to Universal Credit.  Please note that this may not happen for a few months.

Universal Credit replaces the following benefits:

  • Child tax credit
  • Housing benefit
  • Income related employment and support allowance
  • Income-based job seekers allowance
  • Income support, and
  • Working tax credit

Universal Credit is being phased in gradually over a number of years. To qualify for Universal Credit you must meet certain work related conditions, which vary according to your circumstances.

Universal credit is worked out by comparing your basic financial needs with your financial resources. It is calculated on a monthly basis. Your financial resources include your earnings, income, capital and savings. Your Universal Credit may also include an amount to cover housing costs.

Further details on how Universal Credit is calculated can be found online at www.gov.uk/universal-credit

You normally need to claim Universal Credit online at www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit.

You would need to have:

  • your own bank account
  • your own email address
  • internet access
  • a mobile telephone number

If you do not have access to a computer, an email address or are unable to use a computer please click on the 'What help can you provide?' question.

Our Rental Team at the office can help.

We own and manage Centre81, 2-16 Braes Avenue, which can offer you a number of opportunities to learn new skills in using computers.

An IT drop-in service is run at Centre81 every Friday between 12.00pm and 1.00pm.  If this time is not suitable, contact Centre81 (533 7070) or your Housing Officer (941 1044) for other options.

  • We can support you with learning how to set up an email address and using the internet to apply for your Universal Credit
  • Help you find out the best deals in internet access, including free Wi-Fi areas.  Check out our map of local free WiFi and public computer availablity here!

Working for 4U - is a West Dunbartonshire Council group who can help you with accessing employment, education and training.  They offer a range of opportunities to help you gain free qualifications, confidence building and goal setting and provide IT support at all levels.  They run services on a Monday between 1-3pm at Centre81 which is an informal class to help you use IT services.

Universal Credit is paid once every calendar month in arrears. It is normally paid in to a bank, building society or Post Office card account. A single payment is made to each household.  If you are eligible for the housing costs element/rent it will be included in your Universal Credit payment.  Unless you agree otherwise with Universal Credit and us, it will not be paid to your landlord.  It will then be your responsibility to pay your full monthly rent to your landlord.

If tenants are in arrears with their rent, landlords can request housing payments to be made direct to the landlord.

In order to pay your rent to your landlord and make payments for other regular bills it is usually cheaper and more convenient to make payments by direct debit.  In order to do this you need access to a transactional bank account.  If you do not have a bank account and anticipate you may have problems opening a bank account, please contact our Rent Team on 0141 941 1044.

If you are being migrated on to Universal Credit from your existing benefits, there may be a gap between your final payment of the existing benefit and your first Universal Credit payment.  You may be able to claim a Universal Credit advance to bridge this gap.  It will be recoverable from you over 12 months by deductions from your monthly universal credit payments.  For new claimants any advance needs to be repaid over 6 months.

If you are in arrears with your rent, your landlord can request housing payments and deductions for rent arrears to be made directly to your rent account.

In order to pay your rent to your landlord it is usually cheaper and more convenient to make payments by direct debit.  Please contact our Rent Team to discuss.  If you do not have a bank account and anticipate you may have problems opening a bank account, please contact us.

To be entitled to Universal Credit you need to have accepted a claimant commitment.  If claiming jointly with your partner you both need to accept the claimant commitment.  The claimant commitment is a record of the requirements you are expected to meet in order to continue to receive Universal Credit.

Tenants need be make sure everything they agree to in the claimant commitment is achievable.  Your benefit can be sanctioned if you do not comply with your claimant commitment. 

The claimant commitment can be reviewed and updated at any time by the DWP (eg when your work–related requirements change).  This will normally be done at a regular 'Work search interview'. This can take place over the phone, online, or at a face to face meeting.  There are four types of work-related requirements that apply to Universal Credit:

  • Work focussed interview requirement
  • Work preparation requirement
  • Work search requirement
  • Work availability requirement

Which, if any of these, applies to you depends on your circumstances. Further information on these requirements can be found online at www.gov.uk/universal-credit. In some circumstances none of the work-related requirements may apply . This could be because of your disability or due to your caring responsibilities or because you are already working an adequate number of hours.

As with all changes of circumstance which could affect your entitlement to benefit, you must let the Department of Work and Pensions know as soon as possible.

Changes of circumstance which need to be reported could be:

  • Somebody joining or leaving your household
  • Children leaving school
  • Separating from a partner
  • That you have a partner or have got married
  • A child being born
  • A death
  • Starting or finishing work, or your non dependant starting or finishing work
  • Being in receipt of any other benefit – eg DLA/ Carers Allowance/Tax Credits/PIP
  • Inheriting money or property
  • If you increase or decrease your working hours you must also inform Housing  Benefit and any other benefits agency, however, the plan with Universal Credit is that there will be a real time link with Her Majesty Revenue and Customs Service, this means your employer will be sending information directly to HMRC each time you are paid
  • Tax credits - if you split from a partner it is vital that you tell tax credits within a month of the split.  They are under no obligation to backdate your benefit entitlement to the date of any change of circumstances, however, they are perfectly entitled to claim back any payment of benefit you have received since the change of circumstances occurred, even if you would have been entitled to benefit  had you informed them

If you are unsure of which changes need to be reported you are best advised to contact the benefits agency for guidance. It is safest to report all changes as soon as possible. One of the most common causes of benefit overpayments is non reporting of change of circumstances.  Remember some changes will have to be reported to more than one agency ie. if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit and Tax Credits  and Employment and Support Allowance you need to inform all three of the benefits agencies of any changes - do not assume that they will advise each other.

For further information on Universal Credit you can check the UK Government website https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit