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Benefits and Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a means tested benefit introduced for people of working age, whether they’re in or out of work. It has been designed to replace six existing benefits.
Universal Credit is intended to simplify the benefit system and to improve the incentive to work. Currently benefits are paid weekly, fortnightly or four-weekly. Universal Credit combines all the benefits it replaces, into one payment, paid calendar monthly. Payments are made directly to bank, building society or credit union accounts.
The change to monthly payments is designed to encourage people to manage their money. It is also more similar in the way wages are paid. This includes paying housing payments to the claimant, for them to then pay to their landlords.
Help to pay your rent
If you are in receipt of Universal Credit then there are a number of options which may help you to pay your rent:
Alternative Payment Arrangement
If you are struggling to budget your monthly payments of Universal you may be able to have an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA). As your landlord we can apply for an APA on your behalf. This way the Housing Element of your benefit can be paid to us direct, taking the hassle out of managing this yourself. For more information on this please contact us.
You can request through your work coach to be paid fortnightly instead of monthly if this helps you to budget.
Discretionary housing payment (DHP)
A Discretionary housing payment (DHP) is a means tested fund that could help if your Univeral Credit or housing benefit doesn’t cover the rent. To make a claim for this go direct to your own Local Authority.
It is important that you contact us so we can help you to find a solution. If you allow rent arrears to build up, you could face legal action and even eviction from your home.
Council Tax support
Univeral Credit replaces 6 benefits but this does not include council tax support. You must apply separately for any support. You can get in touch with us if you require assistance, or you can apply directly online by following this link.
It can be very difficult to have a council tax support entitlement backdated, so when you migrate over to Universal Credit remember to apply for council tax support.
Frequently asked questions
Universal Credit is very different to the benefits that it replaces:
- the first payment for new claims will be received 5 to 6 weeks after the claim has been made
- the claim needs to be made and managed online – with few exceptions
- the amount can fluctuate if income (for example from earnings) changes
- it is paid as a single monthly payment for the household – if two adults in a couple both claim, one joint payment will be made
- it includes housing costs where eligible (previously Housing Benefit)
- Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which replaced Incapacity Benefit
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
Most working age residents in Knowsley who are making a new claim for one of the legacy (old style) benefits will be directed to claim Universal Credit instead.
Universal Credit is still a means-tested benefit and is available to people both in or out of work.
To check if someone is eligible to claim, go to Universal Credit Eligibility Checker.
Some people will move to Universal Credit when they have a change in circumstances which affects their benefits. This could be when they start or end work, when working hours change or when a partner moves in or out.
Applications for Universal Credit must be made online. The claimant will need to provide certain information during the claim so it’s a good idea to have all of this to hand before starting the claim process. Visit Universal Credit: How to claim to find out what information is needed and to make a claim.
It is important to remember that Universal Credit does not include help towards Council Tax. If someone thinks they’re eligible to receive Council Tax Reduction, this will have to be claimed separately from their local Council. Visit Knowsley Council’s website for more information on how Knowsley residents can claim Council Tax Reduction.
All Universal Credit claimants have access to personal budgeting support. This is confidential one-to-one financial advice tailored to their needs and circumstances. It covers setting up a monthly budget, how to reduce outgoings, budgeting advice and different ways of paying bills.
Claimants will be asked if they might need personal budgeting support by their Department of Works and Pensions Work Coach when they claim Universal Credit. You can request this at any time, and they will be referred to an experienced, independent advisor for an appointment.
The government website has a range of information on Universal Credit.
Understanding Universal Credit
The Department of Works and Pensions site, Understanding Universal Credit, is an easy-read website covering all aspects of Universal Credit.
Visit Knowsley Council’s website and search Universal Credit for more information and local services.
Worried about rent arrears or debt?
Don’t suffer in silence. Speak to our Income Team who are on hand to support you to get back on track.
We can help you access:
- benefit advice
- wellbeing support
- budgeting advice
- employment assistance and opportunities
- emergency financial support
Start small, give us a call!