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What is Universal Credit?

From October 2013, the UK government is bringing in a new way to provide benefits to people of working age. This is called ‘Universal Credit’ and the UK government says it is less complex than the current system and gives you a single monthly payment if you are on a low income or out of work.

The UK government has said that Universal Credit will make sure you are better off in work. It will also make it easier to start a new job or work more hours.

As your take home pay goes up, Universal Credit will go down bit by bit so you will never lose all your benefits at once.

What is Universal Credit replacing?

Eventually, Universal Credit will replace:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

Universal Credit will be paid directly to you, so you are responsible for all of your outgoings. This means, you will also need to pay your own rent.

When does it happen?

Universal Credit will gradually be brought in over four years starting from October 2013.

What will happen to me as a claimant?

The changeover to Universal Credit starts with all new claimants and then existing claimants when their circumstances change.

Remaining claimants will then be moved over. Groups who are most likely to gain will move over earlier.

This means you may continue to get your existing benefits for a while, if your circumstances stay the same.

You will be told when Universal Credit will affect you, and if there is no change in your situation, the UK government says you won’t be any worse off when you move over.

What will be different?

Universal Credit will give you a single monthly payment. This will include all your support for housing, children and childcare costs. It will also cover support for disabled people and carers.

From your single monthly payment, you must manage your finances to cover all of your outgoings. That can be anything from gas and electricity to food shopping and your rent.

Why is Universal Credit coming in now?

The benefits system is undergoing lots of changes under the UK government’s Welfare Reform.

The UK government believes that Universal Credit will help you move into work as most salaries are paid monthly and by receiving your benefits in a single monthly payment, you will become more used to managing a monthly budget.

The UK government wants to make work pay, and Universal Credit makes it easier for you to manage your money when you do move into a new job.

How do I get the money?

Universal Credit will be paid directly to you, the claimant, straight into a bank, building society, Post Office or credit union account that you choose.

If you are claiming with a partner, a single payment will be made to cover you both.

What does this change about housing benefit? I’ve never had to pay DGHP before!

Whether you have previously received partial housing benefit or the entirety of your rent was covered by housing benefit, you will need to pay DGHP yourself when Universal Credit comes in.

Any help for your rent will be paid directly to you as part of your Universal Credit payment, so you will need to budget for the full cost of your rent.

How can I claim Universal Credit?

If you are told that you should claim, you will need to submit a new claim online here. Then you will have a face-to-face interview.

If you can’t claim online, the library service across the region can offer internet access free of charge and you will be able to get face-to-face advice about your claim from Dumfries and Galloway Council.

You can use Dumfries and Galloway Council’s ‘Find My Nearest’ tool here to locate your nearest area office and local library for internet access.

You should also be able to use the computers at your local Jobcentre.

What happens if my claim is successful?

To get Universal Credit, you must accept and meet a ‘Claimant Commitment’.

Your claimant commitment says that you accept certain responsibilities in return for claiming Universal Credit. It will also say what happens if you don’t meet these responsibilities.

It takes into account things like your family, your health and your potential for future earnings. For example, if you are unemployed but able to work, you’ll be expected to focus full-time on looking for a job.

You will still get financial support if you’re not able to work.

How can I get ready?

Bank accounts and managing your money

Sorting out how to manage your money is one of the most important things you can do to get ready for Universal Credit. You might need to get set up with a bank, building society, Post Office or credit union account.

If you are part of a couple who live together and are both claiming Universal Credit, you may want to open a joint account.

Advice and support is available if you need help with budgeting and managing your money.

There are also a couple of credit unions in operation at either end of the region. The unions help local people manage their money by offering low cost, affordable loans and simple ways to save.

Try to avoid doorstep lenders and payday loans, they have a much higher rate of interest.

If you have been affected by a doorstep loans or local loan sharks, you can report their illegal lending here in confidence.

Paying your rent

Remember, as soon as Universal Credit starts to affect you, you will be responsible for paying all of your rent.

DGHP offers a range of different ways that you can pay your rent, from direct debits to paying online or over the phone without even speaking to anyone! We can help your find a method that suits you before you run into problems with payments.

Finding work or training

You can get support from various local organisations to find a job or to move towards work.

This might include training, volunteering or getting help with your CV.

You can find out more about who can help you here.

Getting online

Having internet access at home will help you to make your claim for Universal Credit. Being able to get online at your own convenience is also a good way to look for work.

According to industry experts, a quarter of all employers looking for new staff prefer to advertise online.

Having some computer skills can also make you more employable.

There are other advantages of getting online at home. It can help your children do better at school and on average, a family can save £560 a year by shopping and paying bills online – that’s not to be sniffed at!

There are also national companies who provide affordable computing. Try GetOnline@Home who can assist you to get a home computer or laptop for much less than you think.

Who can help me?

DGHP 0800 011 3447 or 0845 606 3447

Dumfries and Galloway Council 030 33 33 3000

Money Advice Service 0300 500 5000

Turn2us 0808 802 2000

Universal Jobmatch 0845 606 0234 (for Jobcentre Plus)

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