WE explain how to get extra cash or help if you're on Universal Credit.
It comes as the number of people claiming Universal Credit has risen due to the coronavirus crisis.
A staggering 5.8million people were claiming Universal Credit as of November 2020, according to the latest figures from the government.
Meanwhile, the number of Brits who are unemployed rose to 4.9% in December with 1.69million people now jobless.
There is currently a five-week wait for your first payment, but The Sun is calling for this to be slashed to two weeks as part of our "Make Universal Credit Work" campaign.
Here we explain how Universal Credit works – and how to apply for extra cash.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
By the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship system – it takes five weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to six months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. Since December 2018, we've been calling for the government to:
- Get paid faster: The government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop millions from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85% of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
1. You payments go down the more you work
Universal Credit payments are affected by the taper rate – an idea that is supposed to encourage people to get back into work.
This is were 63p is deducted from your benefit payment for every £1 you earn over a certain amount.
If you've got a job and a child who depends on you or you can't work as much because of an illness then you may be qualify for a work allowance.
This is the amount you can earn every month before the taper rate kicks in.
If you get help with your housing costs then this will be set at £287, or £503 if you don't.
For example, if you earn £350 a month and you don't get help with your rent then your benefits will go down by £39.69.
If you don't get a work allowance then all of your salary is subject to the taper rate.
So if you're on the same £350 earnings, your Universal Credit payment will be reduced by £220.50.
The Sun wants the taper rate to be slashed to 50p to help at least four million struggling families.
2. Claim up to 85% of childcare costs
Under Universal Credit, parents can claim up to 85% of childcare costs, up to a maximum of £646 a month for one child or £1,108 for two children.
This is paid in arrears, but The Sun is calling for the cash to be paid upfront.
A few weeks ago, single mum Nicola Salvato, 49, won a landmark court case to get childcare costs paid upfront.
The Sun columnist took the government to court after getting into £2,000 worth of debt trying to pay for childcare.
The way it currently works is that parents submit a receipt on their journal once the bill has been paid for.
Three quarters of it is then reimbursed through your next Universal Credit payment.
3. Get an advance payment
An advance payment means you could get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for your first payment.
But as this is a loan, you’ll need to repay it, with the money owed taken out of future Universal Credit payments.
The most you can get as an advance is the amount of your first estimated payment.
You can apply for an advance payment in your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach.
You’ll need to:
- Explain why you need an advance
- Verify your identity
- Provide bank account details
4. There's also a budgeting advance
A budgeting advance is different to an advance payment, with this cash being used for emergencies such as buying a new cooker, or money you need to get a new job.
It’s still a loan though, which again means that it needs to be repaid and will be deducted from future Universal Credit payments.
The maximum you can get for a budgeting advance is £348 if you’re single with no children or £464 if you are a couple with no children.
If you do have children, you can get up to £812 as a loan.
To get a budgeting advance, you must have:
- Been getting Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or State Pension Credit for six months or more, unless you need the money to help you start a new job or keep an existing job
- Earned less than £2,600 (£3,600 jointly for couples) in the past six months
- Paid off any previous budgeting advances
You can apply for a budgeting advance by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.
5. Waived minimum income floor for self-employed
The Universal Credit minimum income floor applies to those who've been self-employed for more than a year.
It's the amount you're thought to earn each month, and is used to work out how much Universal Credit you get on top of your earnings.
The idea is that the minimum income floor is the equivalent of someone of your age working full time on minimum wage.
If you earn below this level in any month, you are treated as earning the minimum income floor.
The threshold has been suspended during the pandemic, and is currently set to end in April, meaning workers can keep the cash boost until then.
6. Alternative payment arrangements
If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an alternative payment arrangement which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord.
You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
These are offered for those in special circumstances, or for Brits who are considered more at risk and need extra help.
Speak to your work coach if you think you could be eligible.
7. Get help with your council tax
It's possible for Universal Credit claimants to reduce their council tax by up to 100%.
The help available depends on your circumstances – for example, your household income, whether you have children, whether you're in work, and whether you own your home or rent it.
It also depends on your local council as schemes vary.
Use Gov.uk to find out if your local council offers a council tax reduction – sometimes known as council tax support – and how to apply.
There’s a different scheme available in Northern Ireland.
8. Claim freebies and discounts
You could get help with the cost of your broadband, NHS prescriptions, travel and more if you claim Universal Credit.
Other support includes money toward school uniforms, free school meals for kids and cold weather payments.
We've rounded up ten of the best freebies or discounts here.
9. You can get help from a food bank
Your local food bank may be able to provide you with free food or toiletries if you're really struggling.
Families and individuals are usually referred to a food bank.
This is typically done through professionals including doctors, health visitors, social workers and Citizens Advice.
Once referred, the person gets a voucher that can be redeemed for an emergency parcel with a minimum of three days worth of food.
You can find your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.
10. Apply for extra benefits
You could also be entitled to up to £151 extra through Personal Independence Payments (PIP) if you have an illness, disability or mental health condition.
You can get the financial support if your condition means you struggle with moving around or everyday activities, such as getting dressed.
Applicants can get between £23.60 and £151.40 a week from age 16 up to state pension age.
You can apply for PIP through the DWP's PIP claims line, which is open between 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
The number for the DWP PIP claims line is 0800 917 2222 or you can request a form to apply through the post by writing to Personal Independence Payment New Claims, Post Handling Site B, Wolverhampton, WV99 1AH.
You will then be assessed by an independent health official appointed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
11. Inform DWP of any changes
If your circumstances chance, you need to report these so you keep getting the right amount of benefits.
Your claim might be stopped or reduced if you don't report a change straight away or you give incorrect information.
It's also important to report any changes as you may be entitled to extra cash.
Alternatively, if you've been given too much money, you may need to pay some of it back.
Changes could include things such as changing your name, your income going up or down or getting married.
You can report changes using your Universal Credit online account if you have one or contact the Universal Credit helpline.
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