Universal Credit: FAQs

Thank you to everyone who sent us their questions for our live Facebook Q & A on Universal Credit. Here are your questions and our answers.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is the following six working age benefits rolled into one (including both in work and out of work benefits):

  1. Working Tax Credit
  2. Child Tax Credit
  3. Housing Benefit
  4. Income Support (income-based)
  5. Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-related)
  6. Employment and Support Allowance

You will have to apply for Universal Credit online and it will be paid direct to your bank account every month.

When is Universal Credit being rolled out and who will it affect?

Universal Credit has been rolled out in a slow and controlled way with early pilots being held in the north east of England. There is currently an accelerated expansion across the UK through four stages – referred to as ‘tranches’ – which will include a number of job centres across the country.

It will affect all working age claimants, but the current pilots are only focused on single and newly unemployed claimants.

When Universal Credit is in place, do residents have to pay their own rent from their monthly Universal Credit?

Residents will receive all of their benefits, including Housing Benefit, as one single monthly payment paid directly into a bank account. From this lump sum residents will need to budget for all of their living costs for the month and make sure their rent and other priority bills are paid.

Will Universal Credit affect people who are on a zero hours contract?

Yes, it will affect people on zero hours contracts. But this new benefit has been designed to simplify changes to incomes, which under the old benefits system involved lots of different administrative hubs. Under Universal Credit there will be one administrative authority so it’s easier to calculate and process regular changes to income and ensuring work pays more than benefits.

Is Catalyst going to provide internet access for residents who need to complete applications for Universal Credit?

There is a computer with internet access that you can use for free at your local Catalyst office.

You can also use computers for free at your:

UK Online Centre also provides free or low cost internet access. Just call 0114 227 0010 or visit www.ukonlinecentres.com to find a centre near you.

Is it true that the benefit cap is being cut from £26,000 to £18,000 per year?

There have been active discussions and proposals for the benefit cap to be reduced from £26,000 per year to £23,000 per year (not £18,000). We will know more after the May 2015 general election.

What is Catalyst doing to support residents who are worried about Universal Credit?

We are currently offering financial inclusion support through our Do$h team. Our Employment and Skills team helps people write their CVs, look for jobs or training opportunities, and can prepare them for interviews.

We also refer tenants in financial difficulty to independent specialist providers such as Citizens Advice Bureau and other similar organisations who can provide useful advice and support.

Our Income Team and Neighbourhood Managers can also provide support, guidance, referrals to relevant local agencies and signposting for residents affected by the benefit changes.

Is there anything extra being done to protect vulnerable people?

We identify and try to address any tenants’ vulnerabilities at the very start of their tenancy through pre-tenancy work. This includes giving advice, guidance, training and support at the start of the tenancy.

We are also currently developing a triage approach to assess customer needs and identifying those with high levels of vulnerabilities. We can then target these residents and offer them additional and intensive support. Our specialist tenancy support officers in London also give extra support to vulnerable households and can provide discretionary funds for any emergencies.

Catalyst also has formal and informal partnerships with local authorities and a number of local agencies so we can refer and signpost people to food banks, low cost furniture outlets, IT skills workshops, employability providers, help with managing money and local community groups.

Is it true that anyone under 21-years-old will not get Housing Benefit from 1 April 2015?

The Conservative party has proposed that if elected in the May 2015 general elections they would remove eligibility to housing benefit for 18 to 21-year olds. Job Seekers Allowance would also be replaced by a youth allowance (at the same rate as Job Seekers Allowance) for 16 to 24-year-olds. 18 to 21-year-olds who are single parents, disabled and recent care leavers would be exempt from this.

In addition to the above, those under 35-years-old will only be able to claim partial Housing Benefit on a shared room rate and not full Housing Benefit for the whole property. This primarily affects those renting from private landlords and in receipt of the Local Housing Allowance. This does not affect those living in council and housing association properties, nor those with a disability or if a care leaver.

Please bear in mind that this is just a proposal. It would only be likely to happen if the Conservatives win the election outright, and even then it isn’t certain it will happen.

For more information on welfare reforms, what you can do to prepare yourself and the support available please the benefit changes section.