UC has replaced 6 benefits including Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Working & Child Tax Credits, Employment & Support Allowance, and Housing Benefit. You can claim it if you are:
- working, and on a low income
- caring for someone
- have a disability or illness that prevents you from working
- have housing costs or childcare costs.
It is extremely complicated but the basic criteria states that you must be:
- aged 18 or above (in most cases)
- under pension age
- living in the UK
holding less than £16,000 in savings
Universal Credit must be claimed online by going to www.gov.uk. You will need to create an online account and will need an email address and phone number to sign up. You need information on your bank account, wages, any other benefits you receive, and housing details to hand. You have one month to provide this information, but your claim cannot be processed until all information is provided. If you have a partner, you need to make separate claims which will be linked by a code. You will have an online journal which your job coach will use to contact you. If you struggle with computer literacy, there are a number of agencies that can provide help including Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
UC is not paid until 5 weeks after the date of the claim, so it is important to ask for an advance payment if you are struggling financially. This is not a grant and has to be repaid.
The standard allowance has been increased by £1000/year. This will last for 12 months. You will not need to look for work until 30/06/20 at the earliest (also applies to Jobseeker’s Allowance) or attend face-to-face interviews. Verification of your identity (normally done via face-to-face appointment) is now being done online through the Government Gateway.
If you claim UC because you are unfit to work, you will not have to produce a ‘Fit Note’ at present.