Universal Credit will sweep away the current benefits system and provide a single monthly payment for people on a low income or are out of work. It will include support for the costs of housing, children and childcare, as well as support for disabled people and carers. Universal Credit will replace:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
Universal credit will be centrally administered by the Department for Work and Pensions but local authorities will be able to assist claimants with the on-line claim procedure and advice.
3.18.1 When Will Universal Credit Be introduced?
Universal Credit is being rolled out in stages throughout England and Wales. It is currently available in most areas although it will likely be only single first time claimers that can apply at the moment. Some areas will start to allow couples to apply and slowly increase the situations as to who can apply.
The plans will allow Universal Credit to be available in each part of Great Britain during 2016. New claims to existing benefits that Universal Credit replaces will close down, with the vast majority of the remaining claimants moving onto Universal Credit during 2016 and 2017.
An up to date list of all the jobcentre areas where Universal Credit can be claimed is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/jobcentres-where-you-can-claim-universal-credit.
3.18.2 How will Universal Credit Be Paid?
In most cases the whole benefit including the housing element will be paid directly to a claimants bank account.
There will be limited circumstances such as the 8 weeks arrears rule similar to current housing benefit where it may be possible for direct payment. This is known as an Alternative Payment Arrangement and a landlord will need to contact the DWP to ask for direct payment to be made.
Universal Credit will be assessed monthly (no longer will payments be four weekly) and the amounts will be paid monthly in arrears.
3.18.3 How Much Will A Tenant Receive?
Universal Credit will include a housing element and the amount of that element is based almost entirely on the current local housing allowance system. The claimant will be entitled to the maximum of the local housing allowance rate based upon the number of bedrooms they are entitled to depending on their circumstances.
3.18.4 Where Can I Get More Information?
The DWP have produced a useful FAQ – Universal Credit and Rented Housing Frequently Asked Questions available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/275875/universal-credit-rentedhousing.pdf.