Universal Credit is a new type of benefit currently being rolled out across the UK.
Fife’s seven Job Centres will begin rolling out Universal Credit on Monday 11 April 2016.
This page explains:
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new single Benefit administered by the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
It is designed for people who are on a low income or out of work and merges together a number of benefits and tax credits into a single monthly payment.
Universal Credit will replace six means-tested working age benefits:
- Job Seeker’s Allowance (Income-based)
- Employment Support Allowance (Income-related)
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
Fife Council service departments are working closely with the DWP and other stakeholders to ensure the smooth implementation of this new benefit. The six benefits being replaced are known as “legacy benefits”.
Although the roll-out of Universal Credit is the DWP’s responsibility, Councillors, landlords, and staff working for Fife Council and its partners will all play an important role in the changeover.
Who is affected?
The initial roll-out in April 2016 will only affect a limited number of new claims from single people. If you already claim any of the six legacy benefits you will not be switched to Universal Credit at this stage.
In the future, this roll-out will extend to all new claims covered by the six legacy benefits. At this stage, new claimants will not be placed on any legacy benefit; they will receive Universal Credit instead. The date of this change in Fife has not yet been confirmed, but it will not take place before December 2016. People who already claim any of the six legacy benefits will continue to receive their old benefits; they will not be switched to Universal Credit at this stage.
Finally, all customers who are still receiving legacy benefits will be moved over to Universal Credit. The roll-out of this final stage will begin in June 2018. The DWP expects the UK-wide roll-out to take three years from 2018 to 2021. At this final stage, the Council will stop offering all six legacy benefits completely and claimants will receive Universal Credit instead. The DWP will contact anyone claiming any of the six legacy benefits to explain how they can claim Universal Credit.
The DWP has not confirmed when the next stages of Universal Credit will be rolled-out in Fife.
Before then, make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to, that you’re saving when you can, and try to avoid expensive credit and getting into debt. These organisations can help you:
Tax Credit Helpline
0345 300 3900
The Money Advice Service
0300 500 5000
You can also find out what benefits you’re eligible for at www.entitledto.co.uk
For more information on Universal Credit, go to www.gov.uk/universal-credit
How is Universal Credit delivered?
The Department for Work and Pensions describes the key features of Universal Credit as:
- It is calculated and paid by a single household payment. If a claimant lives with their partner both are eligible for UC, they will receive one joint payment;
- It is paid monthly in arrears;
- By default, housing costs are paid to the claimant and not the landlord (with exceptions);
- As Universal Credit is a single benefit, it makes moving into work a smoother transition for the customer;
- Conditionality and sanctions are applied to ensure customer actively seeks employment;
- Claims are made online by default. There will be a back-up telephone service to support the claims process;
- The single household payment will be paid monthly into a bank account of the claimant’s choice. Claimants will need a bank, building society, credit union or Post Office account to receive Universal Credit.
- It will take a minimum of 5 weeks from the date you make your claim to get your first payment.
- After submitting a new claim for Universal Credit, claimants will not be paid for the first seven days. These days are known as waiting days. DWP say the reason for waiting days is because the benefit is not designed for short-term illness or unemployment. However, certain claimants are exempt and will not serve the seven waiting days.
Where can customers get support?
The DWP has confirmed that customers will get support to make their Universal Credit claim at Job Centres.
Initially, only new claims will be made online. Customers with questions regarding a claim that is already active will be directed to the Universal Credit contact centre:
- telephone: 0345 6000 723
- textphone: 0345 6000 743
The Government is currently building digital services that are simpler, clearer and faster to use to help claimants change and update information online in the future.
Citizens Advice and Rights Fife (CARF) provides free, confidential and independent information and advice. Their advisers are being trained in Universal Credit.
CARF advisers can:
- complete benefit checks for clients ensuring their income is either already maximised or could be increased in the future,
- assist clients to apply for benefits, including Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance,
- assist in challenging decisions made or sanctions that are imposed ,
- provide up to date information and advice on the changes and how they might affect individuals,
- discuss options and identify other sources of help within CARF or partner agencies
Community Job Clubs
Universal Credit claimants can also get support from Fife Council Welfare Support Assistants at any of Fife’s Community Job Clubs.
Community Job Clubs take place at 38 venues across Fife each week. They’re open to anyone looking to get back into work.
Community Job clubs are run by trained welfare support assistants who can help people:
- fulfil their claimant commitment
- access the internet to complete job searches or make applications online
- find out what other support is available to them
Other services such as Citizen's Advice and Rights Fife (CARF), NHS, and adult basic education regularly offer their services at job clubs.
Customers can also get advice and be referred to Community Job Clubs from Local offices.
Find out more
The UK Government provides information about Universal Credit and claiming other benefits on its website:
There is also a Social Landlord Support pack available on Gov.uk at:
The Money Advice Service provides information on how to prepare for the changeover at:
The Fife Digital Directory explains where people can access computers and the internet for free and where they can attend free digital skills courses to learn how to use them. Download it from: