Universal Credit

The Department for Work and Pensions is changing the current welfare benefits system.

In Salford it will be changing from 26 September 2018. Universal Credit will be introduced in the following postcode areas from 25 July 2018: M7 4, M8 5, M8 8, and M8 9. This is because some people living in these areas are covered by Cheetham Hill Jobcentre in Manchester, which is moving to the Universal Credit system before Salford. 

It’s replacing six benefits:

  • Housing benefit
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

The Department for Work and Pensions call these legacy benefits.

Important:

  • Universal Credit does not include help with your council tax. You will be responsible for paying your council tax. If you live in Salford, you must claim Council Tax Reduction separately from the council. 
  • People who are facing hardship can apply for help through the council’s Salford Assist scheme.
  • Most people who are on Universal Credit can apply for free school meals online or at one of the council’s Gateway Centres in Eccles, Pendleton, Swinton and Walkden.

Is Universal Credit going to affect me and if so when? 

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment to help with your living costs if you’re on a low income or out of work and aged between 18 and pension age. In exceptional circumstances, some 16 and 17 year olds are able to claim. If you live with your partner and you both claim Universal Credit, you must both make a joint claim for Universal Credit, and you’ll receive a single payment for both of you. 

From 26 September 2018, Universal Credit will apply to anyone living in Salford making a new claim for any of the legacy benefits covered by Universal Credit. 

Who has to claim Universal Credit?

If someone has a change of circumstances and they are already claiming legacy benefits (one of the benefits listed earlier), they may need to make a new claim for Universal Credit. This could include having a first child, starting work or becoming unemployed. If someone is on housing benefit and moves into a different rented home in Salford, they will stay on housing benefit. However, if they move into a tenancy and are not already claiming housing benefit, they will need to make a new Universal Credit claim. 

Families with three or more children

If someone has three or more children, they won’t be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit until at least January 2019. They will claim legacy benefits.

Important 

If you are claiming a legacy benefit and don’t have a change in your circumstances, you will stay on those benefits for the time being. It’s expected that from July 2019, the Department for Work and Pensions will be gradually moving all people claiming, or wanting to claim, one of the six legacy benefits to Universal Credit. They will contact people who are affected.

You can get advice on whether you currently need to apply for Universal Credit if you are already receiving benefits, such as if you are self-employed, if you have disabled children and so on. The council’s Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service can give advice on this.

How does Universal Credit work?

  • There is a five weeks wait in receiving your first Universal Credit payment. You can ask your work coach at the Jobcentre about an advance payment, which is an interest free loan to help see you through. This will be recovered from your ongoing Universal Credit payments over the following six to 12 months. Ask for advice if this is causing you problems.
  • You will be paid by calendar month, not every four weeks.
  • Your Universal Credit payment is paid based on your situation during the previous month (called an assessment period). If you work, the earnings you receive during this time will be taken into account to decide what money you will be given.
  • If you owe money for things such as council tax, rent, gas, electricity and water, a certain amount of money can be taken out of your payment so you will receive less. This means you need to check what money you owe.
  • It’s important to check with the council’s council tax team that the information they hold for you is correct and up to date so they can make sure you get the help you need. 

Jobcentre interviews and claimant commitment

Jobcentre interviews

When you first claim Universal Credit, most people will be asked to attend an interview at the Jobcentre. It’s very important to attend interviews you are asked to attend, and keep in touch with your work coach. If you miss your first interview, your claim may be closed.

At the first interview, you will need to agree and sign your claimant commitment. This outlines what you will need to do to search for work. You can discuss these with your work coach and let them know if you find any part of the process difficult. Depending on your circumstances, this could include going to work-focused interviews, preparing for work, and if you are fit for work, regularly searching for work.

You will be expected to regularly fill in an online work journal and look out for messages from your work coach.

It’s important to let your work coach know of any issues such as caring responsibilities or health problems that affect your ability to keep to your claimant commitment as these should be taken into consideration. 

Part time workers

If you are working but earning less than the level agreed in your claimant commitment then you may still need to attend interviews at the Jobcentre to show you are searching for more or better paid work. 

Sanctions

If you don’t keep to your claimant commitment, your Universal Credit claim can be sanctioned. This means that all of the personal allowance part of your payment can be stopped. You may be able to claim a hardship payment from Universal Credit, which will need to be repaid. If you disagree with your sanction decision you can appeal. You can get advice from the council’s Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Team, Salford Citizens Advice and other organisations listed in the Sources of Help section

Universal Credit and paying your rent

Your Universal Credit payment may include help towards your rent. This is the part that has replaced housing benefit. If you have rent arrears or other difficulties that means you will struggle to pay your rent, you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions for your Universal Credit to be paid directly to your landlord. For more information speak to your Jobcentre work coach. It’s important to check who your landlord is so there are no delays with paying your rent to them.

Temporary and supported housing

If you are placed in temporary, emergency or certain types of supported housing, such as a house, flat or apartment, you will still get Universal Credit for your living costs. You will have to claim housing benefit to cover the housing costs. You can avoid delays in getting Universal Credit by making sure you give up to date and accurate proof of the amount of rent you pay. 

Special circumstances 

Families with three or more children

If you have three or more children you won’t be able to claim Universal Credit for the time being. You will stay on your current benefits. 

If you have more than two children, you will only receive benefit payments for those two children. You can discuss whether you can claim payments with your work coach at the Jobcentre or Department for Work and Pensions Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344.

Ex-offenders

The Department for Work and Pensions gives support to prisoners who are due to be released to show them how to make an online Universal Credit application. Prisoners are only able to make an application once they have been released from prison. Salford City Council also offers training to prisoners who are due to be released on how to use computers and the internet.

The council’s Salford Housing Options Point and the Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre help ex-offenders find accommodation when they leave prison.

Self-employed workers

If you are self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, it’s important to remember that your income will be assessed monthly for Universal Credit. This means you need to keep up to date records of the hours you have worked and be able to prove the income you have received. If you don’t do this, the Department for Work and Pensions will make an assessment on the basis that you are working full time.

Mental health problems and disabilities

If you have mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, or you have a disability, you need to tell the work coach at the Jobcentre when you have your first assessment. You will be asked to explain what treatment and support you are currently receiving. You may be asked to provide sick notes or referred for a work capability assessment.

MIND and the council’s Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice service can offer support if you feel you need help and advice. They can also suggest other local organisations and charities which can help, such as local NHS health services.

How to be prepared

What do I need to do? 

  • You will need a bank account as your Universal Credit payment will be made into this. You should be able to go into any bank and set up a basic bank account which allows you to pay in and take out money with a debit card. You can use a Post Office account to collect benefits, but you can’t pay any other money in. You can only get money out of a Post Office account with a card at the Post Office. Fee-free basic bank accounts are for people who don’t have a bank account or aren’t able to meet the requirements for a standard current account. You can usually apply for a fee-free basic account in person, by post, over the phone, or online from a wide range of the well-known banks. 
  • Universal Credit applications have to be made through an internet application form and claimants are expected to fill in a journal online. Any messages from the Department for Work and Pensions about your claim and what you are expected to do will be made in this journal. Only you and your Jobcentre work coach will be able to use this journal, so you will need to check it regularly. If you will find this difficult, speak to your Jobcentre work coach.
  • If you are assessed as being able to claim Universal Credit, you will need to attend a face to face interview at a Jobcentre with a work coach and then you will need to attend regular appointments to discuss your work search following this.
  • You will need an email address which you can set up easily and for free on the internet. You can sign up to an email address with Google, Yahoo or mail.com 
  • You will need to prove your identity to claim Universal Credit and to open a bank account. If you don’t already have photo ID, such as a driving license or passport, or debit or credit card, you can take other evidence to your Jobcentre interview instead, such as - evidence of your address if you have one, such as, electricity or gas bill, council tax bill, bank statement, official letters; evidence of who you are, for example, a birth or marriage certificate. Try and take at least three forms of evidence if you can. You may be able to get help with the cost of a photo ID if you ask your Jobcentre work coach.
  • You can open an account with Salford Credit Union to start saving - small amounts of money put away regularly can build up to help you manage in difficult times. The credit union account is generally not recommended as a main bank account because it is not designed to provide immediate access to benefits. However it does offer an account with a Prepaid Debit card that benefits can be paid to but there are fees for using this account.
  • Try to save a few pounds each week so you will be better able to manage if you find you have less money than you expected. You can claim reduced council tax from the council. 
  • You can also apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) if you're struggling to pay your rent. Payments are normally only made for a short period while you look at ways to change your circumstances (such as getting a job or moving to a home with less bedrooms). 

How do I know if I can get Universal Credit? 

People can use the benefits calculator on the Citizens Advice website or the Better Off Salford website when it launches soon, to see if they can claim Universal Credit. They will need their personal financial information such as rent, and childcare support. 

Salford City Council’s Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service

  • Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service offers support for people living in Salford.
  • People don’t have to be on benefits to access this service.
  • Anyone can refer to this service, including local people wanting support, by filling in an online referral form.
  • The service has specialists who offer advice for people with mental health and learning difficulties.
  • Advice workers are also based in some doctors’ surgeries (and patients of those surgeries can attend these) 

Jobcentres in Salford

The Jobcentres in Salford are listed below. You can find out more information about benefits at www.gov.uk  

  • Pendleton - The Opportunities Centre, Churchill Way, Salford, M6 5PL 
  • Eccles - Sentinel House, Monton Road, Eccles, M30 0NA 
  • Worsley - 5 Worsley Court, Walkden, M28 3AD
  • Irlam - Irlam Library, Hurst Fold, Liverpool Road, Irlam, M44 6FD 

What should I do if I’m struggling to manage? 

  • You can ask the Jobcentre for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you manage while you’re waiting for your first payment. This is a loan and repayments will be automatically taken out from your future Universal Credit payments over 12 months. 
  • You can ask for different payment arrangements, such as payments made more often than once a month, or split between partners, by speaking to your work coach at Jobcentre.
  • The council’s council tax team can pause your payments of council tax while you wait to receive your first Universal Credit payment. They can also work out new payment plans for council tax if you let them know you need help. They offer coffee and chat drop-in sessions so you can talk about this with them.
  • Let Salford City Council know as soon as possible if you think you won’t be able to make your rent or council tax payments. The Salford Housing Options Service, may be able to work with landlords to make arrangements. They can also help with making housing benefit claims and advise on money issues, different housing options and so on.
  • It may be possible to claim for a one-off payment to help with your rent if you find there is a difference between your rent and what you are able to claim for housing costs through Universal Credit. This is known as a discretionary housing payment and can be applied for online.
  • The council’s Salford Assist team can help with food and fuel vouchers if you are struggling to pay for the basics.
  • If you are a customer with a housing association such as Salix Homes, Pendleton Together or City West Housing Trust, they can give you lots of help with making arrangements about your rent and other bills.
  • Salford City Council is working in partnership with United Utilities which has a range of support tariffs and debt schemes for customers who are facing affordability problems. Find out more or call 0800 072 6765. United Utilities can delay your water bill payments for up to eight weeks, giving you the time you need while waiting for your first Universal Credit payment to arrive. They can also spread your payments across a longer period of time to make your bill more manageable. In addition to providing you with some breathing space, United Utilities will also check to see if they can reduce your bill by switching you to a support tariff so it’s really worth getting in touch if you are struggling with your water bill. 
  • The council’s Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service offers support for people living in Salford. The team can help with finding out which benefits you are entitled to and making appeals against decisions.
  • It’s better not to take a loan of money to pay off any arrears or debts because this is building up your problems. If you have already been able to save with Salford Credit Union they may be able to help with a loan- their loans are generally much cheaper than payday or similar loans and they will always check you can afford to pay back a loan. 

Help with using computers and the internet

There are lots of places across Salford where you can use free computers and the internet, and get support to learn how to use them for free. A Universal Credit booklet gives more information about this.

Making the most of your money

A new website called Better Off (launching soon) gives advice and support on lots of things such as saving money, job searching and volunteering, benefits applications and more. It keeps the information you enter in one place to make it easier for you to work out what savings you can make, discounts and help you can claim, support with childcare and benefits applications. You can contact Salford Citizens Advice for advice and help on making your money go further as well as help if you to manage budgets, debts and arrears. 

Help with your water bills

United Utilities can help you in different ways to reduce your costs. If you contact them to explain you are waiting to receive Universal Credit, they will delay your water bill until you get your first payment. If you are in debt and/or on a low income and you speak to them about this, they can offer payment matching and support tariffs to reduce what you are charged to what you can afford.

Help with council tax

If you are struggling with money, Salford City Council can delay your council tax bill until you receive your first Universal Credit payment. If you contact the Council Tax Reduction scheme, they can arrange for you to come in for a coffee and a chat to talk about a payment plan for your council tax payments. It is important to let them know as early as possible before you build up arrears to avoid any legal action and bailiffs. If you are able to get reduced council tax, you won't be able to have moeny for the period you didn’t receive it. 

Housing association customers

If you are a housing association customer in Salford, such as City West, Pendleton Together and Salix Homes, there is lots of support and help available. They can look at your payments if you’re struggling to pay rent, offer advice on budgeting and saving money, support with finding work and developing skills and training, volunteering and more. 

Volunteering, skills and training

More information about the support Salford City Council offers on these areas is available on the jobs, skills and work section. This includes Salford Futures, which provides work experience placements and pre-employment training and support to unemployed Salford residents. 

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, Volunteer Centre Salford is here to help. They can help you to explore the opportunities available and match you up with the most appropriate one. They offer advice and information to potential volunteers, training and run volunteering events. Volunteering is a great way to: meet new people, build your confidence, learn new skills, improve your CV, gain new experiences, and help a group or cause. Find out more online, phone 0161 787 7795 or email volunteer@salfordcvs.co.uk

Work coaches at Jobcentres can refer people claiming Universal Credit onto courses such as help with computer skills and English and maths. If you need help with a course in order to get a job, such as a licence to drive a heavy goods vehicle, the Jobcentre may be able to provide funding for this. They can also pay a fixed amount for interview clothes and interview travel expenses. They may be able to offer, for example, to buy a bicycle if getting to different places to look for work is difficult. 

Help to be happier and healthier

Mental health problems such as low self-confidence, depression, anxiety and physical health problems can make it very difficult to manage day to day, such as paying your bills, holding down a job and living your life to the full. 

Health Improvement Service

The Health Improvement Service is here to help you, your family and your community have a healthier day, every day. Phone 0800 952 1000 or email: health.improvement@salford.gov.uk  

Salford’s Health Improvement Service is free, locally based, friendly and available to anyone who lives or works in Salford. They can help you make straightforward, achievable rewarding health and lifestyle changes. 

Their services include:

  • One to one or group specialist sessions if you want to cut down or give up smoking
  • Budget-friendly healthy eating advice and classes
  • Fitness and exercise support for those who need help to get started
  • Support for new mums with breastfeeding and first foods
  • Advice for parents including controlling infections and keeping teeth and gums healthy
  • Help for you to feel healthier and manage long term health conditions 

Mustard Tree

In addition to advice and one-to-one support, everyone at Mustard Tree is encouraged to join one of their training schemes, to help with employability, skills and self-confidence. Their classes range from practical support such as IT skills, to art and drama, and also give people who are socially isolated the chance to belong to a community – to make friends and build up their confidence. Mustard Tree believes everyone deserves opportunity and that they always have something to give. If you live in Salford, phone: 0161 228 7331, or you can drop into: Mustard Tree, 50 Hulton District centre, Little Hulton, M20 0AU.

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