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:
The Department for Work and Pensions call these legacy benefits.
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.
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?
Jobcentre interviews and claimant commitment
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.
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.
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.
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.
What do I need to do?
How do I know if I can get Universal Credit?
The Jobcentres in Salford are listed below. You can find out more information about benefits at www.gov.uk
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 money 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
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:
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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