Universal Credit explained
If you need help paying your council tax, you can still apply directly to the Council for council tax reduction.
Please be aware that council tax reduction is not given automatically if you claim Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is rolling out in Hackney. It replaces the following benefits with a single monthly award:
- jobseekers allowance (income-based JSA)
- employment and support allowance (income-related ESA)
- income support
- child tax credit
- working tax credits
- housing benefit
What is universal credit?
What has changed?
Universal Credit is paid as a single payment for your household. It’s paid into your bank, building society or credit union account once a month, in arrears.
If your payment includes housing costs to help with your rent, you will need to pay this to your landlord yourself.
For more information on what this means, please see getting ready for Universal Credit.
Universal Credit roll out in Hackney
New claimants and anyone whose circumstances have changed, will now have to claim Universal Credit.
Existing claimants will continue on the same benefits as before.
People of state pension age exempt from Universal Credit.
Some people will claim Universal Credit but will not receive the housing costs element – they will continue to claim housing benefit. This will apply to:
- people living in support exempt accommodation – generally hostels or sheltered housing
- people living in temporary accommodation provided by the Council (our housing needs team will liaise with these residents making new claims as part of the process to house them)
These exempt groups can continue to claim housing benefit.
People who are not in one of the exempt groups who have a change of circumstance that means they have to make a new claim, and those people who claim for the first time or after a break, will usually claim Universal Credit.
Universal Credit won’t affect you if you are of pension credit age, but it might if you have a partner who is working age.
Big changes if you rent your home
If you rent your home and you rely on help to pay your rent, there will be big changes under Universal Credit. You may have received housing benefit from the Council, but for most people this will stop and any help you might be entitled to will be paid directly to you via universal credit. It will be up to you to pay your rent to your landlord yourself. If you don’t, you may run into problems with rent arrears.
If your rent is due weekly
You will need to budget carefully to make sure you have enough money to pay your rent while you wait for your first payment, which is paid monthly in arrears. Your first payment can take up to 5 weeks, or longer if you haven’t provided all the information that’s needed for your claim. If you’re worried about this, see if you can put some small amounts of money aside now.
You might be able to get an advance on your first Universal Credit payment, but think carefully before you ask for this as it has to be paid back and the repayments might leave you short.
If you were claiming housing benefit at the time you moved over to Universal Credit, you can usually get an extra 2 weeks housing benefit to help you to ensure that you don’t fall seriously into arrears.
Calculate your housing costs (rent and service charges)
You must give exact details of what your housing costs (rent and service charges) are. If you don’t do this, it will delay your payment. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) usually ask your landlord to confirm what you have told them, so you need to be careful not to get this wrong or you might not get paid.
It’s unlikely they will just accept what your landlord says, they will want you to explain the difference and this can all take time to sort out.
There are some exceptions where housing benefit can still be paid in addition to Universal Credit. See the Universal Credit site for details.
Rent arrears and other financial difficulty
Some people may find it difficult to budget their money and fall into debt. If this might happen, talk to your landlord straight away, as they can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on.
Other help and advice:
In some cases, if you can’t manage your money yourself, you can ask the DWP to pay your landlord direct. You should talk to the Job Centre Plus staff about this when you meet with them about your claim.
If you fall seriously into arrears, your landlord might ask the DWP to pay them directly. However, you should be careful to avoid falling into arrears as the additional amount they deduct, which is fixed, to pay off your arrears can be sizable and it might leave you short for other things. It’s always best to talk to someone before this happens and your arrears get out of control.
If you’re a Hackney Council tenant
If you need any help with your Universal Credit claim, call the income services team on 020 8356 3100.
- offer you support to make sure you have the right information to make your claim go smoothly
- check you understand what you have to do about your rent payments
- help you with budgeting and debt advice
- put you in touch with local food banks and other support if things become difficult
If you think you might struggle to manage your money under Universal Credit, talk to us now, as it might help us to make sure your payments are made to us directly from when you first claim.
There needs to be a genuine reason why you can’t pay yourself, which we’ll need to understand to be able to ask the DWP to put arrangements in place. If we don’t understand your issues with making payments yourself, we can’t do this.
If you are in real financial difficulty, we can usually help. We may be able to agree a temporary short term hold on your rent account whilst you wait for your first payment, but can only do this if we know about your claim. It’s usually only when people don’t talk to us that problems such as falling into debt arise which could put your home at risk.
Do you need support with your Universal Credit claim?
If you live in Hackney, the charity Mind are able to offer free, independent support with claiming Universal Credit. This includes help making the initial claim, attending appointments and assessments and providing general advice: