Universal Credit is a new benefit for people aged between 16 and 64 years who are on a low income or unemployed. It is replacing most of the existing means-tested benefits for people in this age group. Universal Credit will be rolled out in Sheffield from November and December 2018.
Which benefits are being replaced?
Universal Credit will replace:
- Income Support
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
These benefits are also known as “legacy benefits”.
Other benefits such as Carer’s Allowance, Child Benefit, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will remain as separate benefits, which can be claimed alongside Universal Credit.
When will I need to claim Universal Credit?
People will be moved onto Universal Credit in two waves:
- Initially, only people who try to make a new claim for one of the legacy benefits (see above) will be required to claim Universal Credit instead. This includes people who are already claiming one of these benefits and who have to make new claim because of a change in their circumstances. Changes you have to report include moving to a new tenancy in a different council area (if you are on Housing Benefit), or separating from your partner or starting to live with a new partner (if you get Tax Credits).
- People who are on one of the legacy benefits and who do not report a change in their circumstances will be moved onto Universal Credit at some point between July 2019 and March 2023. This process is called “managed migration”.
There is an important difference between these two groups: People who transfer to Universal Credit under “managed migration” (the second group) will qualify for transitional protection. This means that if you would get less money under Universal Credit than you do on your current benefits, you will receive a top-up payment so that you do not lose out. This protection is not available to people who move onto Universal Credit due to making a new claim or reporting a change in their circumstances (the first group).
Will I be better or worse off?
How Universal Credit will affect your family depends on your individual circumstances. Some families will be better off, but other families are likely to lose out. A lot depends on the timing of the transfer:
If you are moved onto Universal Credit through managed migration, then your benefits should either stay the same or go up, due to transitional protection.
For families with savings, however, this protection may be short-lived. At the moment, your savings are disregarded when you claim tax credits. Not so with Universal Credit – if you have savings above £16,000, then you don’t normally qualify at all. Tax credits claimants with savings above £16,000 who are moved onto Universal Credit through managed migration will get transitional protection, but only for 12 months. If that applies to you, you should seek financial advice to explore your options.
If you have to make an early claim for Universal Credit due to a change in your circumstances, then you won’t qualify for transitional protection. There is a risk that you could end up worse off. Those particularly at risk include:
- Families who are unable to work and whose disabled child receives the low or middle rate care component of DLA, or the standard daily living rate of PIP. This is because the extra money you get for a disabled child on those DLA/PIP rates under Universal Credit is around 50% less than under the current tax credit system. These families are likely to be worse off by £1,761 a year.
(Your benefits will remain the same if your child is on the high rate care component of DLA, the enhanced daily living rate of PIP, or is registered blind.)
- People who receive Carer’s Allowance. This is because Carer’s Allowance is fully deducted from your Universal Credit award. Universal Credit does include a Carer Element, but this is around £120 per month less than Carer’s Allowance. Unlike Carer’s Allowance, the Carer Element of Universal Credit does not have an income limit – so you could potentially increase your earnings to make up the shortfall. However, earnings above a certain threshold will reduce your Universal Credit award by 63p for every £1 you earn!
- Families with savings above £16,000 won’t be able to get Universal Credit at all.
You can find more information about Universal Credit on this government website.
National charity Contact has a helpline for families with disabled children. Their advisers can do a full benefits check for you. Call 0808 808 3555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.