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Universal Credit is coming…. Are you ready?
The Government is making a number of changes to the welfare benefit system; one of the most significant changes that the Government is introducing is Universal Credit.
But what is Universal Credit, what will it mean for you and what do you need to do?
About Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a new single payment benefit for people of working age, designed to top up your income. Universal credit will eventually replace benefits for people who are out of work and tax credits for people who are in work.
Universal Credit will help claimants and their families to become more independent and will simplify the benefits system by bringing together a range of working-age benefits into one single monthly payment.
To claim it you need to be over 18 and under Pension Credit age. If you are of Pension Credit age and your partner is working age, you will need to amke a joint Universal Credit claim (unless you are already in reciept of Pension Credit).
Universal Credit will replace:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
Housing Benefit will no longer exist. If you get help to pay your rent, this will be included in your single monthly payment.
You will need to pay your rent to Wulvern yourself out of your Universal Credit payment, as your Housing Benefit will no longer be paid directly to us. If you do not do this, you will fall into rent arrears and could end up losing your home.
How will you pay yours?!
If you are unsure how to pay your rent – we can help. We offer a number of easy ways to set up payments or pay your rent, simply choose the method that suits you!
- Direct Debit/Standing order. This is the easiest method of payment for the majority of customers as the money is taken straight out of your bank account
- On-line using your rent payment card
- Over the telephone with a credit or debit card, along with your Allpay card
- Via the post, send a cheque or postal order to Wulvern
- At any Wulvern shop or office
- At any Post Office with cash, cheque or debit card
- By cash at any store or petrol station displaying the Pay Point or PAYzone logos
How to apply for Universal Credit
Claiming Universal Credit will be different to how you claim your benefits now.
You will need to have access to the internet as you will be expected to apply for and manage your Universal Credit online and not in an office as you do now with Housing Benefit.
If you do not have access to the internet via a computer, laptop, mobile phone, TV or tablet, all Wulvern shops and offices have a computer connected to the internet which is free of charge to use and most libraries also have computers which are free to use.
In special circumstances it may be possible to make a claim by phone, but we do not yet have the details of who this will apply to.
You will be responsible for telling the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of any changes to your circumstances which may affect your benefits; this will include changes to your rent. From what we know at the moment, Wulvern will no longer be allowed to do this for you, so you must ensure that you tell the DWP or you will lose out on your benefits.
How will you receive Universal Credit?
In order to receive your Universal Credit payment you will need to have a bank account that can make electronic payments such as Direct Debits and standing orders.
The different options are:
- A current account
- A basic bank account
If you are married or living together you will get a single Universal Credit payment. You can have the money paid into a single account in either name or a joint account in both names. It might be useful to think about who is (or is not) good at budgeting.
If you have not yet got a bank account it is a good idea to get one set up and get used to using it ahead of Universal credit coming in. Wulvern can provide support and guidance with this – please call our Income’s Team who will be happy to help.
When will it come in?
The national implementation started in certain areas of the UK in October 2013 however at the moment Cheshire East is not affected. We have no clear date from the Government as to when Cheshire East will be switched over to Universal Credit, but we do know that the Government plans to have it implemented across the whole of the UK by 2017.
We are here to help. Wulvern will be providing guidance and support to all our customers likely to be affected by Universal Credit.
We can help you…
- To access and learn how to use a computer and the internet
- To open a transactional bank account
- Draw up a monthly budget - as Universal Credit is paid monthly, you may need to make changes to the way you currently budget you money.
- With any debt problems you may have
We will keep you informed will all the latest news about Universal credit and notify you as soon as we have a better idea about when this will be implemented in Cheshire East.
Further advice and guidance can also be viewed at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk
If you live in social housing and are of working age, the Government are introducing strict new rules for housing benefit which may affect you.
From April 2013 the amount of housing benefit you can receive will relate to the size of property that the government deem that you need.
If you are seen as living in a home that is too big for you, your Housing Benefit WILL be reduced, and you WILL have to pay the difference towards your rent.
But I don’t have a spare bedroom will I be affected?
It is not just people who have a spare bedroom who will be affected. The new rules will state that:
- Couples and single adults living full time in the home need their own bedroom
- Two boys or two girls aged under 16 living full time in the home should share a bedroom
- A boy and girl both aged under 10 living full time in the home should share a bedroom
No exceptions will be made if you need an extra bedroom due to disability, for foster children, or children do not live in the property all of the time.
If you are deemed to need mid or high level care, there is an allowance for an extra bedroom for a regular overnight carer but there are rules around this. For more information please contact the Department for Work and Pensions.
Find out if you will be affected now. Click here to use our bedroom tax calculator.
If you are effected by these changes and would like to move to a smaller home, click here to register for HomeSwapper or contact our Allocations Team on 01270 506200.
Don't ignore this - if you think you may be affected call us on 01270 506200, we are here to help
Social housing size criteria and statutory overcrowding
The National Housing Federation is aware of a rumour circulating on facebook and elsewhere that bedrooms under 70 sq ft should not be counted for the purposes of the social housing size criteria for claimants of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit. This rumour is incorrect. It appears to be based on a misreading of the space standards set out in the Housing Act 1985 for the purpose of defining statutory overcrowding.
The UC/HB social housing size criteria depend on the number of bedrooms in the property, and for this purpose a room is either a bedroom or it is not. There is no such thing as a half-bedroom, or a bedroom deemed suitable for occupancy by one person but not two. In principle, the size criteria regard any room designated as a bedroom as being capable of accommodating a couple or two children (unless the children are of different sexes and one of them is over 10).
It has been suggested that requiring two persons to occupy a small bedroom might amount to statutory overcrowding under Part 10 of the Housing Act 1985. Section 326 of the 1985 Act requires that a room to be occupied by two persons should be at least 110 sq ft in area (10.22 sq m), but for this purpose children under ten count only as “half persons” and babies under the age of one are disregarded. The corresponding minimum sizes for 1.5 persons, 1 person, and 0.5 persons are respectively 90, 70, and 50 sq ft (8.36, 6.50, 4.65 sq m), room sizes that are fairly small by ordinary standards.
The room sizes in s326 of the 1985 Act are for the purpose of deciding whether the statutory space standard is met, for which purpose s326(2)(b) of the Act specifically states that “a room is available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality either as a living room or as a bedroom”.
The fact that the Act counts living rooms, not just bedrooms, as available for sleeping means that it is almost inconceivable that any social housing could be so fully occupied that the 1985 Act is breached, since even if a designated bedroom is smaller than the 1985 Act lays down, the Act contemplates that the occupant(s) could sleep in the living room instead.
From April 2013 the government will be limiting the total amount of welfare benefits people of working age can receive.
A weekly limit will be introduced for the total amount of benefit payments people can receive from:
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Child Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Carers Allowance
- Widowed Parents Allowance … and so on
The limit is likely to be a maximum of:
- £500 a week for lone parents and couples without children
- £350 a week for single people
Some households will not be affected by the cap; these are expected to include households getting certain benefits such as:
- Working Tax Credit
- Disability Living Allowance
- War Widow/Widowers benefit
The government's on-line benefit cap calculator will help you to find out if the benefit cap will apply to you. The calculator only takes a few minutes to complete.
To answer the questions you'll need information about the amount of each benefit or allowance you or someone in your household receives each week.
Find out now if you will be affected by the benefit cap, click here or contact Wulvern incomes team on 01270 506200