Benefits Expert: Why do I have to claim Universal Credit?

Do you have any questions for our Benefits Expert?
Do you have any questions for our Benefits Expert?

Q. I am working as a self-employed gardener doing 30 hours per week.

I have been claiming Working Tax Credit for years as I don’t make a huge profit from my job.

I have just moved from my mortgaged property into rented accommodation (I didn’t make any profit on the sale of the house) and I went to claim Housing Benefit.

I have been told that I will have to claim Universal Credit instead, but I would rather continue claiming Working Tax Credit, is there any way I can stay with Tax Credits rather than claiming Universal Credit?

A: If you live in a full service Universal Credit area then any new claim for benefits would trigger you to make a claim for Universal Credit instead of the old legacy benefits such as Housing Benefit.

Unfortunately, this means that Universal Credit would replace the Tax Credit claim that you currently have in place.

When calculating Universal Credit for people who have been self-employed for more than 12 months, the DWP include a ‘minimum income floor’ which is where they treat you as receiving minimum wage for the number of hours that you work – even if you do not actually earn that much.

Therefore, your payments are likely to reduce.

The only way of not triggering a Universal Credit claim is to not make any new claims for benefits, however, that would mean that you have your full rent to pay yourself.

It would be worthwhile getting a benefit check to see whether you would be better off sticking with Working Tax Credit or making a new claim for Universal Credit to get help with your rent.

Q: My friend and I are both appealing Employment and Support Allowance decisions.

She was scored 0 points at her medical assessment and my benefit was stopped because I did not receive the appointment date in the post, so the DWP state that I failed to attend a medical.
My friend was claiming Jobseekers Allowance when her Employment and Support Allowance was first stopped, but now she is back on Employment and Support Allowance while waiting for her appeal.

I also claimed Jobseekers Allowance when my Employment and Support Allowance was first stopped, but the adviser at the Jobcentre said that I cannot go onto Employment and Support Allowance and I have to keep signing on until my appeal is heard.

Would that be correct?

A: Employment and Support Allowance can be paid to appellants while they wait for their appeal if they have been found to be capable of work and they disagree with the decision – if it is the first time that they have been turned down for Employment and Support Allowance. 
Employment and Support Allowance cannot be paid if you are appealing the fact that you did not attend, or appealing to say that you had a good reason for not attending, instead you can claim Jobseekers Allowance or, in some areas, Universal Credit.

If you do not think that you had a good reason for failing to attend then you can make a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance rather than appealing, but it would not go into payment until you have been assessed at a medical appointment.

If you have a new condition or a worsened condition then you will be able to reclaim Employment and Support Allowance and be paid straight away.