BENEFITS EXPERT: All you need to know about Universal Credit

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This week a new benefit for working-age people comes to our area. It is called Universal Credit and will eventually bring together six current means-tested benefits into just one benefit.

Universal Credit is being introduced gradually throughout the country, area by area, and step by step.

The first step in this area comes on November 2.

From this date single unemployed people in the Sunderland area, who would formerly have made claims for Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), must claim Universal Credit instead.

The changes come into effect in Darlington on November 23, South Tyneside on February 22 and in Redcar and Cleveland on March 14.

These questions and answers explain who the new system applies to and how they will be affected.

Will everybody on benefit be put on Universal Credit from November 2?

No. These changes only apply to certain people who, before this date, would have claimed Income-based JSA by ‘signing on’ at the Jobcentre.

Universal Credit will eventually go to all who claim Income Support, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

But they will be contacted at a later date about their move to Universal Credit.

Will the November 2 changes apply to all unemployed single people?

No. Not if you have children living with you, are on the sick or a carer.

I currently receive Income-based JSA. Will I be affected by the change?

No. This change only applies to new claimants. You will be transferred to Universal Credit sometime in the future if you are still claiming.

How will I be paid Universal Credit?

You will receive a single monthly payment in arrears paid into your bank account.

If you do not have a bank account you must get one.

I pay rent as a tenant. Will I get Housing Benefit as well as Universal Credit?

Your monthly payment of Universal Credit will include a ‘Housing Cost Element’ which will be worked out in much the same way as Housing Benefit.

So it will not be a separate payment, but part and parcel of your Universal Credit.

I am a Gentoo tenant. Will my rent be paid directly to Gentoo?

No, repeat no! A person’s Housing Benefit is currently paid directly to their social housing landlord, like local councils and Gentoo, but this will not happen under Universal Credit.

Your rent money will be included in your monthly payment. Whoever your landlord is, once you are on Universal Credit you have responsibility for paying your own rent.

So you are recommended to set up a direct debit with your landlord to ensure you do not fall into rent arrears.

If I am affected by the November 2 changes, how do I claim benefit?

Universal Credit is the first ever benefit that must be claimed and managed online. You should go to www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit and get help from the Universal Credit Helpline on 0345 600 0723 if you have a problem.