Claiming benefits when there’s a change in caring for a child

Q. I claim Universal Credit for myself and partner and following the recent birth of our first child my partner became the nominated carer and was not required to be a jobseeker as part of the Universal Credit commitment as she was looking after our son. She has however the option of returning to work in a new job that is part time. In this situation are we able to switch roles and I can become the main carer for our son for the purpose of the claim.

Saturday, 18th January 2020, 10:00 am
Becoming the main child carer in a relationship will result in changes to the individual's benefits allowance.

A. In this situation then it is permissible to switch roles (you can normally only do this once a year unless there is a change in your circumstances) so that you no longer have to meet Universal Credit commitments as a job seeker. Remember also with Universal Credit there is no minimum or maximum number of hours you must work each week in order to claim the benefit (unlike Tax Credits, Income Support, etc). All that is used in order to assess your monthly entitlement is details of your assessable income (wages, certain benefits, etc). in your assessment period.

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You should also note that although your partner is in work she may still have to meet commitments in order to receive the benefit and these will be discussed with the work coach at the job centre. For example if the job your partner is starting is zero hours, temporary in nature or limited hours she may still need to agree to participate in activities with a view to increasing her hours and income such as second jobs, etc. although not to the extent an unemployed person would normally be required to do. This will vary depending on each claimant’s circumstances.

Q. I have been overpaid Universal Credit even though it was not my fault, my employers reported incorrect information about my earnings. They have advised me I cannot appeal even though this was not my fault, is this correct?

A. The rules for overpaid Universal Credit do differ to those of the legacy benefits it replaced. Generally speaking all decisions to recover overpaid Universal Credit can not be appealed BUT you can appeal if you believe the amount of overpaid benefit was incorrectly calculated or that you were not overpaid. So using your example if your employer reported to the DWP your gross earnings for an assessment period but you were actually paid your normal net amount and can prove this then the overpayment will have been incorrectly calculated and you can appeal on this basis. However if you reported a change either via your online journal or at a benefits office and the information was not acted upon in time then this type of overpayment will normally be recoverable and you cannot challenge it on the basis that you were not at fault. The DWP could still consider not to recover the overpayment but only in exceptional circumstances or reduce normal recovery amounts so you can repay the sum at more manageable sums over a longer time period.