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How Universal Credit will affect a lone parent - a benefits expert explains

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Q. I have read a lot about Universal Credit and I know that everyone will have to claim it eventually.

I am on Income Support, as I am a lone parent, and I have a one-year-old child.

I also get Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.

I have read that we will start having Universal Credit claims from July, but I don’t understand at what point I’ll have to go onto it.

A. Universal Credit is being rolled out bit by bit across the country and each area will have a ‘go live’ date where it will be available to most people in the area.
In your area, people who need to make a new claim for benefit after July will need to make an application for Universal Credit rather than one of the older legacy benefits.

For example, if your child turned five then you would no longer be able to claim Income Support as a lone parent and you would have to look at other benefit options.

Previously this would have been Jobseekers’ Allowance while you looked for work, but once Universal Credit is in place it will replace Jobseekers’ Allowance for most people.
If you do not have any relevant changes in your circumstances and you do not need to make any new claims, you will stay as you are until managed migration starts.

This is where people will be transferred to Universal Credit in the same way that people who used to claim Incapacity Benefit were transferred to Employment and Support Allowance.

The DWP will contact you when this becomes necessary.

Q. My daughter is almost 16 and has been diagnosed with autism and ADHD. She will be going to sixth form college after school.

We have been advised to apply for Personal Independence Payment because she is having difficulties with her concentration at school and at home.

But I’m wondering if that is the right benefit for her, as I still get Child Benefit for her.

Does that not mean that she should still be treated as a child?

A. Your daughter will still be treated as a child or qualifying young person as you get Child Benefit, however, for these disability benefits it is her age, not whether or not Child Benefit is in payment, that is important.
If you were to apply for a disability benefit now, then you would need to go for Disability Living Allowance (DLA), as that is available to people who are under 16.
If you were to apply after her birthday then you would need to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

If applying for DLA your daughter would be assessed for care needs in excess of those normally required by a 15-year-old who does not have autism and ADHD.

She would be compared to see if she needs help for longer periods of time, whereas with PIP she would be assessed against criteria which asks how well she can manage to cook, get washed and dressed, socialise, manage finances and other day-to-day activities.

There is nothing stopping you from applying for DLA now, and if unsuccessful you could then apply for PIP when she turns 16.