11 Universal Credit loopholes – how to apply for extra cash help | The Sun

OVER five million households claim Universal Credit to boost their income irrespective of being in or out of work.

The benefit was introduced in 2013 and replaces six legacy benefits with a single monthly payment.

The amount of cash you'll get through Universal Credit will depend on your current circumstances.

It's estimated that over one million who are eligible for awards of £9,600 on average are not claiming it, according to Policy in Practice.

The benefit is designed to help people get back into work, but the more you work the more your benefits will be impacted.

Here we explain how Universal Credit works – and how to apply for extra cash.

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1. Your payments go down the more you work

Universal Credit payments are affected by the taper rate – an idea that is supposed to encourage people to get back into work.

The taper rate is the rate at which your maximum Universal Credit award is reduced as your earnings increase.

A taper rate of 55% means a deduction of 55p from your maximum Universal Credit award for every £1 you earn over your work allowance.

If you've got a job and a child who depends on you or you can't work as much because of an illness then you may qualify for a work allowance.

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This is the amount you can earn every month before the taper rate kicks in.

If you get help with your housing costs then this will be set at £379, or £631 if you don't.

If you don't get a work allowance then all of your salary is subject to the taper rate.

2. Claim up to 85% of childcare costs

Working parents can claim up to 85% of childcare costs, up to a maximum of £950 a month for one child, or £1,630 a month for two or more children.

Some parents have to pay the costs of sending their child to nursery or with a childminder upfront.

But those who start work or significantly increase their work hours can get the cash for their childcare bill paid upfront instead.

You'll need to speak to your work coach to find out how you can get the support.

3. Get an advance payment

An advance payment means you could get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for your first payment.

But as this is a loan, you’ll need to repay it, with the money owed taken out of future Universal Credit payments.

The most you can get as an advance is the amount of your first estimated payment.

You can apply for an advance payment in your online journal or through your Jobcentre work coach.

You'll need to:

  • Explain why you need an advance
  • Verify your identity 
  • Provide bank account details

4. There's also a budgeting advance

A budgeting advance is different to an advance payment, with this cash being used for emergencies such as buying a new cooker, or money you need to get a new job.

It’s still a loan though, which again means that it needs to be repaid and will be deducted from future Universal Credit payments.

The maximum you can get for a budgeting advance is £348 if you’re single with no children or £464 if you are a couple with no children.

If you do have children, you can get up to £812 as a loan.

To get a budgeting advance, you must:

  • Have been getting Universal Credit, employment and support allowance, income support, jobseeker's allowance or Pension Credit for six months or more, unless you need the money to help you start a new job or keep an existing job
  • Earned less than £2,600 (£3,600 jointly for couples) in the past six months
  • Paid off any previous budgeting advances

You can apply for a budgeting advance by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

5. Waived minimum income floor for self-employed

The Universal Credit minimum income floor applies to those who've been self-employed for more than a year.

It's the amount you're thought to earn each month and is used to work out how much Universal Credit you get on top of your earnings.

The idea is that the minimum income floor is the equivalent of someone of your age working full-time on minimum wage.

If you earn below this level in any month, you are treated as earning the minimum income floor.

6. Alternative payment arrangements

If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an alternative payment arrangement which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord.

You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.

These are offered for those in special circumstances, or for Brits who are considered more at risk and need extra help.

Speak to your work coach if you think you could be eligible.

7. Get help with your council tax

It's possible for Universal Credit claimants to reduce their council tax by up to 100%.

The help available depends on your circumstances – for example, your household income, whether you have children, whether you're in work, and whether you own your home or rent it.

It also depends on your local council as schemes vary.

Visit Gov.UK to find out if your local council offers a council tax reduction – sometimes known as council tax support – and how to apply.

There’s a different scheme available in Northern Ireland.

8. Claim freebies and discounts

You could get help with the cost of your broadband, NHS prescriptions, travel and more if you claim Universal Credit.

Other support includes money toward school uniforms, free school meals for kids and cold weather payments.

We've rounded up ten of the best freebies or discounts here.

9. You can get help from a food bank

Your local food bank may be able to provide you with free food or toiletries if you're really struggling.

Families and individuals are usually referred to a food bank.

This is typically done through professionals including doctors, health visitors, social workers and Citizens Advice.

Once referred, the person gets a voucher that can be redeemed for an emergency parcel with a minimum of three days' worth of food.

You can find your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.

10. Apply for extra benefits

MILLIONS suffering from long-term health conditions or disabilities can get extra cash help through personal independence payments, otherwise known as PIP.

The payments can be worth as much as £172.75 a week, so if you don't claim it already, it could be a good idea to check if you're eligible.

PIP is available to those aged 16 or over but have not yet reached the state pension age.

The current state pension age is 66 but this is set to rise to 68.

You can make a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim by calling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 0800 917 2222.

This is the government department tasked with paying out benefits to millions every year.

There are also other ways to claim if you find it difficult to use a telephone. See Gov.UK for more information.

When you claim, you'll need:

  • Your contact details
  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • Bank or building society account number and sort code
  • Your doctor or health worker’s name, address and telephone number
  • Dates and addresses for any time you’ve spent abroad, in a care home or hospital

11. Inform DWP of any changes

If your circumstances change, you need to report these so you keep getting the right amount of benefits.

Your claim might be stopped or reduced if you don't report a change straight away or if you give incorrect information.

It's also important to report any changes as you may be entitled to extra cash.

Alternatively, if you've been given too much money, you may need to pay some of it back.

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Changes could include things such as changing your name, your income going up or down or getting married.

You can report changes using your Universal Credit journal or by contacting the Universal Credit helpline.

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