MILLIONS of Universal Credit claimants could be missing out on perks linked to the benefit, such as help with childcare and public transport costs.
More than 2.5million households have made a Universal Credit application since mid-March, according to the latest government figures.
But as well as your standard monthly allowance, there are a range of additional schemes you may now be eligible for.
And if your circumstances have recently changed, it might also mean you become eligible for other benefits or support – so let Universal Credit know by speaking to your work coach or updating your online journal.
You can also contact the Universal Credit hotline on 0800 328 5644 or visit the government's Understanding Universal Credit website.
Here's what you need to know.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA 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.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your existing ones aren't enough to cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
Get up to 50 per cent off public transport
The three-month Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card gives you up to 50 per cent off selected bus and train journeys.
All train operators in England, Scotland and Wales, including Transport for London, accept the discount.
You're entitled to the card if you're unemployed and you've been claiming Universal Credit for three to nine months and are between the ages of 18 and 24.
You'll need to have been unemployed and claiming Universal Credit for three to 12 months before getting the card if you're over 25-years-old.
People who claim jobseekers allowance and are unemployed are also eligible for the scheme.
The cards are handed out by Jobcentre staff on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of work coaches, so check with your work coach if you're eligible.
Alternatively, send a message in your journal.
Apply for a flexible support fund grant
The flexible support fund is available to help cover the costs of starting work, such as clothing and uniforms, and travel to interviews.
There's no set maximum amount that can be awarded, although it will vary from case to case.
Crucially, unlike a loan, this money does not have to be paid back, and it also won't affect your monthly benefit payments.
But again, it's paid at the discretion of Jobcentre Plus staff so check if they think you're eligible at your next meeting or via your online journal.
Get 50p for every £1 you save
Sign up to the government's Help to Save scheme and it will pay you 50p for every £1 you save up to a maximum of £50 a month for four years.
The bonus is paid in two parts based on the first two years' of savings, and then on the second two years' of savings.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
By the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship system – it takes five weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to six months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:
- Get paid faster: The government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop millions from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
It's available to people who receive Universal Credit and whose household earned £604.56 or more from paid work in their last monthly assessment period, as well as to some people entitled to working tax credit.
You can apply via Gov.uk and you'll need a government gateway account.
Apply for a £500 maternity grant
Known as the Sure Start Maternity Grant, households in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales on Universal Credit can benefit from a one-off payment of £500.
This does not have to be paid back and will not affect the benefit payment you receive.
It's available to parents on benefits who are are expecting their first child, or who are expecting a multiple birth and have children already.
You must claim the grant within 11 weeks of the baby’s due date or within six months after the baby’s birth.
To claim, print, complete and post this Sure Start Maternity grant form.
If you live in Scotland you can't get a Sure Start Maternity Grant, but you can apply for a Pregnancy and Baby Payment instead.
Reclaim £13,000-plus in childcare costs
If you're in work and on Universal Credit, you can reclaim up to 85 per cent of childcare costs up to £646.35 per month if you have one child and up to £1,108.40 for two or more children.
You’ll need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of the cost of the childcare by the end of the assessment period after the one in which you’ve paid the childcare charges.
You can do this by signing into your Universal Credit account.
Just be aware that childcare has to be provided by an approved organisation, such as an Ofsted registered firm in England.
The Sun has called on the government to cover childcare costs upfront for Universal Credit claimants struggling to find the cash themselves under its Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
Cut your council tax bill
If you're on Universal Credit your council tax bill could be reduced by up to 100 per cent in England, Scotland, and Wales.
What it's reduced by 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.
Use 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.
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