Universal Credit (UC) can be defined as a social security benefits scheme available for individuals who are out of work or in low-paying jobs in the UK. The social security benefit was introduced in 2013; however, there have been significant delays. Below is everything worth knowing about Universal Credit.
What is Universal Credit?
As mentioned above, Universal Credit is simply a benefits system/scheme for supporting individuals who are struggling financially. The benefits are paid once monthly everywhere except Scotland where payments are made twice a month.
Universal Credit has replaced Working Tax Credit, Income-related Employment & Support Allowance, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit. You can’t claim Universal Credit if you still receive one or more of these benefits.
Both employed and unemployed individuals can launch UC claims. There are no limits to the no. of hours you are supposed to work every week if you receive universal credit; however, UC payments reduce as you earn more.
Why is UC so unpopular?
In case you are wondering why Universal Credit is unpopular, it’s important to note that the scheme combines six benefits into a signal benefit in an effort to simplify an over-complicated benefit system. However, while trying to simplify things, the system has been faced by problems since being introduced by Iain Duncan Smith back in 2013.
The new system comes with a 7-day formal waiting period with no money after which the benefit is paid monthly, in arrears. This payment schedule attempts to mirror a typical working situation. However, individuals who make less than £10,000 a year get paid weekly.
The old system paid benefits within two weeks after a claim was launched. The new system takes up to 6 weeks before claimants are paid – three times longer than the old system.
The Department for Work & Pensions admits failing to meet the target. There are instances of some claimants waiting for 10 or 12 weeks. New applicants must wait for one month (from the date of submitting an application) before they receive their first UC payment.
Parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee has described the UC delays as a serious setback to the scheme’s success. Most of the long delays are attributed to errors/problems evidencing claims. In the worst case scenarios, some claimants have died waiting for benefits.
One notable case involved Chris Gold from Shepton Beauchamp. Gold passed away on 27th July from natural causes while awaiting payment. According to his sister, Heath Gold, Chris knew he would lose everything. Heath Gold described his brother’s last days in an ITV News interview stating he looked so pale and thin days before his demise.
According to June 2017 statistics, only 540,000 claimants were getting UC. The implementation timetable has since been stretched to 2022. More than 7 million UK households are in line to receive the benefit. The Department for Work & Pensions is rolling out over 50 UC job centres monthly.
Universal Credit eligibility
UC Eligibility depends on your financial circumstances as well as where you live. New UC claims can only be made by claimants residing in “full service” areas. It is possible from claims to be launched by spouses who are working. In such an instance, their income and savings are taken into account.
New UC claims can be made by; individuals with a limited capacity to work or those who have medical evidence and are in the process of getting a work capability assessment. You can also qualify for UC if you are responsible for a child, caring for a disabled person or if you just had a child (in the past 3.75 months). Pregnant mothers who are due in 11 weeks (or less) can also claim UC. You can also claim UC if you lack parental support, i.e., if you are no longer under the care of your parents or under local authority care. The above eligibility is subject to age requirements for the scheme, i.e., if you are 16 or 17 years old.
For a more detailed eligibility guide, visit the official UC website: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/. You can find detailed information on eligibility among other important information on claiming, getting an advance on the 1st payment, how your income affects your payment, your overall responsibilities and much more!