The UK roll-out dates for full Universal Credit service have recently been announced.

This is when each local authority area will take new claims for Universal Credit rather than existing income-based benefits, which are sometimes referred to as ‘legacy benefits’ (e.g. income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit). At present it has mainly been single unemployed people or couples who have been able to claim Universal Credit. This gradual roll-out will occur from April 2017 to September 2018. 

A detailed list by local authority can be found at: www.gov.uk and search Universal Credit. If you make a new claim for benefits or have a change in your circumstances to your existing benefits, you may transfer to Universal Credit before September 2018. If you are a family with three or more dependent children, you will be directed to claim Tax Credits and remain on existing income-based benefits until at least November 2018. Once the roll-out for all new claims is complete, all existing claimants who have not had a change in circumstances will be moved over to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022.

There are already some local authority areas in the country offering a full Universal Credit Digital Service for example via a secure internet website. This allows people to make a claim, check details of payments, notify changes of circumstance and search for a job through a single account. Once rolled out the Department for Works and Pensions will expect you to manage your Universal Credit claim digitally. Whilst the number of our tenants already on Universal Credit is still relatively small, many report the delay from claiming the first payment is about 5-6 weeks later causing major financial difficulties including increased rent arrears. Our best advice to avoidhaving to claim an advance before your first payment (which you then repay over the following 3-6 months), is to save some money now and open a basic bank account. There are further details here.

Furthermore, there are usually seven ‘waiting days’ where you will not be paid Universal Credit at the start of a claim. Sometimes these waiting days do not apply and you can ask for a ‘waiting days exception’. This is the case if you are immediately transferring from claiming Universal Credit as a couple to a single claim or vice versa for example ending a relationship or starting a new one. Also if you are terminally ill, have been a recent victim of domestic violence, considered a ‘care leaver’ before turning 18, 16-17 years old with no parental support, a prisoner in the last month, received either contribution based or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support (IS) in the last three months before starting paid work, or received payment of income-based JSA, income-based ESA, IS, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit in the last month.

Our Financial Inclusion Team is available to support you with any queries you may have. You can contact them on 03333 204555