What is Universal Credit?

Most PAs have two or 3 three part-time jobs to give them enough income from wages to balance any loss in benefits. If the PA loses one of those jobs, either because the person dies or goes into residential care, the sudden loss in income can cause real financial hardships as well as stress and anxiety.

The overall aim of Universal Credit is to try to make these sudden changes in income easier to cope with by being more flexible. Some people, however, may find it more difficult to manage their finances as instead of several different benefits for specific things, such as housing benefit, there will now just be one single payment.

This post will just give some of the “headlines”. For specific help please seek further information. We’ve provided some details at the end of the post.


What is included in Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is the new benefit for people of working age who are on a low income or out of work. It replaces:

  • Income based jobseekers allowance (JSA)
  • Income related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • Income support
  • Working tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Housing benefit


Important things you need to be aware of

  • There is now no 16 hour a week rule – under Universal Credit there is no limit to the number of hours you can work each week
  • If the number of hours you work each week increases, the amount of Universal Credit payment reduces gradually, so you won’t lose all your benefits at once. This is called the taper rate. It will only stop once you’re earning enough money to be considered financially independent.
  • Applying for and managing your universal credit will all be done online! Most libraries have computers you can access and can also signpost you to IT courses if needed.
  • Payments will be made directly into a bank or building society account – make sure your bank account is able to deal with automatic payments coming in and out.
  • If both you and your partner claim Universal Credit it will be rolled up into one single payment – you may need to open a new joint account.
  • Universal credit is now live across South Yorkshire. The DWP will tell you when you have to claim universal credit.
  • The amount you receive each month may change depending on what your take-home pay is that month.
  • If your job comes to an end there will be a gap between your last payday and your next Universal Credit payment – this will remove a lot of worry for many PAs.
  • Even if you start earning enough money to stop claiming Universal Credit your claim will remain open for 6 months
  • If you earn enough money to be paying income tax you will soon be able to claim up to 85% of any childcare costs

Remember that you will need to carefully budget each month as all your benefits now come in one single payment. If you’re housing benefit used to go directly to your landlord you will now have to pay them directly yourself. Be aware that it can take several weeks after you make your claim to get your first payment.


Conditions and requirements

  • In order to claim Universal Credit you must sign a commitment to certain conditions dependent upon which “conditionality group” you’re placed in. Sanctions can be applied if you fail to meet any of your commitments and this can last for up to 3 years.
  • If your income is below the earnings threshold (based on working 35 hours per week at the National minimum wage) you will be expected to make efforts to increase your income.
  • If you have a child between one and 3 years old or who is disabled you will only be required to attend work focused interviews to discuss opportunities for returning to work in the future.
  • If your child is under 1; if you are caring for someone (unpaid); pregnant or have limited capability for work there are no work related requirements


Further information and advice