Universal Credit has changed in Moray from 27 June 2018. From this date Universal Credit Full Service starts. When Universal Credit started in November 2015, the scheme only affected single people without children who live in Moray. Under Universal Credit Full Service, the scheme is open to single people, couples and families with or without children; people can be in work, unemployed or unable to work due to illness or disability.
Universal Credit is a working-age benefit paid by the Department for Work and Pensions. It replaces the following benefits.
• Income Support
• Jobseekers Allowance (income based)
• Employment Support Allowance (income related)
• Working Tax Credits
• Child Tax Credits
• Housing Benefit
If you receive any of these benefits you do not have to do anything now. However, if your circumstances change after 27 June 2018, you may need to apply for Universal Credit.
If you already get Universal Credit, the Department for Work and Pensions will be in touch with you when they are ready to transfer you over to the full service process.
From 06 April 2017, the UK Government capped the payment of some benefits to the amount allowable for 2 children. This affects families that had 3 or more children born after that date. At the moment Universal Credit does not apply to families with 3 or more children and the benefits listed above would still need to be claimed until further notice.
Universal Credit does not apply to people of state pension age. If a couple receives Universal Credit and one of them becomes pension age, they will have the choice to either remain on Universal Credit or claim state Pension Credit and Housing Benefit.
Help to claim Universal Credit
Claims for Universal Credit are made online through a digital application process. It can be done using a computer, tablet or smartphone and many people will find it straightforward. You can view the claim process on www.youtube.com/UniversalCreditinAction
This Universal Credit leaflet (PDF) also gives you information on getting ready to claim and the information your need to have to hand.
Although Universal Credit is paid by the Department for Work and Pension, help to claim and free internet access is provided by the council at libraries across Moray.
• Support to apply and manage claims for Universal Credit will be available by appointment at Aberlour, Buckie, Elgin, Forres, Keith and Lossiemouth libraries . Staff will help you with the claim process and the online journal. You can also get help to set up an email address and learn basic computer skills.
• All other Moray Libraries: Burghead, Cullen , Dufftown, Fochabers and Tomintoul, have free internet access where you can book a computer using a library membership card and make a claim for Universal Credit independently.
• For further information contact Elgin Library on 01343 562603.
If you are unable to apply for Universal Credit yourself and do not have someone that can help or act on your behalf, or if you are unable to get to a local library due to illness or disability, contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344.
Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears which means most people have to wait around 5 weeks for their first payment.
An Advance Payment can be made before the first payment if a person is struggling financially. Up to 100% of the first payment can be paid in advance. However advance payments must be paid back and deductions will be made from future Universal Credit payments for a period up to 12 months.
A Budgeting Advance can help with a one-off expense such as the cost of starting employment or self-employment, an essential household item, rent in advance or moving home expenses.
The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Government powers to vary how Universal Credit is paid in Scotland. The “Scottish Choices” for people claiming Universal Credit are to:
• Be paid monthly or twice monthly; and
• Have housing costs (rent) paid to themselves or to their landlord.
The Scottish Choices are available after the first payment of Universal Credit. You can make one or both choices.
If you need to change your payments you must contact the Department for Work and Pensions.
Paying your rent
If you rent your home, your housing costs will be taken into account in your Universal Credit claim and any Housing Benefit you may have received will end, as you cannot receive both benefits.
However, if you have been placed in temporary accommodation by the council due to homelessness or stay in supported accommodation, you can still claim Housing Benefit for your housing costs as Universal Credit does not currently cover these accommodation types.
Landlords can request payments of Universal Credit to be made to them when rent arrears of 8 weeks or more exist. You can request payments to be made to your landlord through the “Scottish Choices” (see above).
The Universal Credit award letter that is sent out by the Department for Work and Pensions provides a breakdown of the different elements you and your householders are entitled to. If the housing costs element does not cover your rent in full, you can apply to the council for Discretionary Housing Payments.
If you are a council tenant you can also contact your Housing Officer for advice on Universal Credit and paying your rent. Other housing providers such as Housing Associations may also provide support and advice on Universal Credit.
Personal Budgeting Support
Some people will need help managing their money through Universal Credit. The Council’s Income Maximisation team can provide personal budgeting support to help you to maximise your income, manage monthly payments and keep on top of your bills.
To make an appointment, call 0300 123 4563.
If you get regular help from the council or another support service (for example, social worker, housing officer, Jobcentre work-coach) they can make a referral to the Income Maximisation Team on your behalf with your consent.
You will still have to apply to the council for other benefits such as Council Tax Reduction, Free School Meals, Educational Clothing Grant and Educational Maintenance Allowance. You will also have to notify the council of any changes in your circumstances that may affect your entitlement to these benefits, even if you have already notified the Department for Work and Pensions.
More information and support
To get more information on Universal Credit go to www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk If you need further information on job-seeking, working, self-employment, sickness or disability go to www.gov.uk/universal-credit or see the Universal Credit & You guidance.
Universal Credit full service helpline 0800 328 5644. Textphone: 0800 328 1344. Open Monday to Friday,8am to 6pm.