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Universal Credit is the biggest change in a generation to how benefit claimants receive payments. It is designed to replace a number of existing benefits with a single payment which goes directly into claimants’ bank accounts. Previously Housing Benefit, one of the types of benefit that will be included in Universal Credit, was paid directly to Derwent Living.
Who will be affected?
Universal Credit is now happening in every area of the UK for single people (with no children) making a new claim for benefits.
The launch has been done in phases and you can see the full list of local authorities that went live with the initial phase of Universal Credit between May 2016 and March 2017, here.
There are also some Job Centres operating the ‘full’ service, where anyone making a new claim will be directed onto Universal Credit, no matter what their personal circumstances.
Roll out of this full service to all Job Centres will continue until September 2018 – you can find a full transition schedule for this phase here.
After this process is completed, Department for Work and Pensions will begin moving existing benefit claimants over to Universal Credit.
The aim is for all benefit claimants to be receiving Universal Credit by March 2022, with no exceptions.
Which benefits will change?
First you need to be aware that there are six, means-tested types of benefits that this affects:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit.
It will also replace budgeting loans and crisis loans. Generally speaking, any other type of benefit you might be receiving should remain unaffected.
How do I make a claim?
Claiming for Universal Credit can only be done online, so you will need to be able to access a computer. If you don’t have a computer in your home you will be able to access one by going to your local library, Jobcentre Plus or by visiting your local council offices.
To put in a claim you will need lots of information about yourself and your tenancy. This includes information about:
- Your partner , any dependents and other people living in your home.
- Your income and any savings you might have.
- Your landlord or mortgage provider.
- Your rent or mortgage charges and any service charges.
There can be up to a seven week delay between making your claim and receiving your first Universal Credit payment.
If you won’t have enough money to live on while you wait for your first payment, call the helpline to ask for an advance payment. You’ll repay it through your regular Universal Credit payments – they’ll be lower until you pay it back.
Remember: when you are asked “Do you pay rent for the home where you live?” you MUST answer “Yes”, if your rent is currently covered by Housing Benefit. If you fail to do so, your claim will NOT include a rent element and any subsequent appeal may not necessarily mean that the rent element is backdated to the date of your initial claim.
To finish your application for Universal Credit you will need to attend an interview at the Job Centre. More details about this interview process are available from the link below.
Pension age claimants
If you and your partner (if you have one) are both retired and receiving a pension, then you will not need to claim Universal Credit nor be able to do so; but you will be able to claim pension credit instead.
Pension Credit is an income-related benefit made up of 2 parts – Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. Savings Credit is an extra payment for people who saved some money towards their retirement, e.g a pension. Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income if it’s below £148.35 (for single people) or £226.50 (for couples).
You can claim individually or as a couple. It will be income-based and you don’t pay tax on pension credit. Unlike Universal Credit, you can make a claim for pension credit over the phone, rather than online, by calling 0800 99 1234.
If you’re on pension credit and receiving housing benefit, your situation shouldn’t be affected because Universal Credit doesn’t affect anyone over pension credit qualifying age. That figure is approximately very close to 66 years of age at time of writing, but depends upon when you were born. There is an online calculator that can tell you exactly what your state pension age will be here:
How will I be paid?
Payments will be made once a month, into your bank or building society. This means that if your rent was previously paid directly to us, it will now be paid into your bank account and arrangements need to be made to pay that rent to us.
You’ll need to arrange a direct debit payment, set up to come out of your bank account the same day that you receive your Universal Credit payments.
You will be required to pay the entire rent amount due to Derwent Living. If you are not sure how much this is, please contact our team on 01332 346477 – we can advise how much you will owe us each month and set the direct debit up over the phone.
Universal Credit will be paid monthly in arrears directly into your bank or building society account, so you should budget for your money to last the whole month.
We will be continuously working on ways to keep everyone up-to-date about Universal Credit throughout all phases of the transition. Keep your eyes peeled for more info and advice in the months to come.
If you are concerned about how Universal Credit will affect you, our housing officers, rent officers and debt prevention assistants are here to help. Give us a call on 01332 346477 and we can discuss your situation in confidence.
You can also visit the Citizens Advice website, which has everything you need to know about Universal Credit, here.
Don’t risk your home
Once Universal Credit comes in, your rent will no longer be paid directly to us via Housing Benefit and you will be responsible for prioritising your rent from the single payment. Your home is at risk if you do not ensure your rent is paid on time.