Some single benefit claimants in Northampton will have already started to receive Universal Credit and this will be rolled out to other claimant types in due course. This changes the way your benefits are paid and how you manage your household budget. You need to apply and manage universal credit online and have access to a bank account, so if you need help to do this, please get in touch.
Fee-free bank accounts are now available and offer banking services without the worry of getting into debt.
What is Universal Credit?
The Government has been making a number of changes to the benefit system over the past few years, but the biggest of them so far is the introduction of Universal Credit (UC).
UC is a new benefit for people of working age it replaces these benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support (IS)
- Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
- Budgeting loans and Crisis loans.
It means that instead of getting different types of benefits at different times, any of these benefits you are entitled to will be included in one monthly UC payment.
Who is affected?
Not everyone who currently claims benefits will be affected immediately – only new single claimants initially – however over the next couple of years, existing claimants will be migrated to UC.
What does this mean for me?
Well, as with much in life – preparation is the key. Even if you don’t claim benefits now, you may in the future so there are a few things you need to know.
- All claims for UC are made online – there is no paper process.
- All UC payments are direct to a bank account – there is no other way to receive money.
- All UC payments are made one month in arrears – if you don’t have savings, you will be unable to keep up with your priority payments while you wait for a claim to be paid.
- If you claim Housing Benefit this it is currently paid direct to your rent account. Under UC an amount for housing costs will be included in the UC payment you receive. This means that when you switch to UC, you will become responsible for making rent payments to your account.
The good news
If you prepare for all of the above, there are loads of benefits to being online, having a bank account and starting to save. If you don’t access the internet, you could be missing out on the best deals for shopping, household bills, insurance and more. Having a bank account means you can pay for bills using direct debit, which can save you time and money. As for savings, even a small amount each week or month can build up and could prevent you from having to borrow money at a high rate if an unexpected expense crops up.
Organisations who can help
If you are having difficulties with your benefits or need extra help to claim, there is help available locally at Community Law Service and Central and East Northamptonshire Citizens Advice Bureau.