MILLIONS of people claim Universal Credit to help them with the cost of living.
It was introduced in 2013 and brings together a number of benefits into one single payment.
But the system can be hard to navigate and it has lots of hidden elements to it that you might not be aware of.
Luckily, Anna Stevenson, a benefits expert at debt charity Turn2Us has shed light on five of them.
Some could see you with more money in your pocket too.
You can claim Universal Credit if you’re employed
Many people might not know you can claim Universal Credit if you’re employed.
That’s because the system is designed to steadily introduce you back to work while still supporting you financially.
Through what’s known as the taper rate, your Universal Credit payments are gradually reduced based on your earnings until your salary is enough.
Then your Universal Credit is stopped altogether.
Anna said: “You can in fact claim benefits if you are currently in work or self-employed.”
She added that 40% of people currently claiming Universal Credit are employed.
If you are on a low income, it’s always worth checking on a benefits calculator, like on Turn2Us’ website, what you might be entitled to.
You can get extra to pay for childcare
If you’re receiving Universal Credit, you can get payments on top to help with the cost of childcare.
But you have to have the main responsibility for the child.
In most cases, the child has to be under the age of 16, although in some circumstances you can get help supporting children aged 16 to 19.
But you, and your partner if you live with them, will usually need to either be working or have a job offer in the pipeline.
There’s also a limit on the amount you can get each month – £646 for one child and £1,108 for two or more children.
Anna said: “The government can subsidise childcare costs by up to 85%.
“To be eligible for this you and your partner, if you live together, need to be in work.
“However, it does not matter how many hours you or your partner work.”
For more information on childcare support if you’re on Universal Credit, you can read our story.
Scottish households can get extra payments
If you live in Scotland and receive even the smallest amount of Universal Credit, you can get the Scottish Child Payment on top.
It’s worth £25 a week per child under 16 and is one of five family payments you can get through Social Security Scotland.
There’s no criteria on how you spend the money either – it’s up to you how you use it.
You can also get the payment if you’re on child tax credits, working tax credits and income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
You can apply online via the Scottish government’s website and the whole process should only take around 10 to 20 minutes.
If you don’t have access to a computer or mobile phone, you can apply via post or by calling Social Security Scotland free on 0800 182 2222.
Anna said: ” As of November 14, the amount paid each week has increased from £20 to £25 per week per child aged 16 or under.
“There is no limit on how many children in a family that can receive the payment.”
For more information on the Scottish Child Payment, you can see our story here.
You can claim Universal Credit if you’ve got savings
You can still claim Universal Credit if you have savings – but they must be under £16,000.
Anything underneath £6,000 is ignored.
Then anything between £6,000 and £16,000 is treated as if it gives you a monthly income of £4.35 for each £250.
So if you had £6,300 in savings, £6,000 of it would be ignored and the other £300 is treated as if you have a monthly income of £8.70.
If your savings are worth more than £16,000, you will not be entitled to any Universal Credit.
Anna said: “Many people think that if they have savings, they won’t be able to claim Universal Credit.”
“But you could still be eligible to claim extra support with savings up to £16,000.”
You can get extra help if you’re on a housing scheme
You can get extra help via Universal Credit if you’re on a shared ownership scheme.
Shared ownership schemes involve you part buying, part renting a house.
They’re usually provided by housing associations.
But you can get help to pay for rent or mortgage interest on one of these properties if you’re on Universal Credit.
Anna said: “Shared owners can claim the housing costs element of Universal Credit for help towards their rent.”
Again, you can use a benefits calculator to figure out how much of the housing costs element of Universal Credit you could be entitled to.
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