MILLIONS of hard-up households are missing out on hundreds of pounds per month by not claiming Universal Credit.
Those on low incomes or who are unemployed can claim Universal Credit, which is calculated on your current circumstances.
Universal Credit is a welfare scheme which combines a number of old “legacy benefits” into a single monthly payment.
Instead of receiving smaller amounts of different benefits, you will receive one monthly payment under Universal Credit – or twice monthly for some people in Scotland.
Almost all new claims for benefits will automatically be put onto Universal Credit.
The government says it should also help people get back into work, but the more you work the more your benefits will be affected.
This is because Universal Credit is subject to the taper rate, which means that for every £1 you earn over a certain allowance, 55p is deducted from your payments.
The rate was reduced from 63p in the Autumn Budget of October 2021 and was a victory for the Sun’s campaign to make Universal Credit work.
How much Universal Credit can I get?
Your individual circumstances will affect how much Universal Credit you receive such as how many children you have, your earnings, and how many people you reside with.
But it’s also affected by the benefit cap, which limits the amount of welfare you can get.
The benefit cap outside Greater London is:
- £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) if you’re in a couple or if you’re a single parent and your children live with you
- £257.69 per week (£13,400 a year) if you’re a single adult
The benefit cap inside Greater London is:
- £442.31 per week (£23,000 a year) if you’re in a couple or if you’re a single parent and your children live with you
- £296.35 per week (£15,410 a year) if you’re a single adult
During the pandemic, Universal Credit claimants had their payments boosted by £1,040 or £20 a week but this stopped in October 2020.
How is my Universal Credit calculated?
The Department for Work and Pensions works out how much your household is entitled but this could be affected by deductions or sanctions.
If you live with your partner then their circumstances will also be taken into account.
Everyone who is accepted on Universal Credit will be entitled to a Standard Allowance – how much you get isn’t affected by whether you’re single or not.
- Single and aged under 25: £265.31 per month
- Single and aged 25 or over: £334.91 per month
- Joint claimants both aged under 25: £416.45 per month
- Joint claimants where one is aged 25 or over: £525.72 per month
Once your household allowance is calculated, the DWP will take into account any additional claim elements such as children, housing, or disabilities.
Here are all the elements you may be entitled to:
If your child is under the age of 16 then you can be entitled to:
- £290 per month for a first or only child born before 6 April 2017
- £244.58 per month per child in all other circumstances
You can only claim this element for a maximum of two children unless you have twins or you’ve adopted.
If your child has a disability you may also be entitled to:
- £132.89 per month per child receiving DLA or PIP
- £414.88 per month per child if they qualify for the highest rate of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) care component, enhanced rate of PIP for daily living, or are registered blind.
Childcare costs element
Working parents can claim up to 85% of childcare costs, up to a maximum of £646.35 a month for one child, or £1,108.04 a month for two or more children.
However, parents must have to front the upfront costs of sending their child to nursery or with a childminder.
This is stopping thousands of parents from getting back into work, which is why we’re calling on the government to change this.
Housing costs element
Universal Credit can help you pay your rent, or part of it, as well as some service charges.
The amount you get depends on whether you’re a private or social tenant.
The amount is calculated on Local Housing Allowance where you reside, which determines rental prices in the area for the number of rooms you need.
For example, a single person without children will be able to claim the average cost of renting a one bedroom flat in the area.
Social housing tenants
Your benefit is calculated based on your eligible rent, which takes into account the number of rooms you actually need.
You’re allowed one bedroom for each adult couple, each person over 16, two children of the same sex under 16, two children under 10 regardless of gender, any other child, and an overnight carer who doesn’t live with you full time.
If you have more bedrooms than you need then your eligible rent is reduced by 14% for one spare or 15% for two or more spares.
If your household has no other income or savings then you’ll receive the full amount that you’re entitled to.
Those caring for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week will get £168.81 a month.
If you’re making a joint claim you can both receive the carers element but not if you’re caring for the same person.
Can I work while on Universal Credit?
The government says that the flagship welfare system has been designed to help people get back into work.
This means you can work as many hours as you want while claiming benefits but it may reduce the amount you get.
This is due to your wages will be subject to the taper rate: for every £1 you earn, your Universal Credit payment will go down 55p.
If you’ve got a job and a child who is dependent on you or you can’t work due to an illness then you might be entitled to a work allowance.
This is the amount you can earn every month before the taper rate kicks in.
If you get help with your housing costs then this will be set at £344, or £573 if you don’t.
If you don’t get a work allowance then all of your salary is subject to the taper rate.
What else can lower my Universal Credit payments?
Any other income that you have that isn’t work or benefit-related, such as a pension, will see £1 taken from your Universal Credit payment for every £1 of income.
If you have savings when you apply for Universal Credit then they may also lower your payments.
Your payment is also subject to deductions, meaning you could receive less than you’re entitled to.
This could be due to you needing to repay an advance or budgeting loan or you’ve previously been overpaid Tax Credits.
Reductions could also be because you’ve fallen behind on your rent, council tax or energy bills.
The deductions would then go directly to your landlord or housing association, the council or your energy provider to help pay off the debt.