Universal Credit

By: A.C.

Our Facebook Page has featured articles from national media about Universal Credit,  or the  “pausing” of Universal Credit as Esther McVey and her colleagues change the benefits landscape, timetable and application process on a daily basis

This situation makes it hard for us to keep up with these changes and announcements and keep track in order to help our clients. One would almost think that these “pauses” and changes were a deliberate ploy by the DWP to obfuscate, confuse and derail charities like ourselves in our stated mission to help those affected.

Universal credit is a benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment:

  • income support

  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance

  • income-related employment and support allowance

  • housing benefit

  • child tax credit

  • working tax credit

“A single universal credit payment is paid directly into claimants’ bank accounts to cover the benefits for which they are eligible.”

UC is supposed to be rolled out slowly across the UK with a number of places that are full test areas, and Aberdeen is one of those full roll –out areas

In trying to search around for guidance and answers for both myself and those who read this blog, I was sent this simple cut –down answer:

“The Universal Credit rollout to Aberdeen on the 31st October is part of the ‘full service’ rollout so will definitely still take place. If you live in a Universal Credit full service area and you try to make a new claim for one of the legacy benefits, you will be asked to claim Universal Credit instead.

The BBC article is  “about Universal Credit rollout to existing benefits claimants called the ‘managed migration’.  Until we officially hear this is currently due to happen between July 2019 and March 2023. For the time being, existing claimants who do not try to make a new claim for one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing will not be affected, even if they live in a full service area.”  ( Una Summerson – Contact for Families with Disabled Children.)

However, there is worrying online advice to charities and their clients which come from CPAG – Child Action Poverty Group.   This is at times a  very technical and at times byzantine explanation or advice,  but if you wish to avail yourself of the “ explanation”, then you can do so here http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/universal-credit-who-gains-who-loses-and-how-does-transitional-protection-really-work

An extract from that CAPG online blog reads:

“I say ‘have the chance’ to receive transitional protection, because in practice many of this 2 million won’t receive it. The draft legislation setting out how transitional protection will work specifies that nobody living in temporary accommodation or supported housing (such as a refuge) will be eligible, and nor will families affected by the benefit cap. Furthermore, transitional protection is only available to people who complete their UC claim successfully on their first attempt and before the deadline – if you make a mistake in your first claim and have to start again, or miss your deadline even by a few days, you won’t qualify even if you successfully claim UC later. Currently 1 in 5 claims to UC fails because of difficulties people face with the application process, meaning hundreds of thousands are likely to lose out. As well as losing transitional protection, those who do not claim by the deadline will see their other benefits stop.

And of those who do qualify for transitional protection, many will lose it due to common life events. If a couple moves in together or separates, if someone loses their job and doesn’t get another one within three months, or if someone earns enough to move off UC and then reclaims after three months or more, they will lose transitional protection completely. Others will see their transitional protection eroded over time because any change which would otherwise increase their UC – such as rent going up, or having a child – will instead eat into the top-up.”

I again reiterate that before anyone starts to fill in forms, they contact us for help or advice. Our volunteers and staff have to continually go to meetings and seminars to get the information needed to pass on in good faith to our clients.

Referrals from other organisations are rising quite steadily as they seek to help their clients by sending them to us for the time –consuming form –completion.  At the moment we are being pulled two –ways by a rising number of referrals and yet we have no Government or Local Government funding.  We need core funding to help us exist. We cannot do that unless people get themselves or others interested in donation,  sponsoring us or finding funds from foundations, which enable us to train volunteers, pay the rent & support our part –time staff.

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