Are you ready for Universal Credit?

Posted: 17th April 2018

Across the country 1 in 4 working age households will eventually receive Universal Credit. Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk is on hand to help people get ready for Universal Credit as it rolls out in full across Mid Suffolk.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age that helps to meet their living costs. It will replace benefits for people who are out of work and tax credits for people in work. Universal Credit replaces housing benefit, working tax credit, child tax credit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment and support allowance. Most people in Mid Suffolk making a new claim will have to apply for Universal Credit after the roll out.

The roll out of Full Service Universal Credit will affect people in postcodes covered by Stowmarket Jobcentre Plus and Diss Jobcentre from 9th May. Some people living in Mid Suffolk are in postcodes covered by Ipswich Jobcentre Plus or Bury St Edmunds Jobcentre Plus. In these areas people can already claim Full Service Universal Credit.

People who are already claiming any of the six benefits do not need to do anything until the Department for Work and Pensions contacts them. They are likely to be moved on to Universal Credit from 2019 onwards. However, if their circumstances change and they have to make a new claim for help with their living costs then they may have to claim Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is the biggest ever change to the benefits system, so Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk is advising people how to prepare.

Our Advice

1. Get Online

You will have to make your Universal Credit claim online, and you may have to go online to manage your claim every day. Although many people have access to the internet, if you live in an area where your broadband is a bit flaky it could help to have a plan B. For example, your local library will have computers you can use for free to get online. Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council have a map showing free Wi-Fi and public computer locations.

2. Prepare for the way Universal Credit is paid

Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears. The payments go straight into the claimant’s bank account. This means people may have to set up their own standing orders for expenses like rent if it was paid directly to their landlord under the old Housing Benefit system. It could mean having to budget over a longer period than you are used to.
Your first Universal Credit payment will be at least five weeks after you first make your claim. There might be some ways you can prepare for this, like putting a little money aside or making sure you have got any big bills out of the way. You should apply for an advance payment if you are concerned about meeting your living costs.

3. Work out who can give you any help you need

Universal Credit is run quite differently, so many people need a bit of help to get used to what’s expected of them. We want you to know that it’s ok to ask for help. Sometimes this can be as simple as having a family member read through the forms with you. The Citizens Advice website has detailed information about how Universal Credit works. You can contact us for advice by dropping in to our office in Stowmarket during our opening times, by calling 01449 676060 or by contacting us via our website.