UNIVERSAL Credit is a single monthly payment that rolls six benefits into one.
The payments are calculated depending on your individual circumstances so yours won't necessarily be the same as someone else's.
It's designed to help people on lower incomes, but 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, 63p is deducted from your payments.
We believe you should be able to keep hold of more of your cash.
The Sun wants the taper rate to be slashed to 50p to help at least four million struggling families.
But until then, we talk you through how your Universal Credit payment is worked out and how getting a job will affect your payments.
Universal Credit calculators
TRYING to work out how much Universal Credit you can get can be overwhelming.
There are so many different elements that can affect your claim that it makes the whole process even more complicated.
There are a number of free calculators that you can use to help you get an estimate, such as Gov.uk, Citizen's Advice, MoneySavingExpert, StepChange and Turn2Us.
You will need:
- Details of all your income, such as existing benefits, tax credits, earnings from employment and your pensions,
- Details of your partner's income if you're married, in a civil partnership or living with someone as a couple. You will be assessed as a couple'
- Information on any savings you have,
- How much you pay in Council Tax per year and whether you get any discounts, reductions or exemptions,
- Details of your rent or mortgage payments,
- Employment and income information about anyone else living with you, such as grown-up children,
- Details about your Carer's Allowance if you receive it.
You need to make sure that the information is as accurate as possible so that you can get the truest estimate.
How much Universal Credit can I get?
How much Universal Credit you are entitled to depends on your individual circumstances, such as how many children you have, how much money you earn and how many people you live with.
But it's also affected by the benefit cap, which limits the amount of welfare you can get.
The limits are:
- £1,916.67 a month for couples and single parents in London
- £1,666.67 a month for couples and single parents outside London
- £1,284.17 a month for single person with no children in London
- £1,116.67 a month for a single person with no children outside London
Universal Credit claimants have also had their payments boosted by £1,040 (£20 a week) due to the coronavirus crisis.
Rishi Sunak announced in his Budget earlier this month that the boost would stay in place for another six months.
But the minister who looks after Universal Credit at the Department for Work and Pensions, Will Quince, said earlier this week it could be kept in place even longer than this.
How is my Universal Credit calculated?
First the Department for Work and Pensions works out how much your household is entitled to, but then it may be affected by deductions or sanctions.
Your partner's circumstances will be taken into account if you live together, even if you're not married.
Everyone who is accepted on Universal Credit will be entitled to a Standard Allowance – how much you get depends on whether you're single or not.
- Single and aged under 25: £342.72 per month
- Single and aged 25 or over: £409.89 per month
- Joint claimants both aged under 25: £488.59 per month
- Joint claimants where one is aged 25 or over: £594.04 per month
Once the DWP has worked out your household allowance it will take into account any claims for additional elements, such as money for children, housing or disabilities.
Here's all the elements you may be entitled to:
If your child is under the age of 16 then you can may be entitled to:
- £281.25 per month for first or only child born before 6 April 2017
- £235.83 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:
- £128.25 per month per child receiving DLA or PIP
- £400.29 per month per child if they qualify for the 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 per cent 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.
Unfortunately, parents 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.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.
Housing costs element
Universal Credit can help you pay your rent, or part of it, as well as some service charges.
How much you get depends on whether you're a private or social tenant.
The amount is based on Local Housing Allowance where you live, 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
You 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, 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 per cent for one spare, or 15 percent 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 £169.92 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.
Limited capability for work element
You will need to undergo a Work Capability Assessment before you're able to claim this element.
If you satisfy the tests you will either get the limited capability for work element (LCW) at £126.11 per month or the limited capability for work related activity element (LCWRA) at £328.32 per month
You won't be entitled if you earn more than the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage.
It's worth noting that this element has been abolished for most new claimants from April 3 2017.
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.
As a result, you can work as many hours as you want while claiming benefits but it may reduce the amount you get.
That's because your wages will be subject to the taper rate: for every £1 you earn, your Universal Credit payment will go down 63p.
If you've got a job and a child who depends on you or you can't work as much because of an illness then you may be qualify for 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 £292, or £512 if you don't.
If you don't get a work allowance then all of your salary is subject to the taper rate.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.
Alternative Payment Arrangements– If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.
Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussel Trust website.
What else can lower my 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.
You may also receive less than what you're entitled to because your payment is subject to deductions.
This could be because you need to repay an advance or budgeting loan or you've previously been overpaid Tax Credits.
You may also see money come off your payment because you've fallen behind on your rent, council tax or energy bills.
These deductions are payments that go directly to your landlord or housing association, the council or your energy provider to help pay off your debt.
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