UNIVERSAL Credit is a monthly payment, combining six payments into one.
Brits on low incomes or who are unemployed can claim the payment, which is calculated on your current circumstances.
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.
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?
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.
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How is my Universal Credit calculated?
The Department for Work and Pensions works out how much your household is entitled but this could 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'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:
- £290 per month for 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 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
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% 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.
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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 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.
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.
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