Universal credit is being withdrawn for many but you may still be eligible. This article provides information to raise awareness of how to identify what support you may be eligible for to ensure that those living in rural communities are being supported with the cost of living crisis.
Universal Credit is slowly replacing individual benefit schemes. It is made up of a basic allowance plus different elements for things like housing costs, bringing up children, caring or sickness and disability. Being employed or self-employed is not a barrier to claiming universal credit, payments fluctuate linked to earnings and as a result can go up or down. Equally, there is no set level of income where you stop being eligible for Universal Credit - it depends on your situation. If you live with a partner, their income and capital will be taken into account.
To be eligible for Universal Credit you must:
- Be 18 years old or over - or in some cases 16 or 17.
- Be under State Pension age - to check your State Pension age, click here.
- Live in the UK - there are extra rules if you’re not a British citizen.
The amount of Universal Credit paid depends on what income you get from:
- A pension
- Other benefits
- Savings and capital above £6,000.
You must usually have less than £16,000 in savings or other investments - called ‘capital’. Capital doesn’t include your pension pot or the home you live in. If you have more than £16,000 in capital, you might still be able to get Universal Credit for up to a year. This applies if you get tax credits and you’ve had a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) telling you to move to Universal Credit by a certain date.
How to Apply
With the continuing cost of living crisis, with a few simple steps, individuals and families can see what benefits and other financial support is available. To check what you are entitled to, you can use an online benefits checking tool which will guide you through the steps and information required to work out what you may be entitled to receive. Questions asked include current employment status, earnings, dependants, housing, details of savings and existing benefits received. The calculator then lists what universal credit payment you may be entitled to along with other potential benefits. The calculator does not ask for names and addresses but does ask for a post code in relation to council tax.
As Universal Credit is replacing previous individual benefit schemes including housing benefit, child and working tax credit and income support, it is important to check if you will be better off under Universal credit as it may not always be the case. To check if you’re better off, you can:
- Use a benefits calculator
- Contact the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service
- Ask a local benefits adviser
Alternative ways of and help with applying for Universal Credit
If you don’t have access to the internet or need help to make your claim, you can:
- Visit your nearest Jobcentre Plus
- Make an appointment with Citizens Advice Bureau for assisted digital support
Normally, payments are made directly into a bank account. However, if you do not have a bank account or credit union account, the Universal Credit Helpline can arrange an alternative payment method. The first payment is generally made ~ 5 weeks after your initial application and then generally monthly thereafter. Unlike other parts of the UK, in Scotland, after the first payment has been received, you can opt to be paid twice a month rather than once a month.
While each payment will be tailored to an individual’s/couple’s circumstances, the monthly standard allowance is currently as follows:
|Criteria||Monthly Standard Allowance|
|If you’re single and under 25||£265.31|
|If you’re single and 25 or over||£334.91|
|If you live with your partner and you’re both under 25||£416.45 (for you both|
|If you live with your partner and either of you are 25 or over||£525.72 (for you both)|
Benefits are subject to a payment cap which takes into account all benefits received. They vary depending on whether you live inside or outside Greater London, are single (with or without children) or a couple.
Additional Support Available
Council Tax Reduction
If you are eligible for Universal Credit, you may be eligible for a reduction in your council tax based on your current income including benefits and savings. To see if you are eligible for a reduction, either click on this link to apply for Council Tax Reduction and enter your postcode to be taken to your local council website where it will guide you to an online application and will explain the supporting documents that you will need to provide OR contact your local council direct.
Cost of living support
If you are eligible for means tested benefits including Universal credit, you may be eligible for cost of living support. For 2023, the payment rate will be £900per household, with payments split into three payments. The first payment of £301is expected to be made between the 25th of April and the 17th of May, with the second payment of £300 expected in autumn 23 and the third payment of £299 being paid next spring.
NHS Low Income Scheme
In Scotland, if you in receipt of benefits or have low income, you may be entitled to free NHS dental treatment, vouchers towards glasses or contact lenses and travel cost incurred travelling to an NHS hospital for treatment. For further details of the terms and condition, click here.
Scottish Welfare Fund
The Scottish Welfare Fund is a national scheme run by local authorities. There are two types of grants in the Scottish Welfare Fund :
- Crisis Grants – Aims to help people, typically on benefits, who are in crisis because of a disaster or an emergency.
- Community Care Grants – Aims to help people on benefits who may have to go into care unless they get some support to stay at home. Or, if they are leaving any form of care and need help to set-up their own home. A Community Care Grant can also help families facing exceptional pressures
If you need urgent help with money, food or fuel, your local council might be able to help. Each local council has their own service with different rules. The help they offer could include:
- Loans or grants
- Food vouchers
- Fuel vouchers
- Recycled clothes or household items
For further information or to apply, please contact your local council office.
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