Five Important Changes to Universal Credit This Year

Universal Credit recipients across the UK are likely to experience four new changes to their payments before the end of the year.

Universal Credit is a set of payments made to UK households on low incomes, or those who cannot work or are out of work, to help with their living costs. The payments are made monthly or twice a month for those living in Scotland.

This article will outline the four important changes that will affect Universal Credit this year.

     1) Those on benefits to move to Universal Credit

Since May this year, the UK Government has been in the midst of moving claimants on legacy benefits, such as tax credits, onto Universal Credit.

Around 2.6 million people are currently claiming classic benefits and the UK government plans to move this group onto Universal Credit by the end of 2024 as part of their Managed Migration plan.

Those who will be affected by this shift will be contacted via post from the Department for Work and Pensions, with advice outlining how they can still retain financial support.

Around 500 people in Medway, Bolton, Truro, Falmouth and Harrow have received this communication.

The six legacy benefits that will be replaced by Universal Credit by the end of 2024 include Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Benefit, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit.

     2) Households to additionally receive cost of living payments

Struggling households on low incomes across the UK are due to receive their second installment of the £650 cost of living payment soon this autumn.

This payment will be automatically sent to the same account that these households receive their Universal Credit in, like how it occurred in July.

It has been estimated that millions are still missing out on claiming this payment, so it is certainly worth making use of the UK’s benefit eligibility calculator.

     3) Work search eligibility criteria to be made tighter

To give more financial assistance, under new rules, those who are job seeking will need to have more meetings with work coaches and either increase their current working hours or spend more time looking for a job.

Around 115,000 current Universal Credit claimants will be moved from a ‘light touch’ work group to a ‘intensive work search’ regime. What determines this move will be the Administration Earnings Threshold, which is a monthly amount that sets which group claimants should be in.

For instance, those earning below £494 a month, or £782 together as a couple, will be in the intensive work search group. This group further includes those who earn nothing at all. This amount was previously £355 for individuals and £567 for couples.

This change will come into effect next week on the 26th September.

     4) Christmas bonus eligibility

Universal Credits will now be eligible for an extra £10 at Christmas time.

This bonus will serve as an entirely separate payment from any other benefits received and will not need to be paid back.

In order to be eligible to receive this bonus, claimants will need to be claiming an additional benefit alongside Universal Credit.

This additional benefit could include the following:

  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Disability Payment
  • Constant Attendance Allowance (paid under Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes)
  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (once the main phase of the benefit is entered after the first 13 weeks of claim)
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit at the long-term rate
  • Industrial Death Benefit (for widows or widowers)
  • Mobility Supplement
  • Pension Credit – the guarantee element
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • State Pension (including Graduated Retirement Benefit)
  • Severe Disablement Allowance (transitionally protected)
  • Unemployability Supplement or Allowance (paid under Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes)
  • War Disablement Pension at State Pension age
  • War Widow’s Pension
  • Widowed Mother’s Allowance
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance
  • Widow’s Pensio

     5) Attendance at the Job Centre

Those claiming Universal Credit and working an excess of 12 hours or more each week will not be required to attend regular appointments at their local job centre. This threshold has risen from the current nine hours.

The former Work and Pensions Minister Therese Coffey hinted that this number of hours could rise further in the future if there are enough work coaches, meaning that more people claiming Universal Credit will now have to meet with their work coach.

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