If you are between 18 years of age and under the age that entitles you to the Pension Credit (in the case of couples, where one partner reaches Pension Credit age before the other, the pair must continue to claim Universal Credit until both have reached the threshold for the Pension Credit) and are on a low income or in receipt of benefits, Universal Credit will mean a big change in the way you receive your money, which means you may require help managing and keeping track of your finances.
The national roll out of Universal Credit has commenced in Tendring, but will not affect everybody immediately. You will be notified by the Department of Works and Pensions and/or the Benefit Agency when you will be placed onto the new style of payment. Anyone receiving Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will gradually be transferred onto the new system.
The biggest change for a tenant is that you will now receive direct payments towards your housing costs. Therefore, you will now be responsible when you are in receipt of Universal Credit for paying your rent - this should be your top priority above all other bills to ensure you maintain your home and to avoid losing it.
Making Your Claim
Claims for Universal credit must be made online, you can access the claim form here.
After you have made your claim you will be contacted to attend an interview at the job centre in your local area. It will take between 20 and 40 minutes to make the claim online. Make sure you have enough time to complete the application. You cannot save the online application and go back to it later.
If you're making your application online and need help and support contact the Universal Credit help line on 0845 600 0723 whilst you are online and they will help you make your claim. Universal credit will start from the date you make your claim. It will only be backdated in exceptional circumstances.
Top tips to ensure that you adjust to the new style payment and manage your finances effectively are;
Keep a diary of your spending;
Note down all money coming in and every payment going out (such as rent, council tax, utility bills & living expenses etc.) to clearly see what you are spending and to keep track of your money.
Compile an income and expenditure budget;
Because Universal Credit will be paid to you monthly you may need to adjust your budget to avoid running out of money before your next payment.
Open a Bank Account;
Universal Credit will be paid monthly direct straight into your account, to receive your payments you will need a bank/building society account. If you live with your partner and you both have an entitlement to Universal Credit this can be paid into separate accounts or both into a joint account. Please follow this link for information regarding a deal the government has worked on with banks, so people with bad credit are still able to open a basic account.
Implemented automated payments;
To avoid arrears and to help with budgeting it will be easier to keep track of payments by automating them by using direct debit or standing orders. This is the most effective and efficient way to pay your bills and avoid getting into arrears.
For an on-line Personal Budgeting Support Calculator please access www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for budgeting advice.