Universal Credit - Your Questions Answered

Sitra's Welfare Reform Expert - Geoffrey Ferres - answers your questions about Universal Credit. 

 

What happens to European Union clients who aren’t allowed to make new claims for Universal Credit? 

Claimants who are not UK nationals are not allowed to make new claims for Universal Credit at the moment so simply continue for the time being to make new claims, if eligible, for the benefits that Universal Credit will eventually replace including:

  • Employment and Support Allowance

  • Housing Benefit

  • Income Support

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance.

What about Council Tax support which is usually assessed with Housing Benefit? Is this in Universal Credit or outside? 

Council Tax support is unfortunately outside Universal Credit.

The Government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 provided for abolition of all the then-existing means-tested benefits for people of working age. Universal Credit replaces the functions of all those means-tested benefits apart from two: Council Tax Benefit and the one-off emergency payments from the Discretionary Social Fund (including Community Care Grants). These were both abolished after March 2013 and the responsibilities handed to local authorities.

This means clients who are liable for Council Tax may still have to make a separate claim for help with that from their local city/borough/district council. This can cause problems as clients move between unemployment and paid work, and means it is not possible for most online systems to show by how much clients may be better off in paid work as each English council has its own rules for giving help with Council Tax.

If a person lives in a Universal Credit area, makes a new claim, goes onto the benefit but then has a crisis and moves into supported accommodation in another area does the Universal Credit follow them? 

Basically, yes. Although only some newly unemployed claimants in some Jobcentres are allowed to make a new claim for Universal Credit, once claimants are on Universal Credit they remain on it even if they become too sick to work, or start a family, or move to another area. The benefit staff have to cope as best they can.

In this example the claimant should claim Housing Benefit as soon as they move into supported housing and should receive no rent element in their Universal Credit for the monthly period in which they move into supported housing – even though they may owe a landlord rent for some of that period.

Universal Credit won’t cover rented housing costs for supported housing because Housing Benefit will still cover it, but until when? Will this last forever? 

Housing Benefit for supported housing won’t go on forever but we don’t know for how long it will last. The Government has said no one of working age will be left on Housing Benefit by the end of 2019 so the replacement arrangements for Housing Benefit would probably need to start no later than April 2019.

It is understood an Act of Parliament will be needed to establish the basic powers for someone such as local authorities (or the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales) to run a new system. It might then take another year before the detailed design of a system was ready.

Want to know more?  Why not join us at one of our remaining Universal Credit Networking Events, or register your interest for a forthcoming training course.
  
Information correct as of publication (17th Feb 2015). This information is for guidance only, it does not, nor is it intended to, amount to legal advice. You are strongly advised to obtain specific, personal advice from a lawyer about individual cases and not reply on the information or comments in this article.