Mythbusting facts you might want to share about Universal Credit

When we’re delivering our Get to Grips with Universal Credit training course we’re often surprised by some of the misconceptions that exist about Universal Credit, leading to misinformation being passed on to the people who need the true facts the most.

So we’ve put together 4 mythbusters that you might want to share about Universal Credit, drawn  from the most regular misunderstandings we have come across so far.

 

1. You can be eligible to receive the Carers element of UC even if you work full time.

It doesn’t matter how many hours a week you are working. You can be eligible to receive the Carers element of Universal Credit as long as you care for/support someone for at least 35 hours a week. The benefit is designed to take into account individual situations  So, for example, if your client works 5 days a week for 7 hours each day but they also look after an elderly relative before and after work for 4.5 hours total a day, then spend 6 hours each Saturday and 7 on Sunday they can claim UC.

 

2. You do have flexibility about how UC is paid to the household

UC is usually paid as one household payment, but you can ask for payments to be split even if for couples, if:

  • it’s in your interest, for example because one of you has trouble managing money and it’s causing financial problems;
  • it’s in the interest of a child you’re responsible for;
  • you get an amount in your Universal Credit because you care for a severely disabled person and it’s helpful for them to get paid like this.

If you are having problems managing your payments you can also ask for an alternative payment arrangement where, for example, housing costs are paid direct to your landlord or you can be paid more frequently eg fortnightly.  

 

3. Some people are better off on Universal Credit than legacy benefits

There is a genuine fear for most people who are transitioning from legacy benefits to Universal Credit, however some people are actually better off on UC.  The tapering of earnings as UC reduces is better for some people than when they were on legacy benefits. 

If a claimant worked over 16 hours they would have lost all entitlement to means tested benefits that are being replaced by UC, such as JSA & IS. However, with UC, for every pound earned UC is reduced by £0.63p, which is a more generous tapering. If this is then added to a claimant having a work allowance included in their claim (money that can be earned prior to the means test being applied) it can increase income and result in retention of benefit entitlement for a longer period.

Here’s a working example offered by Citizens Advice:

Zoe earns £900 a month. Without a work allowance her whole income reduces her Universal Credit by 63p for each £1 she earns. This would reduce her Universal Credit by 900 x 63p = £567. She looks after her young child, and doesn’t get the Universal Credit housing element. This means she gets a work allowance of £503. The work allowance means £503 of Zoe’s income is ignored, leaving £397 that will reduce her Universal Credit payment. This means her payment is reduced by 397 x 63p = £250.11.

  

4. You don’t have to make a UC claim digitally

 The Government has made it clear that digital claims are very much the norm, however there is still provision to manage a claim non-digitally in special circumstances – a claim can be made by phone  or, in exceptional circumstances, through someone making a home visit.

The circumstances when non-digital claims may be permitted include:

  • lack of regular access to the internet;
  • lack of confidence using a computer or smartphone or having a physical condition that prevents it;
  • having problems with sight;
  • having a long term physical disability or mental health condition which prevents an online application;
  • having difficulties with reading or writing

Check out our other articles about Universal Credit to find out more, and if you’re new to Universal Credit you can watch our Introduction to Universal Credit video.