Rossendale Free Press

Are you missing out on Universal Credit?

- MARTIN LEWIS Follow on Twitter @MartinSLew­is

The UK has a welfare safety net, yet sadly many miss out.

Changes at the end of last year to the catch-all Universal Credit programme mean over half a million people who weren’t eligible now are. The benefits net stretches up higher than many think. Use a 10-minute Universal Credit and benefits checker tool to see if you’re due. I’ve got one on my site at­lc and there’s also one at It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.

If you tried before November, it’s worth trying again. More are eligible due to changes which hit in December – work allowances increased by £42 per month. This is the amount those in households with children, or those with ‘a limited capacity for work’, can earn before Universal Credit starts to drop.

If you earn over your work allowance, you keep more of the benefit. It’s now 45p per £1 of earnings, rather than 37p.

There are three million people still on old style benefits: tax credits, income support, housing benefit, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and incomerela­ted employment and support allowance. If you’re on any of those, you’ll eventually be moved to Universal Credit which replaces them all. Yet this may take years. So it’s worth checking if you’d be better off switching now.

This isn’t easy, and you need to get it right, as once you request to go on Universal Credit, there’s no going back.

Step 1: Check if you’re in a category likely to be better off switching. If you work and pay rent, especially in a city, then you’re in the sweet spot. Same too if you’re at the higher end of earnings that still allow you to get benefits. On the other hand, if you’re a single parent and/or have a disability and you work but don’t pay rent, or you’re selfemploy­ed earning under £1,200/mth, then you’re likely to be worse off on

Universal Credit. Same too if you’ve a decent amount in savings.

Step 2: If you’re in the right category, use the calculator. It will tell you if you’re likely to be better off and by how much.

Step 3: If the calculator shows you’ll make a decent gain, don’t do anything without one-on-one help. There are a lot of changes in the move:

– You’re usually paid monthly and must budget.

– It’s one payment to the household (a possible issue for those in financiall­y abusive relationsh­ips).

– The first payment takes five weeks (though you can get an advance).

– The work rules may be different; some have to do 35 hours of ‘workrelate­d’ activities a week.

And if you have certain debts, including council tax, rent and energy bills, up to 25% can be taken off the standard Universal Credit payment.

Chat with an adviser at moneyhelpe­r., or get free benefits check ups

citizensad­ or adviceloca­

Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavin­ To join the 7.5 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to moneysavin­

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Martin’s Benefits Check page

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