Sunderland housing association Gentoo has put together this handy guide to Universal Credit.

With support payments now changing to monthly, it’s important that you plan ahead for Universal Credit.

What is it?

Universal Credit is a new benefit for working-age people who are sick, unemployed and looking for work, or working but on a low income.

It was introduced in November 2015 for single people making new claims. From July 2018, Universal Credit is being rolled out to couples and families.

Universal Credit replaces Housing Benefit, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Incomerelated Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, and is paid once a month, usually into your bank, building society or credit union account.

How do I apply for Universal Credit?

To apply for Universal Credit you will need to visit www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-to-claim

You will need to make sure you:

  • Have access to the internet as you can claim and manage your account online
  • Have an email address set up
  • Have your National Insurance number to hand
  • Have a bank, building society, credit union or post office account
  • Details of income and any savings or investments
  • Details of childcare costs
  • Have proof of identity (driving license, passport, debit/credit card)

What if I am already claiming working-age benefits?

If you are already claiming working-age benefits, carry on as normal until you are notified by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

What about Council Tax?

Council Tax support isn’t included in Universal Credit. Council Tax information and support can be accessed via Sunderland City Council’s website at: www.sunderland.gov.uk/housingbenefit-council-tax-support

I’m worried I’m not going to be able to manage while I wait for my payments.

There is a lot of support that Gentoo can provide to you if you live in a Gentoo property, or if you’re a prospective Gentoo customer e.g. you’ve applied for a Gentoo property and are on a waiting list, to ensure you can manage financially while you wait for your payment.

Gentoo’s Money Matters Team can help you adjust to budgeting on a monthly basis, so you don’t end up short between payments.

Your first payment will usually take around five weeks, however if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, this will continue for the first two weeks of your claim. If you need help with your living costs while you wait for your first payment, you can apply for an advance from the DWP which can be paid back over twelve months.

If you are worried that you might not be able to afford food for meals while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, Gentoo can make a referral for you to your local food bank. They can also give you details of any free lunch clubs in your local area.

School uniforms can be one of the most costly things for families over the holidays, so Gentoo has been collecting for those who need them most. Speak to the Money Matters Team about events where you can pick up school uniforms for your children for a small donation.

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