Universal Credit and the benefit cap – what’s the latest news?

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Universal Credit - Government benefit changes

Courtesy of Wikicommons user David Lally

We’ve all heard about the benefit changes the Government is making to the current system, but over the past couple of months everything’s gone a bit quiet.

There was a flurry of news and activity in early April with the 2013 benefit changes, (such as the introduction of the “Bedroom Tax”), and last month Disabled Living Allowance was replaced by Personal Independence Payment for new claimants.

But on the whole it was quiet… until this week, when Universal Credit and the newly-introduced benefit cap made the news in a big way.

Universal Credit news

Originally Universal Credit was going to be rolled out nationwide from October this year, after a trial period in Greater Manchester.

But the Government has just announced that this next stage of the Universal Credit roll out will only affect six Jobcentres across the country for now. These are:

  • Hammersmith
  • Rugby
  • Inverness
  • Harrogate
  • Bath
  • Shotton

These Jobcentres will only process Universal Credit applications for single people (not couples or parents/guardians) who are claiming jobseekers allowance.

This means that, for the foreseeable future, unless your local Jobcentre is one of the ones listed above, if you make a claim for a new benefit you’ll still receive current benefits like jobseekers allowance or tax credits instead of Universal Credit.

The Government has said they still plan to move everyone over to Universal Credit by 2017. So watch this space – we’ll keep you updated on the changes as and when they happen.

Benefits cap news

This Monday (the 15th) the Government’s new cap on benefits started in earnest. The aim of the cap is to give people an incentive to work by making sure they can’t get more money through benefits than they could if you were working.

From now on, a single person (with no children) will get a maximum of £350 a week in benefits, and a couple (with or without children) or a single person with children will get a maximum of £500 a week. This amount includes any housing benefit, child benefit and out of work benefits that the person/couple might be getting.

It’s estimated that the cap will affect 56,000 UK households.

But don’t let this stop you claiming benefits…

If you think you might be entitled to benefits that you don’t currently receive then we’d recommend putting in a claim now. Government research done in 2009-10 revealed that every year £10 billion of benefits and tax credits go unclaimed. You can check your entitlement now by using our online benefits checker.

Ally has worked with StepChange Debt Charity since 2007. Starting in Customer Service, she now works in the Advice Team, keeping on top of all things debt advice related. Outside of the world of debt advice Ally likes baking, biking and running (the latter means she feels less guilty about the former).

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