Universal Credit payments rise TODAY – how it affects you – The Sun

UNIVERSAL Credit payments are rising again from today providing some welcome relief to hard-up Brits.

It comes after the five-year benefits freeze ended on Wednesday, meaning 2.5million households on Universal Credit and legacy benefits are now better off.

Legacy benefits are the welfare payments struggling households received before Universal Credit was rolled out.

The rise was announced in October, following the release of September's inflation figures which are used to calculate benefits increases that will come into effect from April 1.

But extra coronavirus measures aimed at helping struggling families stay afloat during the lockdown are also coming into effect from today, April 6.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak laid out a number of temporary measures as part of his Budget earlier this month, which will see another £20 a week added to payments on top of the previously announced rise.

The changes include increases in the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credits, as well as a suspension of the Universal Credit minimum income floor.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says four million vulnerable households will benefit from today's changes, below we explain all you need to know.

How the changes will affect you

Standard allowance and working tax credits

The standard allowance – the amount that everyone is entitled to if they're accepted on Universal Credit – will rise by roughly £20 a week for the next 12 months adding £1,000 over the year.

The DWP says the standard rate will be increased by £86.67 per month on top of the planned annual uprating.

This means claimants will be up to £1,040 better off, but the exact amount you'll get will depend on your individual circumstances.

The Universal Credit standard allowance currently ranges between £251.77 and £498.89 depending on your age and whether or not you're part of a couple.

This is how the standard allowance is changing, as of today:

  • Single, under 25  – rising from £251.77 to £342.72 (equivalent to £4,112.64 a year)
  • Single, 25 or over  – rising from £317.82 to £409.89 (equivalent to £4,918.68 a year)
  • Couple, joint claimants both under 25  – rising from £395.20 to £488.59 (equivalent to £5,863.08 a year)
  • Couple, joint claimants, one or both 25 or over  – rising from £498.89 to £594.04 (equivalent to £7,128.48 a year)

Working tax credit is being raised by the same amount, on top of the increase linked to inflation.

The basic amount for working tax credit is currently up to £1,960 a year but will rise to £3,040 for the next 12 months.

You may be entitled to extra money on top of this, depending on your circumstances and income, but it's only the basic element that's receiving an additional boost by the government.

Yet the DWP says the increase could mean up to an extra £20 each week.

The raised amounts should kick in automatically for everyone who is eligible, meaning you shouldn't need to do anything if you're entitled to more money.

It'll also apply to both new and existing claimants for 12 months.

Minimum Income Floor (MIF)

Temporarily removing the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor (MIF) will help self-employed workers who will lose income either due to self-isolating or as a result of the lockdown.

Universal Credit is calculated for self-employed workers whose business has been running for more than 12 months by predicting what they may earn. This is known as the MIF.

It's worked out by multiplying the national minimum wage with the number of hours you agreed to work.

How do these benefits currently work?

Universal Credit replaces six benefits – including Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit – with one monthly payment.

You may be entitled to it if you are on a low income or out of work, which is why the government is suggesting those who've been forced out of a job due to coronavirus should apply for it.

You get your standard allowance, plus potentially extra on top if you have children, a disability or health condition, or you care for someone with a disability.

Working Tax Credit, meanwhile, depends on the hours of paid work you do each week, plus your income and circumstances.

Again, you may then get extra "elements" on top depending on whether you're in a couple, have children, a disability, and how many hours you work.

How do I apply for Universal Credit?

As JobCentre phone lines are currently extremely busy, new claimants are asked to apply for Universal Credit online.

You can do this by the GOV website – you'll need information about your income, your housing situation and proof of your identity.

We've explained the best time to claim for Universal Credit when it’s quietest online.

As Working Tax Credit has mostly been replaced by Universal Credit, you can only make a new claim if you get a severe disability premium.

Find out more information on the GOV website.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:

  • Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
  • Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
  • Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your existing ones aren't enough to cover your rent.
  • Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

You can use a free calculator to help you work out how much you’ll get on Universal Credit or benefits after the coronavirus shake-up.

Many mortgage lenders, for example, are offering payment holidays while some banks are offering bigger overdrafts.

You should also consider turning to a free help organisation such as Citizens Advice or StepChange.

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