Universal Credit is here
Universal Credit (UC) is a key part of changes that have been made in recent years to the welfare system.
UC provides a single system of support for working-age people who are in or out of work and will usually be paid in a single monthly sum to households. It is based on your income and the amount of savings you have.
While it is not yet implemented everywhere, UC began in Ashford in April 2015. Initially it applied to new, single, working-age jobseekers’ allowance claimants only. It is anticipated that it will apply begin to apply to all working-age claimants between 2017 and 2021.
How does it work?
UC will replace income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, working tax credit, child tax credit, housing benefit.
Claimants will receive UC monthly and will need to have a bank account into which it can be paid.
To find out more information about UC, gov.uk offers details of how it could affect you and how you can claim.
What’s the council’s involvement?
UC is managed and administered by the Department for Work and Pensions, not the council. We have therefore been coordinating a local response to UC, proactively providing information to you and interested organisations in the borough, about all of the changes.
We have produced information that is posted on this dedicated web page, in our tenants' publication Housing News and in our residents' e-zine Ashford Voice. We have also talked to the local press about the changes and what help is available to those households who are likely to be affected.
We also have two welfare reform intervention officers who are here to help you. They will work with you if you are in debt or worried about paying your rent or council tax.
If you want to talk to someone independently of the council then you can speak to the Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB). Ashford and Tenterden areas also have their own Citizens Advice Bureau website. Visit the Ashford borough Citizens Advice Bureau website.
If you are struggling with debt, the council helps to fund a debt advice management service run by the CAB.
April 2017 changes to welfare reform
Two child restriction
From 6 April 2017, for most new claims for housing benefit and council tax support, the child premiums allowed within the applicable amount will be restricted to two children. This mirrors the same change that is happening within child tax credit.
Most people who are already in receipt of child tax credit, housing benefit and council tax support for more than two children, will receive protection from the new rules and will continue to receive allowances for more than two children. If, however, any new children are born on or after 6 April 2017, support given through child tax credit, housing benefit and council tax support will be limited to the number of children that were on the claim prior to 6 April 2017.
The council have to follow the decision made by HMRC regarding how many allowances can be made for the children.
If HMRC pay child tax credit for five children, then the council will also make allowances for five children.
If HMRC only make allowance for four out of the five children (because child number five was born on 1 May 2017), then the council have to follow this decision.
Exceptions to the two child restriction
Child benefit is unaffected by this new rule. You will still be able to receive child benefit for all children that you have responsibility for.
Bedroom allowances will also be unaffected by the new rule. Any additional children born on or after 6 April 2017 will be taken into account when the council are calculating the bedroom allowance for a housing benefit claim.
The council are bound by HMRC's decision regarding the number of children included within the applicable amount. If you disagree with the number of children that you are receiving child tax credit for, any appeal must be made to HMRC. The council can only change it’s decision on this new rule, if HMRC do.
To enable the council to include the correct number of child premiums in your housing benefit and council tax support calculation, they will need to see all pages of your latest child tax credit award letters. If the council do not have this information, then only child premiums for two children will be allowed for when calculating your housing benefit and council tax support claim. Any documentation that you may wish to provide may be submitted using our evidence form.
Previous changes to welfare reform
This is a reduction in housing benefit for tenants in social housing who have spare bedrooms and only applies to people living in properties that are owned by either the council or a housing association.
Council tax support
See details of the council’s current council tax support scheme, along with how this was determined.
Rules state that households should not receive more in benefit payments than the average wage a working household earns after tax. Therefore benefits are capped at £384.62 per week for couples and families, and £257.69 per week for single people.
Changes to backdating rules
Since 1 April 2016 the maximum amount of time that a claim can be considered for backdating for working age claimants was reduced from six months to one month.
The family premium will not be included in the applicable amount for new entitlements to housing benefit and council tax support that began on or after 1 May 2016, or for any existing claimants who have a child or became responsible for a child (under 16) or young person (under 20) for the first time after 30 April 2016.
- For an estimate of how much housing benefit and/or council tax support you may be entitled to you can use our online benefits calculator
- Make a claim for housing benefit and/or council tax support
- If you are searching for employment, needing help with your CV, or even wanting to know how to start your own business then you can download our Interactive tool [pdf] 667KB from JobCentre Plus that will provide you with all the information you are after. The tool also helps you to check your benefit entitlement and contains many helpful links and website addresses. You may also like to attend the Job Club [pdf] 122KB
The Job Club is held every Monday (except bank holidays) in the Ashford Gateway from 1pm to 4pm
- You can read about how welfare reform is being managed by the council in the most recent welfare reform impacts report [pdf] 2447KB, presented to Cabinet Members in August 2015
- Find out more about personal independence payments
- Read more about renting a room out [pdf] 821KB
For more independent advice about changes to your benefits, or help with working out how this will apply to you, you can contact:
- Shelter Housing Aid
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- The Money Advice Service
- Ashford borough Citizens Advice Bureau
For advice on alternative housing options please visit housing advice.