Universal Credit: DWP announces major changes to benefit this month – full details
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Universal Credit is intended to both streamline the UK benefits system, as well as provide support to those who need it most. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has meant many have lost their jobs or may be on a lower income due to furlough, so Universal Credit is likely to be a particular help. To be eligible, one must be over 18 in most circumstances, but under state pension age and with less than £16,000 in savings.
However, what are the major changes which are worthy of note for Universal Credit claimants, and when do they kick in?
The first key issue is the start of the Cold Weather Payment, available to eligible Universal Credit claimants.
The payment is designed to support those who live in particularly cold areas, potentially helping with energy bills.
Cold Weather Payments are available to those who live in an area where the average temperature is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
As such, eligible people can expect to receive £25 for each seven day period of cold weather between November 1 and March 31.
While Cold Weather Payments commenced at the start of the month, it is more likely people will need this support as the weather becomes colder in the coming weeks.
A second change for many Universal Credit claimants relates to receiving extra sums from the DWP as a transitional element.
People who switched from certain legacy benefits such as Income Support, Housing Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance sometimes found themselves out of pocket.
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As a result, legislation was introduced to provide these claimants with a transitional payment to cover the difference in their sum.
While some did receive the top up, if their last payment was before the legislation was introduced, they could get this payment in November instead.
The DWP has said it will pay out sums of £120, £285 and £405 to individuals who have been affected, and the amount will be added to a Universal Credit income.
A third change relates to the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) suspension from the DWP.
While the suspension of rules was due to end on November 13, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of claimants, the government has made a key announcement.
To provide further support to the self-employed the MIF will remain suspended until the end of April 2021.
Therese Coffey, Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “We have always been clear that easements would be reviewed as public health guidance and the national working environment changes.
“Extending the Minimum Income Floor suspension ensures these workers have security from the welfare safety net throughout the winter.”
This has meant an important lifeline has been extended to many people, and worry is likely to be lifted somewhat.
Finally, an important change this month relates to the way Universal Credit is paid.
Previously, those who were paid twice in a month by their employer could often be penalised due to the way the system of Universal Credit worked.
The matter particularly affected those who had their payment date shift due to weekends or bank holidays.
However, after an important Court of Appeal case to settle the issue, the DWP has made vital changes.
Now, the Universal Credit system will only register one payment in every assessment period to stop confusion and potential loss.
Universal Credit is paid monthly, or twice a month for some people who live in Scotland.
Claimants can expect to be paid directly into their bank, building society or credit union account, and should contact the DWP if this does not occur.
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