Universal Credit made 'more generous' by Chancellor says expert
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Christmas hosting duties may be made even more stressful today as research from Hometree warned 45,000 boilers may break down across the UK today. The boiler, heating and home cover provider noted around 1.5 million boilers would have broken down throughout December and standard repairs could cost at least £180.
The Affordable Warmth Obligation
Fortunately, for those unlucky enough to be hit by emergency boiler breakdowns, help may be available through the Affordable Warmth Obligation scheme. This obligation ensures participating energy suppliers make energy-saving improvements to a claimant’s home where they either claim certain benefits and live in private housing or, live in social housing.
This may come in the form of help with the costs of insulation work, for example to a loft or cavity walls or, replacing or repairing a boiler.
Those living as social housing tenants in housing with an energy efficiency rating of E, F, or G may be eligible for help with insulation or installing a heating system for the first time. To do this, they can use the energy performance certificate register to find their property’s energy efficiency rating, or ask their landlord or housing association.
Claimants of Universal Credit may also be eligible for the Affordable Warmth Obligation. Additionally, other benefits such as PIP, Carer’s Allowance or Child Benefit may make claimants eligible.
Before applying for support, claimants must have the owner’s permission before work can commence. To check if one would be eligible for help and receive guidance on next steps, they should head to www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk.
On top of the Affordable Warmth Obligation, Universal Credit claimants can receive help through Budgeting Advances. These are payments awarded to those who need help with emergency household costs such as replacing a broken cooker, getting a job or staying in work or funeral costs.
How much is awarded will depend on what the claimant needs, with the amount agreed in advance with a work coach. The smallest amount a person could borrow is £100.
However, it is possible to get up to £348 if a claimant is single, £464 for couples or £812 for those with children. It should be noted these advances will be paid back through regular Universal Credit payments, which will be lower until the debt is repaid.
To be eligible for a Budgeting Advance, claimants must have been getting Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or State Pension Credit for six months or more, unless they need the money to help them start a new job or stay in work. They’ll also need to have earned less than £2,600 (£3,600 together for couples) in the past six months and they’ve paid off any previous Budgeting Advance loans.
To apply for a Budgeting Advance, claimants can update their journal in their Universal Credit account. Additionally they can also contact their nearest jobcentre or call the Universal Credit helpline.
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Universal Credit eligibility
Universal Credit itself is a payment designed to help with a person’s living costs. It is paid to those who are on a low income or out of work entirely.
Claimants will be able to get Universal Credit so long as they’re aged between 18 and state pension age. They’ll also need to have no more than £16,000 in savings to qualify and be living in the UK when they claim.
Where claimants are employed, how much Universal Credit they’ll get will depend on their earnings. Generally, payments will reduce by 63p for every £1 earned. There is a work allowance in place which allows claimants to earn a certain amount before their Universal Credit is reduced if they (or their partner) is either responsible for a child or young person or is living with a disability or health condition that affects their ability to work.
The work allowance will be lower for those who get help with housing costs who will get an allowance of £293 a month. All other claimants will have an allowance of £515.
Universal Credit payments are made up of a standard allowance for any extra amounts the claimant may be eligible for. For example, more will be awarded to those who have children or need help covering rent.
The standard allowances are based on a claimants age and living situation. Single claimants aged under 25 will receive £257.33 per month, while those aged 25 or over will get £324.84.
Claimants in a couple will get £403.93 (for both) if both are under 25. This rises to £509.91 if either are 25 or over.
These payments usually arrive once a month into a designated bank, building society or credit union account. Following a claim, initial payments can take up to five weeks to arrive.
How to claim
Claims for Universal Credit are made online through the Government’s website. The Universal Credit team may phone claimants after they’ve sent their application if they need more information or if they cannot verify their identity online.
Before applying, claimants will need to have certain information at the ready. This includes their banking details, email address, information on income and costs and details on any investments they hold.
Where claimants struggle with the application process they may be able to receive help through the Help to Claim service. Help to Claim can support claimants in the early stages of their Universal Credit claim, from the online application, through to support with their application before their first full payment.
It’s a free, independent, confidential and impartial service provided by trained advisers from Citizens Advice. They can help with elements like how to gather evidence for an application or how to prepare for a Jobcentre appointment.
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