Universal Credit is a singular payment to help with living costs. It’s paid monthly and is designed to help those on low incomes or who are out of work. The new system is designed to simplify previously existing benefit payments. Universal Credit has, so far, replaced child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit. As it stands, benefit claimants do not have to switch over to the new Universal Credit system so long as their circumstances do not change. The rollout of Universal Credit has been controversial since it was launched and the full rollout has been delayed many times.
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Despite this, the new system does offer some new and unique perks.
Universal Credit receivers may get additional support if they are on a particularly low income or they have fallen on hard times.
If a claimant has no income whatsoever, they may be able to receive the “BT Basic” package.
BT Basic is a low cost phone service offered by BT which is designed specifically for people on low incomes.The service aims to help with budgeting.
It provides more call types to be included within the predetermined call allowance.
Along with this a new “price cap” is included to ensure money is saved. The application for this service is done directly through BT.
They will need to be called and they will require a number of personal details, which includes national insurance numbers and information on what benefits are being claimed.
They then take this information and work with the department for work and pensions to see if the claimant qualifies.
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Claimants with specific disabilities could also receive a disabled facilities grant.
This is a grant from a local council that allows changes to be made to the claimant’s home. The changes will be focused around making their living situation more comfortable and safe.
Examples that the government provides include widening of doors, ramp installations, stairlifts, new heating systems and lighting controls.
These grants, depending on specific circumstances, could be as high as £36,000.
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The council could even reduce the tax bill a Universal Credit claimant pays.
If the claimant is on a particularly low income, they can apply for a council tax reduction (sometimes called council tax support).
The tax bill could be reduced by as much as 100 percent but it will be dependent on very specific circumstances.
It will be dependant on where the claimant lives as each council has a different scheme as well as living arrangements, such as how many people are living in the house.
The government, through the non-ministerial department Ofwat, can even take steps to reduce water bills. Claimants with water meters in their homes can apply for the “WaterSure” scheme. This scheme allows water bills to be capped. The aim is to allow people to feel at ease over using water in their houses. Ofwat does not want people to cut back on how much water they use due to worrying about how high their bill will be.
There is strict eligibility criteria for this scheme however. Along with Universal Credit, the applicant will need to either be responsible for and receive child benefit for three or more children under the age of 19 living in the property or have (or someone living in the property must have) a medical condition which requires significant additional use of water. The application for this scheme, just like with the BT Basic package, will need to be done through water companies.
All of these schemes (along with others offered by the government) have varying eligibility criteria. It can be tricky to understand what schemes and benefits are available for individual claimants. This can always be discussed with work coaches via Jobcentres and the department for work and pensions.
There are also several government departments and charities which can provide guidance. The Money Advice Service, Money Advice Trust and Citizens Advice can all point claimants in the right direction.
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