HALF a million working Brits are missing out on extra cash that could be worth hundreds of pounds a year.
Universal Credit can be claimed if you have a job and are earning below a certain amount, topping up your wages and boosting your household finances.
A change to the rules last year means that more people can now earn money from work and get the benefit – but many don’t realise.
With the cost of living rising and a raft of bills going up within weeks, it’s more important than ever to check you’re getting all the help you’re entitled to.
Just over half a million workers are now estimated to be eligible for Universal Credit because of a change to the taper rate rules.
Universal Credit payments are gradually reduced as you earn more, over a certain amount.
The taper rate was slashed to 55p for every £1 from November last year. Previously it was 63p.
Plus, the work allowance (an amount some people can earn before this taper applies) has increased by £500 a year.
Those on low incomes who were previously not eligible for Universal Credit because they earned too much could now be entitled to the help.
Lowering the taper rate means it’s easier to qualify for the benefit with higher earnings.
A quarter of working households are eligible and even some workers earning more than £50,000 could now get it, depending on their circumstances.
A single parent with two children who pays monthly rent of £750 can now earn just under £52,000 before losing their ability to claim the benefit.
Previously the figure was £44,500, calculations by the Institute for Fiscal Studies show.
Meanwhile a couple with just one earner in the same circumstances can make almost £59,000 in income before being cut off, a rise from £49,300 previously, the think tank said.
Thousands of Brits in work have been urged to check their eligibility for Universal Credit – even if they didn’t qualify before.
Dr Phil Agulnik, boss of charity EntitledTo, previously said when the change was announced: “In practical terms these changes mean it’s more important than ever for people to check if they can claim Universal Credit.”
Martin Lewis has also urged people to check – and you could find out in as little a 10 minutes.
How to check if you can get Universal Credit
In order to qualify for Universal Credit, you must be on a low income or out of work, and need to be over 18.
You, or your partner, should be under State Pension age and must live in the UK.
You won’t qualify if you and your partner have more than £16,000 in savings between you.
To find out whether you’re eligible for extra help following the changes to the taper rate and work allowance, you can use a benefits calculator.
You’ll need to provide details of your savings, income, existing benefits and pensions, outgoings and your council tax bill.
Benefit calculators include:
If you’re eligible and how much you can get depends on your circumstances.
Universal Credit standard amounts are worth up to £324.84 a month or £509.91 for couples.
You may get extra amounts on top if you have children, a disability or health condition.
But how much you earn could reduce the amount you get, because of the taper rate rule.
A calculator should be able to give you an idea of how much you can get, but the exact amount will depend on when your application is assessed.
Claiming Universal Credit could make you eligible for other help too, like cheaper broadband or council tax bill help.
If you’re not eligible for Universal Credit you could still claim other benefits, and a calculator can tell you this too.
A whopping £15billion goes unclaimed every year, like council tax support and income support, so it’s always worth checking.
How to apply for Universal Credit
You can apply for Universal Credit online by creating a gov.uk account, or logging into your old one if you’ve accessed benefits in the past.
In order to receive the benefit you should submit your claim within 28 days of creating an account.
You will need these details to hand in order to make a claim:
- your bank, building society or credit union account details
- an email address
- information about your housing, for example how much rent you pay
- details of your income, such as payslips
- details of savings and any investments, like shares or a property that you rent out
- details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs
If you do not provide the right information when you apply it might affect when you get paid or how much you get.
You’ll also have to verify your identity online, so you’ll need proof of identity such as a driving licence, passport or debit or credit card.
People who are struggling with bills or other costs while they wait for their first payment can apply to get an advance.
Otherwise you will have to wait five weeks to receive your cash.
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