Digital by default
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages across the UK and currently affects single people, couples and in some areas families who have recently become unemployed. The roll out will continue and the Government plan to have all benefit claims go through Universal Credit by 2020.
What you may not know is that Universal Credit is a ‘Digital by default’ service.
What is digital by default?
Applications for Universal Credit are online only, so to apply you will need access to the internet and have basic computer skills.
However, it is not only about applying online, you will be expected to manage your account online as well. This includes changing your personal details, looking for work, seeking training or finding out information about your claim.
I don’t have internet access?
If you don’t own a computer there are lots of places that you can access the internet such as local libraries and community hubs (check your local council for details) Bethany Community Outreach has a Digi-Hub which has free internet access for Waterloo Housing Group tenants and who cannot afford internet connection or lack basic IT skills. Basic IT training can also be arranged to give you the skills you need.
I can access the internet but I’m not very confident
If you have access to the internet but feel that your IT skills could do with a boost, there are two good online resources for learning starting with basic computer skills such as opening your own email account, browsing websites and completing application forms. Once you have the basic skills you can advance to more advanced topics such as web design and even coding.
Learn My Way is a great place to start. You can find their website at www.learnmyway.co.uk or you could try Barclays Digital Wings at www.digital.wings.uk.barclays, you don’t need to be a Barclays customer and its free.
Does Universal Credit affect me?
Universal Credit will affect you if you are of working age (currently set at 18 to 60 years six months) and are claiming or want to claim any of the following benefits:
Income based Jobseekers Allowance
Income related Employment & Support Allowance
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
You will not be affected if you can claim State Pension Credit (currently if you are aged 60 years and six months). Although for now only newly unemployed people are currently affected, eventually everyone claiming these benefits will be transferred onto Universal Credit
Will it affect my income?
It’s likely that your income will be affected; the best way to check is by using the benefits calculator on the www.gov.uk website to see your entitlement. Universal Credit is designed to get people back into work, so you will always be better off working. There are no limits to how many hours a week you can work, instead, the amount you get will gradually reduce as you earn more.
What do I need to do?
If you’re already claiming benefits, you should carry on claiming as usual. You’ll be told when you need to do anything differently. If you are making a new claim, then use the www.gov.uk benefits calculator to find out what you can claim. If you are eligible to claim Universal Credit you must do so immediately. Any delay in making a claim could mean that you lose the benefits you are entitled to.