Up until 2016, the state welfare system in England (UK) was split into its various benefit categories, such as Housing Benefit Web PageHousing Benefit (to help low income people with their rent), Income Support Web PageIncome Support (to help low income people, regardless if they are working or not), Job Seekers Allowance Web PageJob Seekers Allowance (to help fund people while they actively look for a job), Working Tax Credit Web PageWorking Tax Credit (to help boost the low income of working people), Child Benefit Web PageChild Benefit (paid to all people with children) and Child Tax Credit Web PageChild Tax Credit (for those looking after at least one child or young person who normally lives with them).
As of 2016 that welfare system is currently being changed (merged) into one big welfare benefit called Universal Credit Web PageUniversal Credit, which will replace many of the above mentioned benefits. More precisely, it will replace: Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Employment & Support Allowance (for people who cannot work due to illness/disability). Universal Credit is primarily aimed at people on a low income or out of work.
Although the new, all-in-one, Universal Credit benefit seems to be a change in the right direction, you have to be aware of the history of government policies in terms of welfare benefits - Every now and then the government thinks it should change the name of a certain benefit, modernise it or remove it altogether because "It will be beneficial to the people claiming that new benefit", when in reality it just benefits (saves money for) the government.
The government is also known for giving a benefit with one hand while making a reduction from another benefit (or two) with the other hand. The current situation of changing Tax Credits for Universal Credit is an example. Many reports suggest people will be worse off with Universal Credit.
In the early-mid 1980s you would receive Housing Benefit only to have a reduction made in your Supplementary Benefit, which meant even though your rent was paid for, you suffered with a low income - Example: £29.50 per fortnight to get food, household cleaning materials, visit a laundrette, pay for bus fares (which I never could afford. I had to walk everywhere) and so on. I could not afford cigarettes or beer, even if I wanted them. In 2017 you have to survive on £73.10 per week (for adults aged 25 and over) job seekers allowance, which may sound plenty but still means you lead a 'Pauper's Life'.
Being unemployed, or working but still on a low income, whereby you need to claim welfare benefits still has stigmas and stereotypes attached to it. Stigmas such as "Benefit Scrounger" and "Benefits Cheat" with stereotypes such as "you are too lazy to work", "you just want free money" and "you are falsely claiming welfare benefits" (when in fact you are entitled to them).
Those stigmas and stereotypes used to be aimed at UK Citizens, but now "Foreigners" are being stigmatised and stereotyped with the same brush. In other words, society will always judge unemployed, low income, people who claim welfare benefits as lower-class citizens and unemployed single mothers as 'one parent benefit'.
As Universal Credit is not nationwide yet, and only being introduced in stages, you will need to check the Universal Credit Qualifying AreasQualifying Areas to see if your town/city is listed. If it is, you can Apply For Universal CreditApply for Universal Credit online. And if you have any queries, you can call 0345 600 0723 (the Universal Credit helpline).
If you already receive one or more of the standard welfare benefits (mentioned above), you do NOT need to do anything as you will be informed when you need to switch to Universal Credit. This means applying online is really for first-time applicants. As a first-time applicant you will need the following BEFORE APPLYING ONLINE:
You might also need details about those living in your home, such as your partner"s details. The whole application process should take between 20 and 40 minutes to complete whereby if you are successful, you should receive your first Universal Credit payment 6 weeks after making your claim.
NOTE: If you move in (start living) with a partner who is already claiming Universal Credit, or you are making a claim yourself whereby you already receive Tax Credits, you will be asked to End Your Tax CreditsEnd Your Tax Credits. Once you have applied for Universal Credit, you will receive a letter from HMRC (called your ‘award review’) to end your tax credit award. That letter is different to the standard tax credits renewal letter.
The amount of Universal Credit you receive depends on your individual circumstances and income. You could receive money for Housing, for Children, for Childcare, for Disability and/or for Illness. You might also receive Universal Credit if you care for someone with a disability.
NOTE: There are no limits to the number of hours you can work per week when receiving Universal Credit. However, your payment will gradually be reduced as you earn more money. You will NOT lose all your welfare benefits at once though if you are on a low income.
NOTE: If you live with your partner whereby you both claim Universal Credit, you will receive a single payment that covers both of you. The payment is normally paid into your bank account, building society account or credit union account. With the first payment you will receive a letter explaining when you will normally be paid, how much you will normally be paid and which bank account the money will be paid into.
If you want to claim Universal Credit, you will have to accept the terms and conditions of the ‘Claimant Commitment’, which is basically an agreement to say you will complete certain tasks in order to claim and therefore receive Universal Credit. What you agree to do will depend on things such as your health, your responsibilities at home and how much help you need to get work or increase your income. The ‘Claimant Commitment’ is more or less the Job Seekers part of the terms and conditions (i.e. you must be actively looking for work and 'sign on').
Welfare Benefits in the UK are a joke. The money you receive is equivalent to a 'Pauper's Wage'. Despite what you read in the media, claiming welfare benefits is NOT a 'Get Rich Quick' scheme but more of a 'losing battle to survive' simply because the welfare benefits system is a 'Catch 22' system and always will be - If you decide to work, to feed your family for example, whereby you also receive help via welfare benefits, you are still in the same situation (if not worse) than when you were unemployed. Here is an example:
You take a part-time job of £120 per week for example and have to pay your own rent versus being unemployed and receiving housing benefit and £73.10 per week. This unfair system means genuine hard workers, claiming welfare benefits, have to work longer hours to make match the situation of an unemployed person. Hence why a lot of people question that unfair system.
Surprisingly, Universal Credit is only available to British Citizens and non-British Citizens (who have lived in the UK for the last 2 years and have not been abroad for more than 4 weeks continuously within that 2 years).
As Universal Credit is aimed mainly at unemployed people and people earning less than £338 per month (after tax), and with so many Universal Credit Eligibilitystrict eligibility requirements, you are better off applying for the standard welfare benefits first (to see if you can claim them), even if you live in a Universal Credit qualifying area.
Remember: In the near future everyone already claiming welfare benefits will eventually be switched over to Universal Credit and new applicants will be put on Universal Credit naturally.
If you are a parent/family, the government has produced this Universal Credit Family GuideUniversal Credit Family Guide. There is also a more detailed overview of Universal Credit from this Money Advice Service Universal Credit ExplainedUniversal Credit Article/Explanation, which details the other main welfare benefits.