MILLIONS of people can expect to see some changes to Universal Credit before Christmas.
There are four new additions to the running, including tougher work search rules and a Christmas bonus.
This might change the number of hours you work, and you might notice a difference in how much money you get.
Below, we set out all the benefit changes to look out for and how they will affect the money in your pocket.
Switch from benefits
The government is currently moving those on so-called "legacy benefits" such as tax credits onto Universal Credit.
Around 2.6million people are still on classic benefits, but the government plans to move all claimants onto Universal Credit by the end of 2024.
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The move is called Managed Migration and it started in May this year.
People affected by the shift will be sent a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions, which will guide them on what to do to retain financial support.
Around 500 people in Medway and Bolton have already been sent letters, followed by households in Truro, Falmouth and Harrow in West London.
The six legacy benefits being replaced by Universal Credit are:
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- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
Not everyone will make the switch before the festive period, but some claimants will.
People who claim benefits and live in Northumberland have been sent letters telling them when they need to claim Universal Credit by.
Hard-up households are due to receive the second instalment of the £650 cost of living payment soon.
The second payment is to arrive in bank accounts this autumn, although to exact date is still to be confirmed.
The cash will land automatically in the same account where you get Universal Credit, like the first £326 did in July.
It's estimated that millions of people are missing out on thousands of pounds a year from unclaimed benefits – so you should always check what you're owed.
Anyone can check if they are eligible for benefits using a simple calculator tool.
Benefits are not just for those out of work and millions of people in work get Universal Credit to top up their income.
Entitledto's free calculator works out whether you qualify for various benefits, tax credits and Universal Credit.
You will also find benefit calculators from Turn2Us and Policy in Practice.
Tougher work search rules
Under new rules, people will need to have more meetings with work coaches and either increase their working hours or spend more time looking for a job.
Around 115,000 people on Universal Credit will be moved from the "light touch" work group to the "intensive work search" regime.
Something known as the Administration Earnings Threshold (AET) is a monthly amount that marks if you're in one group or the other.
Those currently earning below £355 a month, or £567 for couples, are in the intensive work search group.
That includes people who earn nothing at all while on the benefit.
The amount will rise to £494 a month, or £782 for joint claims, taking thousands more people out of the light touch group and into the stricter work search group.
This new regime will come into effect from September 26.
To lend a helping hand over the festive period, Universal Credit claimants are now eligible for an extra £10 at Christmas.
Since the energy price cap has been announced, the small bonus might prove more useful than you'd think.
It's an entirely separate payment from any benefits you receive and you won't need to pay it back.
It's to land in bank accounts before Christmas, although an exact date is still to be revealed.
However, you'll need to be claiming an extra benefit alongside Universal Credit in order to be eligible – to be received during what's known as the qualifying week, which is usually the first week of December.
Here's the list of benefits entitled to the bonus:
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- Attendance Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Child Disability Payment
- Constant Attendance Allowance (paid under Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes)
- Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (once the main phase of the benefit is entered after the first 13 weeks of claim)
- Disability Living Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit at the long-term rate
- Industrial Death Benefit (for widows or widowers)
- Mobility Supplement
- Pension Credit – the guarantee element
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- State Pension (including Graduated Retirement Benefit)
- Severe Disablement Allowance (transitionally protected)
- Unemployability Supplement or Allowance (paid under Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes)
- War Disablement Pension at State Pension age
- War Widow’s Pension
- Widowed Mother’s Allowance
- Widowed Parent’s Allowance
- Widow’s Pension
To qualify, as well as receiving one of the above benefits, you must also live in or be a resident of one of the following:
- The UK
- The Channel Islands
- The Isle of Man
- Any European Economic Area (EEA) country
There are also two other changes to Universal Credit coming in the next year.
It has not yet been confirmed when these changes will come into effect.
Longer working hours
Currently, anyone who is on Universal Credit and working nine hours or more does not need to attend regular appointments at the Job Centre.
But that is set to rise to 12 hours, the government has confirmed.
Former work and pensions minister Therese Coffey said in an interview with the Telegraph the change will come in "soon" – but stopped short of setting a date.
The former head also hinted the number of hours could rise further than that in future too if there are enough work coaches.
The rule change means more people will have to meet with their work coach – unless they increase their working hours.
Fast tracked benefits
Thousands of people who face a terminal illness diagnosis each year have been promised faster access to benefits.
Under new laws planned for this year, the government said it will make getting the vital cash easier
People diagnosed with a terminal illness will be fast-tracked for certain benefits if they are considered to have less than 12 months to live – currently it's six months for some benefits.
The new 12-month rule has already been introduced for two benefits from April 4 this year: Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Now that's set to be extended to further help: Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance.
The exact date the changes will apply from is yet to be announced, but is expected to be put into law this year.
Meanwhile, we list 13 big money changes coming before Christmas including cost of living and universal credit direct payments.
Millions of households are set to get a cash boost when they receive a £150 cost of living payment next week – we explain who won't get the payment.
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