This is why The Sun has launched its Make Universal Credit Work campaign.
The welfare scheme was first introduced in 2010 but as more people move onto it, it's expected 3.2million people will be worse off.
But to help you in the meantime, we've put together a guide on how you can get help if you've been left with less.
If you're unhappy with your Universal Credit decision
If you disagree with a decision about your Universal Credit – for example your claim has been rejected, you've not been awarded as much cash as you thought you should or you've been sanctioned – you can appeal.
To do this, you have one month from the decision being made to ask the benefits office that made the decision to carry out a "mandatory reconsideration".
You do this by phone, letter or by filling in this online form.
If more than a month has passed since you got the original decision, you'll need to have a good reason for asking for a reconsideration – for example, you’ve been in hospital or had a bereavement.
You will need the following information to challenge the decision:
- the date of the original benefit decision
- your name and address
- your date of birth
- your National Insurance number
- to explain what part of the decision is wrong and why
If you disagree with the decision a second time, you can appeal to the independent Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.
Here, a judge will listen to both sides of the argument before making a decision.
But again, you do usually need to start the appeal within one month of the date of your mandatory reconsideration notice.
If you believe the decision is wrong for a third time, you may be able to get a decision cancelled – known as "set aside" – or you may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Administrative Appeals Chamber).
If you've been sanctioned
Applying for a hardship payment is your first port of call if you've received a sanction – when you fail to meet your responsibilities or what you’ve agreed in your "claimant commitment" such as missing a review appointment.
The hardship payment is roughly 60 per cent of the amount you were sanctioned by in the last month.
But you will need to pay it back through your Universal Credit payments, which will reduce your future payments.
To apply, contact the free Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344 – charity Citizens Advice says you'll need to be at least 18 to qualify.
Are you on Universal Credit. Tell us your story! Email us: [email protected]
If you think you've been unfairly sanctioned, you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a "mandatory reconsideration".
The contact details will be on the letter you receive about your sanction.
You need to tell them why the sanction was unfair. You will then reveal a letter with the decision.
The letter will tell you how you can appeal to a tribunal if you're unhappy with the decision.
What is Universal Credit and who does it affect?
Universal Credit replaces the following benefits:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
Whether you can claim Universal Credit depends on where you live and your circumstances.
Currently, Universal Credit is mainly claimed by the unemployed, or those on a low income.
If you're already on benefits, you don't need to apply for Universal Credit unless your circumstances change or you're told to by the DWP.
If you've had an overpayment
If the DWP says you've had too much money, it will reduce your payment by between 15 per cent and 25 per cent of your monthly basic "standard allowance" every month.
But if the DWP classes the overpayment as fraud, your next payment could be reduced by up to 40 per cent of your standard allowance.
Citizen's Advice suggest contacting your local branch if you don't think you'll have enough money to live on. An adviser could help you budget, or ask the DWP to take repayments at a lower rate.
If you think your payment is wrong
If you've been given less than expected and you don't know why or you think there's been a mistake with your payments, contact Universal Credit on its free helpline.
To make your case stronger, it's a good idea to give evidence of why you think the payment is wrong. You can do this online on your account or by letter.
Citizen's Advice suggests sharing your tenancy agreement if you think the housing cost is wrong, for example.
The DWP will then give you an explanation. If you still disagree, you can go through the "mandatory reconsideration" process.
Citizen's Advice has a guide on how to make a "mandatory reconsideration" request.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.
Alternative Payment Arrangements– If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.
Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussel Trust website.
If your payment is reduced to pay off debts
If the DWP contacts you to say it's reducing your payments to pay off a debt, you could lose 5 per cent or more of your standard allowance each month.
Deductions can only be made for rent, gas, electricity, childcare water and council tax bill arrears, as well as a selected number of loans and fines.
You shouldn't have more than three deductions at one time, and it shouldn't be more than 40 per cent of your standard allowance – so call the Universal Credit helpline if you think your payments have been reduced too much.
If you don't think you'll have enough to live on
If your payments have been reduced because of a benefit debt, a Social Fund Loan , or because you are in rent arrears, you may be able to ask for a smaller deduction.
You will have to prove to the DWP that you don't have enough to live on – called "financial hardship".
You will have to provide a financial statement showing your income and what you spend the money on.
You will also need to show you can't live on the reduced payments.
You can either send this evidence on your online account, or by letter to the DWP.
If you've earned more from work
If you earn more from work, you should expect your Universal Credit payments to go down.
For every £1 you or your partner earn, 63p will be counted as income when your Universal Credit is calculated, as your earnings are your income minus national insurance, tax and pension contributions.
If you're in work, you will have a work allowance, which allows you to earn a certain amount before it affects your Universal Credit payments.
The allowance will depend on a number of factors, such as your housing costs, if you have children, and if you have any limited capability for work.
Charity EntitledTo has a guide to what your work allowance will be depending on your circumstances.
You should tell the DWP as soon as you can about your pay increase by ringing the free Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.
You should also book an appointment with your work coach to review your claimant commitment: your conditions for claiming Universal Credit payments.
If your personal circumstances have changed and it will affect the type of work or the hours you work, then you may be able to adjust your claimant commitment without it impacting on your finances.
Check for financial support
If you receive Universal Credit you may also be able to get:
- BT Basic if you have no income
- a Cold Weather Payment
- Disabled Facilities Grants
- Energy Company Obligation (ECO) Affordable Warmth
- free early education for 2 year olds
- free school meals
- a Funeral Expenses Payment
- Healthy Start vouchers if you’re pregnant or have a child under 4 years old
- help with health costs, including prescriptions and dental treatment
- help with prison visiting costs
- help with the costs of using courts or tribunals
- help with building up savings through Help to Save
- legal aid
- a Sure Start Maternity Grant
- WaterSure to cap your bills if you have a water meter
Also use charity Turn2Us' tool to see if you're eligible for any grants, and use its benefits calculator to check you're not missing out on what you're owed.
Where to get free advice from
If you need to reach out to someone about debt or money problems, you can turn to the following organisations for free advice.
- Citizens Advice
- National Debtline
- Shelter for help with housing and homelessness
The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign has been backed by top MPs, including Iain Duncan Smith, who helped create the new flagship benefits programme.
Here are the seven shocking ways Universal Credit is FAILING revealed – and how to get help.
One desperate mum said she had to beg on the streets to buy a £12 Christmas tree for daughter.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Money team? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 78 24516. Don't forget to join the Sun Money's Facebook group for the latest bargains and money-saving advice.
Source: Read Full Article