Money Matters: What Universal Credit changes could mean for you

In this week’s Money Matters column, Wrekin’s Debt and Energy Manager Dan Bebbington sets out what recent changes to Universal Credit will mean for thousands of claimants in the West Midlands.

Another change has been made to Universal Credit, requiring around 180,000 people across the country to start looking for more work to boost their income.

The government has increased the amount you must be earning through work in order to receive UC, known at the ‘administrative earnings threshold’.

Individual claimants will now need to be taking home £892 a month – the equivalent of 18 hours a week on minimum wage – and couples with a joint claim will have to be earning £1,437 combined.

The previous thresholds were £617 and £988.

If this affects you, you will need to increase your earnings – but we know that is easier said than done.

Some people may be able to up their hours with their current employer without needing to change their jobs (if childcare and other commitments allow). However, for many people it’s unlikely to be that straightforward.

For some, it could mean having to apply for roles with more hours or a better hourly rate. For those who are self-employed, you may need to explore ways to make your business more profitable or supplement your earnings by finding another job on the side.

This could be a difficult process, particularly for those with childcare and other commitments to consider. You’ll be expected to work with your local Jobcentre in an “intensive” work search until you manage to find more work to take you over the threshold.

People who don’t engage with this process, or take what work is available, could lose some of their benefits.

If you are affected by these changes, you should be notified through your online journal.

You won’t be affected if you already earn over the new thresholds, or if you don’t currently have ‘work commitments’ for reasons such as a disability, caring responsibilities, or having a young child.

This will also affect those currently receiving ‘legacy benefits’ rather than Universal Credit, as these are coming to an end and everyone currently claiming them will soon need to move onto Universal Credit. You will receive a letter when it’s time for you to make your UC claim.

If you need help understanding your Universal Credit, you can use your online journal or contact the UC helpline. Don’t delay doing this, as you could be sanctioned or have your benefits stopped if you don’t comply with your ‘commitments’.

Wrekin Housing Group customers can also get in touch with our Money Matters team for support.

22nd May 2024