Universal Credit and six reasons why your payments might be cut
In the UK, nearly six million households apply for Universal Credit and the amount you can apply for depends on your situation which is assessed each month. This means that your Universal Credit payment may change as it is worked out in a variety of ways, such as your living conditions, employment, and any income and savings you have.
There are specific reasons why your money could be reduced or temporarily stopped – and it’s important that you are aware of them so that you can plan for any changes in your payments.
Under the online mirror describes some of these factors that could cause your UC payments to fluctuate.
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You earned more money from work
If you are employed, the amount of Universal Credit you will receive each month will depend on your income.
For every £1 you win, your payout is reduced by 55 pence – this is called the reduction rate.
In short, the more you earn from your job, the less Universal Credit you will receive.
Some people are entitled to work allowance, which is a fixed amount you can earn before your benefits start to be reduced.
You will be entitled to work allowance if:
- You are responsible for a child or young person
- You have a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work
If you are on help with accommodation costs your work allowance is £344, or if you are not on help work allowance is £573.
You reported a change in status
Certain life events and changes in circumstances will also affect your Universal Credit payments.
For example, moving house, finding a job, or if you recently inherited money. Not all changes in circumstances will reduce your Universal Credit – some may actually increase your payments.
It is important to notify Universal Credit of any changes as soon as possible so that you are not overpaid or underpaid.
Changes listed online that Universal Credit expects you to tell them about include:
- Find or complete a job
- have a child
- Moving in with your partner
- Starting to take care of a child or a disabled person
- Changing your mobile phone number or email address
- Moving to a new address
- Changing your bank details
- Your rent goes up or down
- Changes in your health status
- Becoming too sick to work or meet your work coach
- Changes to your income (only if you are self-employed)
- Changes to your savings, investments and how much money you have
- Changes to your immigration status, if you are not a UK citizen
You have been sanctioned by the DWP
When you sign up for Universal Credit, you’ll usually have to agree to do certain things, like look for work and attend JobCentre interviews.
If you fail to complete the tasks you signed up for, you will be disciplined and your salary reduced.
There are four sanction levels, each determining the length of your sanction: High, Medium, Low, and Lowest.
The lowest tier applies if you only need to meet the work-based interview requirement and you do not show up or participate in a work-based interview. It lasts until you participate in one.
For the higher penalty, you will be sanctioned for 91 days for your first higher level sanction and 182 days for your second and each subsequent higher level sanction within a 364 day period.
The DWP will tell you what type of penalty you received and how much your money is reduced.
You can appeal a penalty if you believe you have been unfairly penalized. This is called a mandatory review.
You repay a debt
If you are in debt, for example, you are behind on your rent or you owe money to your energy supplier, you may see a “third party deduction” applied to your universal credit.
You will only get a deduction if the creditor requests the DWP and is usually 5% of your basic standard allowance, although it could be more.
Deductions can only be made for:
- Arrears of rent and other housing costs like service charges – the deduction can be between 10% and 20% for arrears of rent
- Gas, electricity or water arrears
- Municipal tax account arrears
- Maintenance of child support
- Certain loans
- Some fines
You were paid too much Universal Credit
If the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has paid you too much Universal Credit, it will take back the money from your future payments.
You can ask if they allow you to waive the overpayment – but they don’t have to say yes.
This is called “exercising their discretion not to recover an overpayment” and is at the discretion of the DWP.
You can report an overpayment by logging into your Universal Credit account or by calling the Universal Credit Helpline.
You owe money to universal credit
If you purchased a prepayment, hardship payment, or budget advance, this will come out of your future Universal Credit payments.
That’s because they’re technically loans, so they have to be repaid.
An advance payment is a sum of money given to new Universal Credit applicants to help cover their bills while they wait for their application to be processed.
A budget advance is normally given for one-time and unexpected payments, such as home repairs or a uniform for a new job, while a hardship allowance is given to those who have been disciplined and are experiencing hardship.
How long you will have to repay these payments depends on the amount you borrowed.
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