What can go wrong when claiming Universal Credit?
Below we have highlighted some of the more common errors.
If you feel that your award of Universal Credit is wrong then do seek advice from a Benefits Adviser who will be able to check your award with you and help you challenge a decision/amount of award if appropriate.
Only getting 50% of your rent covered?
Where you have a joint tenancy but your joint tenant no longer lives in the property (for instance where a couple have separated), the DWP often refer to this as an ‘untidy tenancy’.
The online system will automatically divide your rent in two and so the Housing Costs Element included in your Universal Credit award will only cover 50% of your rent.
But although the DWP has the discretion to cover the full rent, they sometimes suggest you need to have the former joint tenant taken off the tenancy.
If you think that has happened contact your Income Officer or a Benefits Adviser for help.
Told your ESA decision doesn’t count and you have to have another medical?
If you were getting ESA immediately before claiming Universal Credit and you have not been found ‘fit for work’ then any decision regarding your capability for work should be transferred over to your Universal Credit claim.
The DWP do not always apply these rules and so refer claimants for a new medical assessment instead, this can mean you miss out on extra Universal Credit.
Contact a Benefits Adviser if you think this has happened to you and they will help you challenge that decision.
First Universal Credit claim was closed and now you have a gap in your benefits?
Once you have submitted your claim for Universal Credit there are still several things you must do to ensure the claim goes into payment. If you fail to do these your claim can be closed.
However, sometimes the DWP do not give the claimants the following required time :
- Attending the new claim interview
A ‘cooling off’ period of 7 days to accept the claimant commitment.
- Verifying your identity
One month from the date of claim.
- Providing supporting evidence
One month from the date of request.
Contact a Benefits Adviser if your first claim for Universal Credit was closed, but don’t delay in making a further claim for Universal Credit.
Been sanctioned for not keeping to your Claimant Commitment?
If you are expected to look for work in exchange for getting Universal Credit, your Claimant Commitment will outline what you need to do.
If you do not keep to this agreement then your Universal Credit can be sanctioned.
But your Claimant Commitment must be realistic and take account of any health problems or exceptional circumstances.
Contact a Benefits Adviser to discuss challenging the sanction decision, changing your commitment or applying for Hardship Payments. More information on sanctions here.
Refused the Carer Element due to not receiving Carers Allowance?
You do not have to receive Carers Allowance to get the Carer Element in UC. A Carer Element can be included as long as you are caring for a severely disabled adult or child for 35+ hours a week.
Unlike the rules for Carers Allowance, to get a Carer Element in your Universal Credit award it does not matter if you are working or how much you earn – so workers can have a Carer Element included in their award.
But not all the DWP staff seem to understand these rules.
Contact a Benefits Adviser if you believe you have been wrongly refused the Carer Element.
Note – you can’t get a Carer Element if you get the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity (LCWRA) Element.
Need help from another person when contacting UC?
You can ask another person or organisation to help you deal with your Universal Credit claim, but you have to formally inform the DWP that you have given this permission – this is called explicit consent.
Explicit consent can be given by you by making a note on your journal, through the Universal Credit helpline or by informing your Work Coach.
The permission for that person to be able to help you only lasts until that particular issue has been resolved. So you will have to give explicit consent for each issue you want assistance with throughout the lifetime of your award.
If the DWP refuses then contact a Benefits Adviser – they can help you make an official complaint.
Need proof of your UC award? No printer?
If you are asked to provide a printed copy of your Universal Credit award you can request this by adding a note to your journal or by contacting the Universal Credit helpline.
If you are refused, explain that you have to get copy of the information that is held about you – known as ‘right of access’ in data protection law.