Advice NI encourages Newry claimants to seek independent advice before making a claim for Universal Credit

With the Department for Communities currently issuing thousands of Migration Notice letters each month to people on Tax Credits as part of its ‘Move to UC’ programme, Advice NI want to make sure that those affected get the right advice about the timing of their claim in order to maximise their entitlement to the 6.7% benefit uprating from April.
Kevin Higgins, Advice NIKevin Higgins, Advice NI
Kevin Higgins, Advice NI

‘Move to UC’ refers to the UK Government’s plan to move ‘legacy’ benefit claimants, including those currently receiving Child or Working Tax Credit, on to Universal Credit. As part of this programme, the Department is currently issuing Migration Notice letters instructing people on the ‘legacy’ benefits that they have three months to make a claim to Universal Credit before their existing benefit awards will end.

Kellie Murray, Operations Manager at Community Advice, Newry, Mourne and Down sets out the crucial importance for some claimants of delaying their claim for Universal Credit until April.

“Comparing the amount of money someone would receive on Universal Credit as opposed to their current Tax Credit award is often a complicated task, but there are some fundamental truths:

- While some people may be entitled to more money under Universal Credit than they receive in their current Tax Credit award, others will be entitled to less;

- People who move to UC after receiving their Migration Notice letter will automatically avail of ‘Transitional Protection’ — this includes a top-up to their Universal Credit entitlement designed to ensure that their award is broadly equal to the amount they were receiving in ‘legacy’ benefits;

- The problem is that Transitional Protection is ‘eroded’ over time as other parts of the Universal Credit award increase, for example due to inflation-linked increases applied by the government;

“In particular, we know that benefit uprating amounting to 6.7% will apply from April, whilst the support provided for help with rent for claimants living in the private rented sector will also see a substantial boost.

If Transitional Protection is in place prior to these changes, any increases in support will be offset against the Transitional Protection element. In other words, the claimant will not benefit fully from the increases and so will be worse off.”

The key message is if you are currently receiving ‘legacy’ benefits and you receive your Migration Notice letter about moving to Universal Credit you should ALWAYS seek independent advice so that you can make an informed choice based on your individual circumstances.

Your Migration Notice will give the exact date by which you need to make your claim, and an independent adviser will be able to help you figure out whether you have the option to delay moving until April and whether this is the best choice for you.

Call Advice NI on 0800 915 4604 or email [email protected] for advice. You can also contact Community Advice, Newry, Mourne and Down on 0300 30 30 306. Alternatively, individuals can call the Universal Credit Service Centre directly on Freephone: 0800 012 1331.

Kellie continued: “We understand that the ‘Move to UC’ Discovery Phase in Northern Ireland highlighted that 87% of claimants were entitled to Transitional Protection. This evidence indicates that people need to take the issue of when to make the move very seriously, and if they can, they need to check their deadline and consider delaying making the move until on or after 8th April.”

‘Legacy’ benefits refer to the number of working age, means-tested benefits that are to be replaced by Universal Credit. They are: Income Support, income-based Employment & Support Allowance, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.