So, if you’ve read parts 1 and 2, you’ll know that I had some work to do for our universal credit claim.
Being self-employed I had to submit accounts a week before the scheduled pay date, wait a couple of days for an award notice and then get the money awarded for that month….it didn’t exactly go like that.
Basically we won’t be getting any support from them and, I think, it’s partly because they’re unprepared for people like us. Allow me to explain…
If you are not entitled in any given month they close your claim and you’d have to reapply all over again (all the initial checks at the job centre and everything). We don’t have the time or inclination to do that. Btw no one told us this happens until it already had.
We are ever so slightly over the maximum threshold of income so won’t get help. If they had told me the maximum in the first place I could have saved us all a lot of time and effort and worked it out myself that we would be over this month.
The threshold I was told (by the lovely lady I rang when it said my online account was closed) was £1200-and-something (47 or 67, can’t remember but well below 1300) as a combined household income.
For some people I’m sure that seems a lot, but the thing is we live in Cornwall. Beautiful as it is, it is 2nd or 3rd most expensive county in England for housing and council tax, so the national average wouldn’t get you a 1-bed flat down here.
We have a daughter (as I’m sure you know) so have always been entitled to some child element of tax credits or student loan and a lot of advisers and websites like entitled to said if anything we’d get more.
However, they are all still new to UC and don’t usually account for students or variable income. I’m aware not many families have both parents as students, but many have one.
Also, variable income is not limited to the self-employed; there are seasonal workers, supply and agency staff and people on 0-hour contracts. So they definitely need to sort the advice for that out.
Ok, still with me? I’m nearly done I promise; i just want to get as much info out there as possible so others don’t get caught out.
Student finance: the way a student loan works (for undergraduates) is that your fees are paid directly to the university and you get a living allowance each term to pay for uni expenses and living costs. This is usually around £1000 per month. (So you can see Mr.B was nearly at the UC threshold on his own).
When we saw the advisers in the jobcentre they said they couldn’t tell how much we would be entitled to because they didn’t know what they take off for uni expenses but it was a set amount. That amount was £110 per month! (Each, as we are both students.) The thing is with these averages they may work great in cheaper cities but I spend more than that in petrol each month to get to uni as it’s 1.5hours to our nearest city/uni.
I am sure that for people getting by solely on benefits or on one regular wage that is under the threshold, the UC will be an improvement.
The staff were all friendly (jobcentre and phone line), the process was straightforward and there is the potential that you could get an increase in support.
But ‘unusual’ things like variable hours and student finance are things they are not prepared for.
Please check your threshold and get advice before switching as being entitled to old benefits since the day you became a parent or got married etc does not necessarily mean you’ll be entitled under UC rules.
So we are going to rearrange our finances and pick up some extra work where we can and won’t be applying again.
I hope my torrent of info helped and wasn’t too confusing.
Enjoy your day.