Advice NI encourages Tax Credit claimants to seek independent advice before making a claim for Universal Credit in order to maximise entitlement to benefit uprating from April
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, we 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.
‘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.
Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. You can find your local advice provider at Local Advice | Advice NI. Alternatively, call the Universal Credit Service Centre directly on Freephone: 0800 012 1331.
Kevin Higgins 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.
- ‘Move to UC’ section of Advice NI website … Move to UC | Advice NI
- Advice NI Social Policy Briefing Paper: Move to Universal Credit (June 2022) … Advice NI Social Policy Briefing Paper: Move to Universal Credit | Advice NI
- The Move to Universal Credit: Get Ready (May 2023) … The Move to Universal Credit: Get Ready | Advice NI
- ‘Move to Universal Credit’ for farmers and other self-employed people: A Burden or a Benefit? (October 2023) … ‘Move to Universal Credit’ for farmers and other self-employed people: A Burden or a Benefit? | Advice NI
- The Universal Credit (Managed Migration and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 … The Universal Credit (Managed Migration and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 (legislation.gov.uk) Part 4
- Extension of the Migration Notice deadline day “where there is good reason”
- Cancel a Migration Notice “where the Department considers it necessary to do so in the interests of the person”
- Good reason … “consideration should be given to any mitigating or exceptional circumstances or complex needs the individual claimant might have that may have contributed to their actions or omissions and the impact on their physical, mental or emotional well-being in consideration of what is reasonable”
- For more information about Advice NI and the independent advice network in NI … www.adviceni.net
- Department for Communities: Universal Credit Service Centre: Freephone: 0800 012 1331