Five changes to Universal Credit and benefits in November

Five changes to Universal Credit and other benefits claimed by people across the country will come into force in November.

More people are now claiming benefits thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, which has seen a surge in unemployment and people needing extra cash support.

The changes will mean people should be able to claim the cash they need this month – reports Birmingham Live.

Here’s everything that’s changing within the next few weeks

1. Minimum Income Floor suspension extended

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak had suspended the Minimum Income Floor, an assumed level of income used to assess how much Universal Credit a self-employed person will get.

The suspension has now been extended until the end of April 2021.

The Minimum Income Floor is based on what the DWP says an employed person would get paid in similar circumstances. It’s calculated on working full time at 35 hours per week on the National Minimum Wage, minus estimated tax and National Insurance.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies said 450,000 low-income households see their payments cut by an average of £3,200 a year thanks to this policy.

The Government dropped this rule during the pandemic so that self-employed people could receive Universal Credit based on their actual earnings.

This was due to expire on November 13 but has now been extended until the end of the financial year.

In a written statement, Therese Coffey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, announced: “After careful consideration of the ongoing public health situation and the national working environment, the current easement of the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit that was due to expire on November 12 2020 will be extended to the end of April 2021.

“Regulations will be laid and made prior to November 12 2020.”

2. Double earnings loophole closed

More than 85,000 Universal Credit claimants will see their payments rise this winter as the Department for Work and Pensions finally addresses an “unfair” loophole that’s cost people thousands of pounds.

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Some workers are occasionally paid twice in the same month, usually because of a bank holiday altering their wage payments to a date before or after that. Whatever side of the holiday, it can end up meaning two sets of wages arrive in one month.

Under current rules, workers who get paid twice within one month are flagged as ‘over-earning’ on the DWP’s systems. This means their following month’s payment is reduced – sometimes to zero – to reflect their higher income.

But in the majority of cases, they’re not over-earning at all. Often, it’s because their employer paid them on the first or last working day or they received a late or early payment because of a bank holiday getting in the way.

From November 16, claimants who get paid twice in a month by their employer will not be penalised in their following payment.

3. Transitional element up to £405 added

Extra sums of £120, £285 or £405 are being added to a person’s regular Universal Credit payout, if they are eligible.

Legislation bringing about the change was signed on October 8 by Justin Tomlinson, a Minister of State at the DWP.

Many will have received the top-up last month, if they get their Universal Credit on or after that date.

But those whose Universal Credit is paid on a date before the eighth of the month will start getting it during November instead.

The rise is designed to help thousands of people whose household income was slashed when they switched to Universal Credit from Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit or Pension Credit – if they were also receiving a top-up allowance called Severe Disability Premium (SDP).

When moved from those ‘legacy benefits’ on to Universal Credit they were horrified to find the amount they received was far lower.

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The DWP agreed to give ‘transitional payments’ in an effort to make up the difference and these will now be incorporated into a person’s regular Universal Credit payout.

4. Cold Weather Payment scheme begins

The temperature is already dropping considerably as we move towards winter and the Government says its Cold Weather Payment scheme has kicked in again on November 1.

Rules say you will get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as (or forecast to be) zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days.

You will get £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather between November 1 and March 31.

You may get Cold Weather Payments if you’re getting:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Support for Mortgage Interest

In the case of Universal Credit, you must NOT be employed or self-employed in order to qualify, and one of the following must also apply:

  • you have a health condition or disability and have limited capability for work (with or without work-related activity)
  • you have a child under five living with you

You will also be eligible if you have a disabled child amount in your claim, whether you are employed or not.

Some benefit recipients will also qualify for Winter Fuel Payment, an automatic amount of £150 to £300 paid into your account.

Those on Universal Credit may qualify for this payment.

Usually you do not need to claim Winter Fuel Payment – you get it automatically if you’re eligible.

But you will need to claim it if you have not had it before and any of the following apply:

  • you do not get benefits or a State Pension
  • you only get Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Child Benefit
  • you get benefits or a State Pension but live in Switzerland or an EEA country
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5. New chance to get PIP and big back payment

The DWP has begun a search for benefit claimants who could be owed up to £13,000 in back payments after a court ruling.

A landmark case means thousands more people now qualify for Personal Independence Payment or will receive it at a higher rate, because they were wrongly assessed.

This will include people on Universal Credit whose claim for PIP was turned down or who were awarded it at an incorrect rate. The two benefits can be paid to the same person without affecting each other.

Independent advice website Benefits and Work said the ruling “could mean potentially thousands more people are eligible for the daily living component of PIP or should be getting it at a higher rate.

“Some claimants will have missed out on awards of the standard daily living component since April 2016 and will be entitled to around £13,000 in back payments of PIP.”

A DWP spokesperson said it was “committed to making backdated payments for those eligible as soon as possible.”

Claims for PIP that were disallowed before April 2016 – when the case first went to a social security tribunal – won’t be reviewed and people can enquire about putting in a new claim. Those disallowed after that date are now being assessed to see if back payments are due.