Understanding Welfare & Tax Benefits

Universal Credit Explained

The increase in demand for Universal Credit (UC) and the wide range of changes that are being made to the system mean that update training for support staff and management is now essential.

The Coronavirus (COVID 19) has led to a step increase in the number of people asking about and applying for Universal Credit and we do not expect this to subside any time soon. History has shown that the impact of the Great Depression in the 1930s and the Stock Market crash of 2008 increased unemployment rates for several years. The impact of the Coronavirus is likely to be far worse.

The demands for help from the unemployed and those facing unemployment is likely to increase dramatically. Couple this with the wide range of changes that have been made to Universal Credit (UC) employment legislation and the impact of BREXIT means that update training needs to feature in all CPD planning.

Notwithstanding Coronavirus changes and those expected due to BREXIT, the principle of Universal Credit remains the same. It amalgamates most of the current means-tested ‘legacy’ benefits for working-age people into one flexible benefit, which will cover all the family’s needs, including rent, mortgage payments and childcare costs. The amount of Universal Credit is reduced as income rises, and benefit is paid monthly in arrears.

Although it sounds simple in theory, the reality of coping with Universal Credit is challenging to claimants, landlords, support organisations, and everyone involved with the world of benefits. All new claimants, and those who have a relevant change of circumstances which triggers a UC claim, will be caught by the complex and demanding conditions surrounding the making and maintenance of a UC claim. Several people have reported being worse off after applying for Universal Credit because they did not understand the rules fully.

All organisations and businesses that work with or employ people on benefits and/or low to average pay need to have an awareness of the UC system and the timetable for change.

Who Should Attend?
This course provides vital up to date information for all staff working with people affected by Universal Credit. It provides an excellent introduction for those starting off as welfare rights advisers or need a good understanding of the benefits system. It introduces the social security system and explains the wide of benefits that are incorporated within it. It provides a detailed explanation of universal credit and the benefits available for people on low incomes below pension age. It also introduces participants to the resources and skills needed to advise on benefits.

The course is not designed for or suitable for experienced specialist benefits advisers. A specialist welfare and benefits training course on immigration and social security laws relating to refugees and asylum seekers is available on request.

NOTE: The course timetable does not permit space for individual calculations in given scenarios presented by participants but case studies and checklists are used as examples with further signposts to official and confidential “ready reckoners” covering all welfare benefits and tax credits.

Learning Aims and Objectives:

This course ensures participants are better able to:

  • Understand how the whole UK Social Security Framework works alongside Universal Credit and existing means and non means tested benefits
  • Understand the basic rules and conditions of Universal Credit, including the vital implications for help with housing and childcare costs
  • Understand how the calculations will work, including the different elements, the treatment of income and capital and the effect of work
  • Explain to all groups of clients how Universal Credit will affect them and how to cope with the increased pressure of conditionality
  • Show awareness of how vulnerable and disabled claimants will be protected under the Personal Budgeting Support proposals
  • Be able to give clear information to clients about what will be required of claimants to manage and maintain their claims digitally
  • Appreciate the nature of transitional protection and how changing circumstances will affect claims
  • Profiles the sanctions that can be applied for inaccurate or false welfare benefit claims
  • Highlights the skills needed to understand and navigate appeals including the mandatory reconsideration of official welfare benefit decisions as well as the higher social security tribunals

The course covers all the relevant areas of existing welfare benefits and their relationship with Universal Credit, including basic eligibility criteria, elements, treatment of income and capital, housing costs, childcare costs, disability issues, making and maintaining claims, the nature of the claimant commitment and transitional protection.

  1. Overview of the social security system
  • Introduction to the structure of the benefits system
  • Overview of the range of benefits available in different situations
  • Identifying potential entitlement to benefit
  • Introduction to important concepts in means-tested benefits
  • Practice problem solving using case studies
  1. Income related benefits
  • What are means-tested benefits and tax credits
  • Relationship with universal credit
  • Eligibility conditions for means-tested benefits and tax credits – who gets them
  • Allowances and premiums that make up these benefits
  • Passporting benefits and how they lead to extra amounts of means-tested benefits
  • An introduction to how benefits are calculated
  1. Universal credit – Scope
  • What is universal credit
  • Who is eligible
  • Allowances and elements that make up universal credit
  • Amounts for rent in universal credit
  • How earnings, and other income or capital are treated
  • How awards are calculated and practice calculations
  • The benefit cap
  • Effective claims
  • Advising on universal credit payments
  1. Universal credit – The world of work and health
  • What universal credit claimants are expected to do to get ready for work or look for work
  • How people with health conditions and disabilities are assessed for higher amounts of universal credit and reduced work-related requirements
  • Sanctions and how to challenge them
  • An introduction to employment and support allowance and jobseeker’s allowance based on national insurance contributions
  1. Transferring to universal credit and essential skills
  • Who can still make a new claim for other means-tested (‘legacy’) benefits
  • Life events that cause benefits to end and a need to claim universal credit
  • Choosing to claim universal credit – pros and cons
  • The managed transfer to universal credit
  • Essential skills for advisers – meeting the quality standards and what other training is relevant
  • Crystal Ball -Future Possible Scenarios

A complimentary copy of our Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook is awarded to those completing the course.