Five ways to get ready for Universal Credit

While many people in the Highlands have already transitioned onto the new Universal Credit system, there are a selection of residents yet to make the migration. As of June 2019, the Department of Work and Pensions will be rolling out a ‘Managed Migration’ of people who are currently on legacy benefits, over to the new Universal Credit system.

Here are five tips to get ahead and get prepared for Universal Credit. 

  • START A BUDGET

Whether you’re a whizz on excel or jot everything down in a notebook, it’s worth investing some time in your budget. It doesn’t have to be an intimidating process, all you need to know is what you have coming into your bank account, and what you have going out, and as long as you have more coming in than going out you’ve successfully budgeted. There are a range of great budgeting apps available to download, or pop into your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau and they can talk you through the simplest ways to budget, allowing you to be fully in control of your finances ahead of Universal Credit.

  • GET ONLINE

The majority of communication for Universal Credit is done online. Applications, journals, help and advice can all be accessed digitally, so make sure you’re confident enough to embark on an online journey alone, or ask your local housing officer to guide you through the process.

You can access the internet free of charge from any of the Albyn Housing Society’s office premises, community libraries, job centres and Citizens Advice Bureaus.

Getting a good current account is invaluable – use online comparison tools to get the best account to suit your needs.

It’s also worth setting up online banking so that you can keep an eye on your daily outgoings and monitor your overall budget in real time. There are always unforeseen expenses but if you’re prepared for these, they shouldn’t make too much of an impact.

  • MAKE YOUR HOUSING OFFICER AWARE

With the new Universal Credit system, you have the option of paying your rent to your landlord direct, or the Department of Work and Pensions can pay it directly to your landlord on your behalf by debiting the money from your allowance before it is paid to you.

The decision is completely up to the tenant, however for the sake of being completely in control of your finances, it is advisable to ensure you receive your full entitlement and make the payment to your landlord yourself. That way, you can then set up a direct debit or bank transfer to your housing society and stay in control.

By paying rent like this, you can be absolutely sure that it is paid, and just as important, paid on time.

  • CONTACT YOUR BANK

In the initial roll out stages of Universal Credit, it takes a bit of getting used to the payment dates, so, it’s worth having a chat with your bank. Make them aware that you are transitioning over to the Universal Credit system and you’ll be surprised at how accommodating they can be. By doing so, you can alleviate the stresses of overdraft charges, and late payments. 

  • PUT A LITTLE AWAY

If you can, put a small amount of money away every week in preparation for the transition to Universal Credit. There is a lag time between an application and first payment where you may receive no money, so it’s wise to have a small pot of emergency money available to get you through a couple of weeks. If this isn’t an option, which for many it won’t be, you can apply for advanced payments through Universal Credit, although the payback period can be strict.

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