A Guide To Universal Credit For Single Parents

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If you are a single parent in the UK, you may be eligible for universal credit, a government-funded programme designed to provide financial support for those on low incomes. However, navigating the system might feel confusing and overwhelming, especially if you’re dealing with the many other stresses of single parenting. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! Here, you’ll find information on what universal credit is, who qualifies for it, how to apply, and what to expect in terms of payments. We'll also discuss how working affects your universal credit payments and provide a link to a helpful calculator to get you started.

Photo by Sarah Agnew on Unsplash  

Universal Credit for Single Parents

Many new single parents are navigating finances on their own for the first time. If you previously lived in a two-income household and you’re now riding solo, the chances are that you’re having to make the numbers add up in very challenging circumstances. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help to support yourself and your children. Universal credit is the government-funded programme designed to provide support to those that need it. But what exactly is it, and how do you get access to it?

What Is Universal Credit and Who Qualifies?

Universal credit is a monthly payment from the UK government that was introduced in 2013. It was designed to simplify the benefits system by replacing six previous benefits, including housing benefit and jobseeker's allowance, with a single payment. The idea behind universal credit is to make it easier for people to manage their finances and encourage them to find work or increase their hours if they are already working. Of course, many parents know that with rising childcare costs, this isn’t always possible.

Universal credit is available to people with low incomes who need help covering their living costs. This includes single parents who are over 18 and have a low income or are out of work. You may also be eligible if you are working but need additional support to cover your bills. The amount of universal credit you receive will depend on your individual circumstances, such as your income, savings, and housing costs.

One of the benefits of universal credit is that it is designed to be a more flexible system than the previous benefits it replaced. For example, if you are working and your income increases, your universal credit payment will be adjusted to reflect this.

What are the Criteria for Universal Credit?

There are certain criteria you must meet to qualify for universal credit. You must be a UK resident, have a national insurance number and have a low income or be out of work, and you must not have savings above a certain threshold. To find out if you are eligible for universal credit, you can use the government's eligibility checker.

Universal credit has not been without criticism since its introduction. There have been reported delays in receiving payments, which can cause financial hardship, and is obviously particularly problematic for single parents. There have also been concerns that the system may not be providing enough support to some of the most vulnerable people in society, such as those with disabilities or mental health conditions.

We asked the Frolo community what their experiences using the universal credit system have been, and we’ll be bringing their advice and stories to you in a post next week.

Despite the potential drawbacks, if you think you may be eligible for universal credit, it's worth exploring your options and finding out more about how the system works.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

How To Apply for Universal Credit

Applying for universal credit can seem daunting, but the process is straightforward. You can apply online through the government's website or by calling the universal credit helpline. The online application process is quick and easy, as long as you have all the information to hand, and you can complete it at your own pace.

Before you start your application, find these necessary documents and information you'll need to complete it. This includes your National Insurance number, employment status, and rent or mortgage details. You'll also need to provide information about your household income, savings, and any other benefits you receive.

If you're a single parent, you may also need to provide information about your children, including their ages and details of any childcare you use. It's important to provide accurate information, as this will determine the amount of universal credit you're eligible to receive.

Once you've submitted your application, it will be reviewed by a member of the universal credit team. They may contact you for additional information or to arrange an interview. The interview can be conducted over the phone or in person, depending on your preference. During the interview, you'll be asked about your personal circumstances and why you're applying for universal credit. It's important to be honest and provide as much detail as possible, as this will help the team determine your eligibility and the amount of support you're entitled to.

After the interview, you'll receive a decision letter outlining the outcome of your application. If you're eligible for universal credit, the letter will explain how much you'll receive and when your payments will start. If you're not eligible, the letter will explain why and what steps you can take next.

If your circumstances change, such as a change in income or living arrangements, you'll need to inform the universal credit team as soon as possible. This will ensure that you receive the correct amount of support and avoid any overpayments or underpayments.

Understanding Universal Credit Payments

The universal credit payment is made monthly, and it is designed to cover the basic living costs of the claimant. This includes expenses such as food, clothing, and bills. The amount you receive will depend on your personal circumstances, such as your income and how many children you have. In addition to the basic living costs, the universal credit payment can also include an amount for housing costs. This can help you pay for your rent or mortgage payments, and it is paid directly to your landlord or mortgage provider.

It is important to note that the universal credit payment is not a fixed amount, and it can vary from month to month depending on your circumstances. For instance, if you start earning more money, your universal credit payment may be reduced. It is worth noting that you'll have to wait up to five weeks for your first payment to come through. If you’re struggling in this period, you may be eligible for an advance payment. This is a loan that you repay through your universal credit payments over a certain period of time.

If you’re finding that the universal credit payments you’re awarded are not adequate to cover costs, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice and support and get in touch with your local council to find out about any local welfare schemes that may be available to you.

Working and Universal Credit: What You Need to Know

If you're a single parent who is working, you may still be eligible for universal credit. Your payments will be based on your income. This means that if you earn more, your payments may be reduced. You'll also need to report any changes in your working hours or income to Jobcentre Plus, which is the government department that manages universal credit. This is because your payments may need to be adjusted if your income changes.

If you're not currently working, you may still be eligible for universal credit. This can provide financial support while you look for work or if you're unable to work due to illness or disability.

Aside from the standard allowance, you may also be eligible for help with childcare costs if you're a working single parent. However, it's worth noting that if you're self-employed, you may not be eligible for the same level of support as someone who is employed by a company. Additionally, there may be a cap on the amount of help you can receive, depending on your circumstances.

How Much Does a Single Parent Receive on Universal Credit in the UK?

The amount of universal credit you can receive as a single parent in the UK depends on your personal circumstances. In general, you can receive up to £315.00 per month for your first child and up to £269.58 for each additional child. You may also be eligible for additional amounts, such as help with housing costs. If your child is disabled you will receive an extra £146.31, and an extra £456.89 if your child is severely disabled.

How Does It Work for a Single Parent Working 16 Hours on Universal Credit in the UK?

If you're working 16 hours or more per week as a single parent on universal credit, your payments will be based on your income. You can earn a certain amount before your universal credit payments are affected. It's important to report any changes in your income or working hours to Jobcentre Plus.

The Universal Credit Calculator

Calculating your universal credit payments can be confusing, but the UK government provides several helpful online calculators. By inputting your personal details, including your income and the number of children you have, you can get an idea of how much you may receive in universal credit.

Seek Support

If you’re struggling with the application process, you’ll find a helping hand from your fellow single parents on the Frolo app, many of whom know the universal credit system inside-out. The 'Frolo Finances' group chat has more than 700 members sharing tips and advice, and if you keep an eye on our Meetups we have regular expert Meetups hosted by financial experts.

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