The government’s new benefits programme Universal Credit will be available to parents for the first time, starting in north-west England.
Universal Credit had previously only been available to single people and couples, but parents can now claim the benefit if they live in the north-west. The government has said that Universal Credit will be available in 100 Jobcentres by early 2015, and it will be for new claimants first. It combines six existing benefits: Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, and Income Support.
The roll out has faced some criticism for being too slow, so if you’re already claiming any of the above benefits, don’t worry about it just yet. You can keep claiming benefits as normal, and you’ll be contacted by your Jobcentre when it’s time to move over.
Getting an account
If you’re looking to claim Universal Credit, you’ll need to have an account for it to be paid into. You can take this out with a bank, a building society, or an alternative provider. If you have a poor credit rating or have been made bankrupt, you may not be able to get a traditional current account. You could consider a basic bank account instead, as these often accept people with lower credit ratings.
However, these can incur high charges if you go overdrawn, up to £15 per transaction. As the Universal Credit benefit is paid monthly, as opposed to bi-weekly like the Jobseeker's Allowance, there could be a higher risk of you accidentally going overdrawn if you’re not used to budgeting within this timeframe. The thinkmoney Personal Account is one alternative you could consider, as this also accepts people with lower credit ratings and those who have been declared bankrupt. There’s just one monthly fee to pay with no extra charges, so you won’t go into an unauthorised overdraft.
Help with budgeting
Another benefit of the thinkmoney Personal Account if you’re claiming Universal Credit is that when your benefits are paid in, money is set aside for your rent and bills. This means that you won’t have to manage your monthly Universal Credit payment and it could help with your budgeting.
If you receive housing benefits and your rent is paid directly to your landlord, this could also help you, as on Universal Credit, you’ll have to manage your rent yourself. The thinkmoney Personal Account will save your rent money, so you won’t be tempted to spend too much of your benefits. If you’re interested in finding out more information or applying for the account, you can do so here.