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Stake your claim for universal credit

Many nurses and healthcare assistants may not be receiving the financial support they are entitled to. If in doubt, check it out, and don't leave it too late says RCN welfare adviser Claire Cannings. 
Universal credit

Many nurses and healthcare assistants may not be receiving the financial support they are entitled to. If in doubt, check it out, and don't leave it too late says RCN welfare adviser Claire Cannings.

As the roll-out of the government's new universal credit picks up pace, many nurses and healthcare assistants arent aware they are eligible to receive financial support. Many more will be missing out if they wait until after the roll-out before they put in a claim.

Universal credit - a monthly payment for people in or out of work - merges together six of the current tax credits and benefits. For most people in work, the main change is that universal credit replaces working tax credit, child tax credit and housing benefit.

There is no set number of hours a week you can or need

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Many nurses and healthcare assistants may not be receiving the financial support they are entitled to. If in doubt, check it out, and don't leave it too late says RCN welfare adviser Claire Cannings. 

Claire Cannings
RCN welfare adviser Claire Cannings

As the roll-out of the government's new universal credit picks up pace, many nurses and healthcare assistants aren’t aware they are eligible to receive financial support. Many more will be missing out if they wait until after the roll-out before they put in a claim. 

Universal credit - a monthly payment for people in or out of work - merges together six of the current tax credits and benefits. For most people in work, the main change is that universal credit replaces working tax credit, child tax credit and housing benefit. 

There is no set number of hours a week you can or need to work if you are claiming universal credit. Instead, the amount you get will gradually reduce as you earn more. 

Less chance of underpayments

There will be longer waiting times to receive the money after claims, but this could be good news if you work fluctuating monthly hours due to agency work or overtime; as universal credit is paid on live, monthly incomes, there is less chance of underpayments.

A new digital service is due to be rolled out in specific areas from October. After that, most new claimants, or those who have a change in circumstances that triggers a new claim, will be assessed using the new universal credit criteria. The government hopes that all current claimants will be migrated to universal credit by 2019.

If you are not currently claiming any tax credits, you should check whether you are eligible. HM Revenue & Customs calculates that up to 32% of potential working tax credit claimants and 13% of child tax credit claimants did not apply for the credit in 2013/2014.  

Winners and losers

Many RCN members tell us they were either unaware they qualify as a single person working 30 hours a week, or are parents reluctant to engage with the system after a previous negative experience with HMRC overpayments. But RCN advisers are here to help. 

As with most changes like this, there will be financial winners and losers from the new benefit. The government predicts that around 2.8 million households will lose out, receiving on average £1,644 less per year. Conversely, they estimate 1.9 million households will be at least £1,200 a year better off.

For example, if your household income is £20,000 and you have two children you could be eligible for £5,330. 

Check your eligibility

Transitional arrangements for people who may be worse off will only be available to those already receiving tax credits when the switch happens. That is why it is so important to check your eligibility and apply now. 

The transitional protection amount will top your universal credit up so that it matches your previous benefits to ensure you are not worse off. This amount will only change if your circumstances change and that triggers a fresh claim. 

So if you have not claimed, it is worth doing so under the current tax credit arrangements. Not only can you benefit from current tax credits, you can ‘future proof’ your entitlement when you are migrated to universal credit.

To work out what you might be entitled to, visit www.entitledto.co.uk/benefits-calculator. For any other support or guidance with a claim, the RCN member support team are here to help. Call us via RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100 or go to our website - www.rcn.org.uk/get-help/ 

Don’t miss out on what you’re entitled to, and don’t leave it too late. We are here to support all our members get the financial support you need. 

Claire Cannings is RCN welfare adviser

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