Money advice

Benefits & Universal Credit

Our team are on hand to help you make sure you receive the financial support you are entitled to.

Your benefits

You may be eligible for more in benefits than you expect. Using a benefit calculator could help you find out that you’re entitled to more than you’re currently receiving.

This calculator, provided by independent money advisors Entitledto, gives you an easy and clear way to see the benefits you and your household should be receiving. Entitledto also offer a helpful budgeting tool, which can help you manage your money in a way that suits you.

Over the next few years everyone in receipt of certain benefits will need to move over to Universal Credit. Here is everything you need to know about the transition.

The benefit cap

If you have not reached the state pension age and receive certain benefits, there may be a limit on the total amount of benefits your household can receive – this is called a benefit cap. If your income goes above this amount, which is based on your household and circumstances, your other benefits will be reduced until your income falls below the limit.

To find out if the benefit cap applies to you, visit the government website here.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new scheme that brings together some of your benefits, merging them into one payment. The benefits replaced by Universal Credit are:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit

If your life changes in a way that means you might need to claim one or more of these benefits, you will be asked to sign up for Universal Credit. If you’re making a new claim, please note that your first payment will take approximately six weeks to arrive.

If you already receive any of these benefits, you should wait until you hear from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) before moving to Universal Credit – unless you have a change in circumstances.

Find out more about Universal Credit on the government website

Applying for Universal Credit can be a long and confusing process. Take a look at our handy step-by-step guide to help you through the Universal Credit application process. 

Universal Credit – FAQs

Does Universal Credit affect my rent payments?
It’s quite likely that Universal Credit will have some impact on the way you pay your rent.

Universal Credit, which includes money you may use to pay your rent, is paid once a month directly into your bank account (if you don’t have one, you’ll need to set one up). It’s then up to you to pay Watford Community Housing directly, either by direct debit or through a different payment method.
Is there anything I can do to prepare for Universal Credit?
As the first Universal Credit payment you receive will take approximately six weeks to arrive, and the new payment scheme means receiving monthly payments, you could be at risk of falling into arrears.

One of the best things you can do to prevent yourself from falling into arrears is to make changes and save money so that you have a 'buffer' of money in your rent account. By paying a little bit more on your rent payments when you can, your account will have extra credit, so when Universal Credit kicks in you won’t have to worry about going into arrears.

Also, you may want to consider making changes to the way you budget. If you’re used to weekly or fortnightly payments, changing to monthly payments may mean needing to manage your money differently. If you’d like some help managing your budget, get in touch on 0800 2182247.
My circumstances have changed – how can I apply for Universal Credit?
Universal Credit needs to be claimed online – you can start your claim on the government website here.

If you’d like some help with your application, you can contact the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service or check out our own step-by-step support guide.

For queries about your rent payments to Watford Community Housing, call us on 0800 218 2247.

Bedroom tax

If your property is classed as having a spare bedroom, then your Housing Benefit, or housing costs element of Universal Credit, might be reduced. 

You can take a look at the rules on the government website to see whether you may be affected by the bedroom tax. 

If you are in a property that is too big or no longer suits your needs, then we can help you find somewhere that is right for you – and you may also qualify for a cash incentive of up to £2,200. Find out how we can support you here. 

Pension Credit

If you are over State Pension age and on a lower income, you may be eligible for Pension Credit. This gives you a little extra money for your living costs, and can also help with housing costs such as ground rent or service charges.

You may get further help if you receive disability benefits or are a carer.

Visit the government website to see if you are eligible for Pension Credit. 

Discretionary Housing Payment

If you need help with rent arrears or need rent in advance as you move into your new property, you may be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment through your local authority. 

Find out who your local council is here. Search for 'Discretionary Housing Payment' on their website to find the application form.