By Judy Scott 

One in four people in Hastings of working age are currently relying on benefits. Most are in receipt of Universal Credit. 

Earning is allowed. All claimants need to do is fill in the Universal Credit journal at the end of their benefit month and tell the Work Coach how much they have earned (after tax if any, or expenses if self-employed). 

People who are responsible for any children or who have limited capacity for work get a work allowance. 

If their housing costs are paid through Universal Credit, this is £292 a month. If they do not have any housing costs paid through Universal Credit this is £512 a month. If you are unemployed and do not meet the above criteria, you do not get a work allowance. If a claimant earns more than this, every extra £1 will reduce Universal Credit entitlement by 63p. For instance if someone has a work allowance of £292 a month and they earn £392 in a month, their Universal Credit will be reduced by £63 the following month. Work allowances are shared between partners.

Income that is ignored for Universal Credit:

• Adoption and fostering allowances, child arrangement and kinship care order payments 

• Rental income from a spare room in a claimant’s home

 • Financial support from a charity or help from payments given by relative or friend 

• Selling a possession that has been owned for some time. 

But watch out for some catches
Anyone receiving Support for Mortgage Interest Loan payments needs to be aware that any earnings, even £1, could result in it being stopped for nine months. However, if you get the higher rate of work allowance mentioned above, you could see if you can earn enough to pay your mortgage interest.

Reviews of entitlement  
If someone receives Universal Credit because they have been assessed as having limited capacity for work, they could have their entitlement reviewed. There are means to reduce this risk. 

Claimants should check the recorded reasons why they are receiving Universal Credit to remind themselves what to highlight in the online journal for their Work Coach They should explain in the work journal what support they get at work for their health or disability needs. Where appropriate, this should include how they can only work on good days and any other strategies for coping. They should also keep their monthly earnings to below the minimum wage rate of £8.72hr x 16hrs a week. 

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Inde-pendence Payments (PIP) are not affected by earnings or savings. Claimants should check the recorded reasons why they receive DLA or PIP for mobility and/or care needs in case the work they are doing gives the impression their mobility or care needs are reduced. If travelling, note if this requires getting a taxi or having a friend help. When an individual has care needs, they should outline what support they are getting. Such information should be included in the online journal for the Work Coach and can be copied to the DLA or PIP office. 

The above guidance is a simplified version of complex benefit rules. It is always wise to get independent advice on individual circumstances especially if you are being encouraged to transfer to Universal Credit from another benefit. 

The Citizens Advice Bureau provides independent free confidential advice at local offices, on the phone and online: Advice line 0800 144 8848 Help to apply for Universal Credit 0800 144 8444 

The DWP provides written guidance on the law to Jobcentre staff as in the link below. Universal Credit rules are set out in chapters H1 to H6. 

Judy Scott is an independent welfare rights advisor.
Judy regrets she cannot answer personal queries. 

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