Universal Credit: From council tax bills to maternity grants, six perks you could be missing out on


MILLIONS of Universal Credit claimants could be missing out on perks linked to the benefit.

More than 2.5million households have made a Universal Credit application since mid-March, according to the latest government figures.

Universal Credit claimants could be missing out on other related perks

But as well as your standard monthly allowance, there are a range of additional schemes you may now be eligible for.

And if your circumstances have recently changed, it might also mean you become eligible for other benefits or support – so let Universal Credit know by speaking to your work coach or updating your online journal.

You can also contact the Universal Credit hotline on 0800 328 5644 or visit the government’s Understanding Universal Credit website.

Here’s what you need to know.

Get up to 50% public transport

The three-month Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card gives you up to 50% off selected bus and train journeys.

All train operators in England, Scotland and Wales, including Transport for London, accept the discount.

You’re entitled to the card if you’re unemployed and you’ve been claiming Universal Credit for three to nine months and are between the ages of 18 and 24.

You’ll need to have been unemployed and claiming Universal Credit for three to 12 months before getting the card if you’re over 25-years-old.

People who claim jobseekers allowance and are unemployed are also eligible for the scheme.

The cards are handed out by Jobcentre staff on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of work coaches, so check with your work coach if you’re eligible.

Alternatively, send a message in your journal.

You can find more information on the Gov.uk website.

Apply for a flexible support fund grant

The flexible support fund is available to help cover the costs of starting work, such as clothing and uniforms, and travel to interviews.

There’s no set maximum amount that can be awarded, although it will vary from case to case.

Crucially, unlike a loan, this money does not have to be paid back, and it also won’t affect your monthly benefit payments.

But again, it’s paid at the discretion of Jobcentre Plus staff so check if they think you’re eligible at your next meeting or via your online journal.

Get 50p for every £1 you save

Sign up to the government’s Help to Save scheme and it will pay you 50p for every £1 you save up to a maximum of £50 a month for four years.

The bonus is paid in two parts based on the first two years’ of savings, and then on the second two years’ of savings.

It’s available to people who receive Universal Credit and whose household earned £604.56 or more from paid work in their last monthly assessment period, as well as to some people entitled to working tax credit.

You can apply via Gov.uk but you’ll need a government gateway account.

Apply for a £500 maternity grant

Known as the Sure Start Maternity Grant, households in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales on Universal Credit can benefit from a one-off payment of £500.

This does not have to be paid back and will not affect the benefit payment you receive.

It’s available to parents on benefits who are are expecting their first child, or who are expecting a multiple birth and have children already.

You must claim the grant within 11 weeks of the baby’s due date or within six months after the baby’s birth.

To claim, print, complete and post this Sure Start Maternity grant form.

If you live in Scotland you can’t get a Sure Start Maternity Grant, but you can apply for a Pregnancy and Baby Payment instead.

Reclaim £13,000-plus in childcare costs

If you’re in work and on Universal Credit, you can reclaim up to 85% of childcare costs up to £646.35 per month if you have one child and up to £1,108.40 for two or more children.

You’ll need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of the cost of the childcare by the end of the assessment period after the one in which you’ve paid the childcare charges.

You can do this by signing into your Universal Credit account.

Just be aware that childcare has to be provided by an approved organisation, such as an Ofsted registered firm in England.

HOAR has called on the government to cover childcare costs upfront for Universal Credit claimants struggling to find the cash themselves under its Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

Cut your council tax bill

If you’re on Universal Credit your council tax bill could be reduced by up to 100% in England, Scotland, and Wales.

What it’s reduced by depends on your circumstances – for example, your household income, whether you have children, whether you’re in work, and whether you own your home or rent it.

It also depends on your local council as schemes vary.

Use Gov.uk to find out if your local council offers a council tax reduction – sometimes known as council tax support – and how to apply.

There’s a different scheme available in Northern Ireland.

If you don’t qualify for benefits, you should consider turning to a free help organisation such as Citizens Advice or StepChange.

HOAR has a guide on how to apply for free grants of up to £10,000 if you’ve recently lost your job.

It comes as experts warn 700,000 people on Universal Credit will be dragged into poverty if benefits are slashed.