It can be confusing and complicated trying to understand how Universal Credit will work for you. Past Centrepoint research has shown that many young people struggle with the initial claims process and it can be difficult to contact the Jobcentre Plus or DWP directly about a claim.
We have updated our guides to understanding Universal Credit. There are two guides: one for young people living in general accommodation, and another for young people living in supported accommodation. We hope these will be a helpful tool for making sense of the Universal Credit claims process and how it will work for you. In them, we answer the questions that matter most to young people, such as:
- What is Universal Credit? Can I claim it and will it pay my rent?
- How can I make a claim for Universal Credit? Including what information you need for the form, how much money you can get, how long you will have to wait to receive it.
- How do I manage my claim?
- What are my responsibilities and sanctions?
- What if I start work?
- Is there any extra support available?
The main updates since our last Universal Credit guides were published include new benefit rates, which have risen by 3.1% from April 11. This is, however, well below inflation, which rose by a record 6.2% in the 12 months to February 2022. Additionally, the new benefit rates are significantly below what many people would have been receiving during the pandemic with the £20 uplift in Universal Credit. You can read our research report on the impact of the £20 Universal Credit cut on homeless young people here.
Another update to the Universal Credit guides is the change to the taper rate. The taper rate is the amount your Universal Credit is reduced by after you earn more than your work allowance. From last year, this has reduced from 63% to 55% - so for every £1 you earn from work, you will lose 55p from your Universal Credit claim. There are some obvious issues with this system: some young people on benefits and living in supported accommodation can often be worse off financially if they work more hours. For more details on this issue, you can listen to our podcast ‘Point Made’ which is co-created by young people and focuses on the topics that matter most to them.
More needs to be done
At Centrepoint, our mission is to end youth homelessness. But the cost of living crisis has pushed homeless young people even further into financial hardship and will likely mean they’ll have to make some really difficult decisions regarding their expenses. This puts them at an increased risk of losing a place to live, and makes it almost impossible to find and keep a home.
We’ve designed an interactive decision-making quiz which asks you to step into the shoes of a homeless young person (or at risk of homelessness) based on one of three potential stories, and spend a set monthly allowance based on the Universal Credit rate for under 25s. Give the quiz a go and gain a better understanding of the types of pressures young people face every day.
We are unwavering in our mission: we want to end youth homeless. To ensure vulnerable young people are able to move on to independence. Tackling this means our campaign priorities relating to Universal Credit include:
- Introducing a new Youth Independence Payment of £16.06 per week for young people living independently without family support: This would raise their overall Universal Credit entitlement to the rate that over 25s receive in recognition that they face the same living costs.
- Making Work Pay: Reinstate work allowances for under 25s living in supported accommodation to help this group to access work and ease the transition from benefits to paid employment.