Advice NI encourages Tax Credit claimants to seek independent advice before making a claim for Universal Credit in order to maximise entitlement to benefit uprating from April

With the Department for Communities currently issuing thousands of Migration Notice letters each month to people on Tax Credits as part of its ‘Move to UC’ programme, we want to make sure that those affected get the right advice about the timing of their claim in order to maximise their entitlement to the 6.7% benefit uprating from April.

‘Move to UC’ refers to the UK Government’s plan to move ‘legacy’ benefit claimants, including those currently receiving Child or Working Tax Credit, on to Universal Credit. As part of this programme, the Department  is currently issuing Migration Notice letters instructing people on the ‘legacy’ benefits that they have three months to make a claim to Universal Credit before their existing benefit awards will end.

Comparing the amount of money someone would receive on Universal Credit as opposed to their current Tax Credit award is often a complicated task, but there are some fundamental truths:

  1. While some people may be entitled to more money under Universal Credit than they receive in their current Tax Credit award, others will be entitled to less;
  2. People who move to UC after receiving their Migration Notice letter will automatically avail of ‘Transitional Protection’ — this includes a top-up to their Universal Credit entitlement designed to ensure that their award is broadly equal to the amount they were receiving in ‘legacy’ benefits;
  3. The problem is that Transitional Protection is ‘eroded’ over time as other parts of the Universal Credit award increase, for example due to inflation-linked increases applied by the government;

In particular, we know that benefit uprating amounting to 6.7% will apply from April, whilst the support provided for help with rent for claimants living in the private rented sector will also see a substantial boost.

If Transitional Protection is in place prior to these changes, any increases in support will be offset against the Transitional Protection element. In other words, the claimant will not benefit fully from the increases and so will be worse off.”

The key message is if you are currently receiving ‘legacy’ benefits and you receive your Migration Notice letter about moving to Universal Credit you should ALWAYS seek independent advice so that you can make an informed choice based on your individual circumstances.

Your Migration Notice will give the exact date by which you need to make your claim, and an independent adviser will be able to help you figure out whether you have the option to delay moving until April and whether this is the best choice for you.

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