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Big changes for people on Universal Credit

We’ll have to earn the equivalent of 15 hours a week at Living Wage or take steps to increase our income

If we’re on Universal Credit, there are some changes on the horizon that we need to be aware of.

We’ll have to earn the equivalent of 15 hours a week or meet with our Work Coach to try to find more work.

Previously the rules said if we worked nine hours a week or fewer we had to meet our Work Coach. At the end of September this was upped to 12 hours.

The new move to 15 hours a week means we could be sanctioned if we don’t take steps to increase our earnings. That would mean our income would take a hit.

The government thinks 120,000 of us could be affected by the new rules. They’ll come into effect in January 2023.

But some of us SHOULD NOT be subject to the rule change – for example if we’re disabled or have long-term health issues. If we’re carers or responsible for children there are also special rules for us.

It’s important we remember that it’s possible to earn while still receiving Universal Credit. But the more we earn, the lower our UC payments will be. For every £1 we earn in our job, our UC payment will be cut by 55p (the taper rate).

We can work as many hours as we like, but when we earn a certain amount our UC payments will taper off entirely to zero.

Changes for over-50s too

In the same announcement, the government said jobseekers aged over 50 will get more time with Work Coaches.

This is because figures show many over-50s have left the workforce since Covid hit. It’s part of a bid to get more people working in the hope it boosts the economy and helps to control inflation.

Planned National Insurance rise axed

If we’re already in work, the rate of National Insurance (NI) we pay will be coming down.

In spring, the rate of NI was raised by 1.25 percentage points. That move has been undone, so we may end up keeping a bit more of what we earn from November.

But we only pay NI in the first place once our earnings hit £12, 570 a year. If we earn under that amount, we won’t pay it.

NI is separate from income tax and it’s money that’s taken from our wages before we get them. It funds things like state pensions and benefits.

A benefits calculator, like this one on the Quids in! website, can let us see how our working hours will affect our benefit payments.

Image: Tim Douglas / Pexels

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