In most cases, Universal Credit is a monthly benefit payment paid out to help with living costs.
If you are out of work or getting a low income you might meet the Universal Credit eligibility criteria.
Health Conditions and Disabilities
There is an extra amount of Universal Credit available for some claimants. A health condition or a disability must prevent you from working (or limit the amount of work you can do) to get it.
Several factors, and your circumstances, determine the monthly payment amount. Besides the health condition or disability, it also assesses your housing costs and your income.
Many of the rules for Universal Credit changed in April 2017. New claims since then will not get the extra amount if the claimant has ‘limited capability for work’.
Note: There are several differences on health conditions, disability and Universal Credit in Northern Ireland.
Universal Credit and Terminal Illness
As a rule, being terminally ill would qualify you for extra money from Universal Credit. You would need to declare this during the application if you are making a new claim.
But, you would need to report changes to your circumstances if you already made the claim. You would then find out whether a Work Capability Assessment is necessary after you reported the change.
Work Capability Assessment (WCA)
A different section explains how to apply for Universal Credit online. But, having done that, you would then need to fill in a questionnaire.
You can fill in the questionnaire online and print it off if you prefer. If not, they will send you a paper copy of the form along with your appointment letter.
Note: Fill in the capability for work questionnaire (UC50) if they ask you to do so. It is not a claim form.
Send the completed form to the Health Assessment Advisory Service. You will find their contact address written on the appointment letter.
Having a Work Capability Assessment is the next step in the process. The purpose is to assess to what extent an illness or a disability affects your ability to work.
The decision maker will determine the outcome of the Work Capability Assessment. That means they will place you in one of these three groups:
- The claimant is fit for work.
- The claimant has limited capability for work. Being placed in this group means you cannot work right now. But, you can prepare to start working in the future (e.g. by writing a CV).
- The claimant has limited capability for work and for work related activity. Being placed in this group means you cannot work right now and they do not expect you to prepare for work in the future.
How Work Capability Assessments affect a Claim
So, what happens if the WCA assesses you as ‘fit for work’? In this case, you must agree to look for work and to prepare yourself for working. Even so, the kind of job you look for should be suitable for the health condition that you have.
What if you get assessed as having a limited capability for work? In this case, your work coach will discuss the situation with you. You would need to agree some steps that help to get you preparing for work.
Being assessed as having limited capability for work and work related activity means you will get extra money. You would not need to look for work or to prepare for working. The current Universal Credit rates vary according to several different factors.
UC Claimant Commitment (your responsibilities)
Agreeing to the ‘Claimant Commitment’ means you will do certain things. Keeping up with your responsibilities is the only way to continue getting Universal Credit.
The department can base a separate level of commitment on each particular situation. So, the Work Capability Assessment may affect the outcome for your responsibility level.
Reporting Changes to Circumstances
While claiming Universal Credit, you must report any change in circumstances without delay. Typical changes will include things like:
- A change in your health condition (e.g. it gets better or it gets worse).
- The development of a new health condition.
- Any other circumstantial changes (e.g. moving in with a partner or finding a job).
Starting Work can affect a Claim
Even if a health condition improves and you start working again, you might still get Universal Credit. The payment remains unchanged until your earnings go over a specified amount.
But, in some cases starting work can affect the Universal Credit payment. You can use a benefits calculator or you can discuss it with your work coach to check what will happen.
Other Financial Support Available
You might get other help while you are claiming Universal Credit (e.g. for childcare costs). Check to see how your housing costs and Universal Credit work and how much you can get.
You can also claim certain other benefits at the same time. An good example would be the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). In some cases, claiming extra financial support can also provide you with free prescriptions.