Benefits Expert: Why some couples cannot claim Universal Credit

Q. I was made redundant a couple of months ago and I made a claim for Employment and Support Allowance which has been getting paid at £73.10 per week. 
I also claim Personal Independence Payment at the standard rate for daily living. 
My husband has now also lost his job and we are looking to find out what we can claim together.
 I have read about Universal Credit, but I was told that couples cannot claim this where I live.

A. In some areas Universal Credit is only applicable to single people while the full service is being rolled out. 
If you are in one of these gateway areas then you will not be able to claim Universal Credit until the full service is available locally. Instead, you will have a few options of which benefits to claim.
Your husband could join you on your Employment and Support Allowance claim. He does not need to state that he is unable to work; he can just be named on your claim as part of a couple. 
Alternatively, he could claim Carer’s Allowance if he helps you for at least 35 hours each week. Carer’s Allowance is currently £62.70 per week meaning you would still be entitled to a ‘top-up’ as a couple (assuming that there is no other income in the household). 
You could choose to have the top up paid as Employment and Support Allowance by adding your husband to your claim, but it is usually more beneficial to have it paid as Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance as they can be paid at a higher rate. 
If your husband chooses to claim Jobseekers Allowance then he will have to be available for, and actively seeking, work, alternatively, he could claim Income Support without having those requirements.

Q. I am a lone parent with two children. I am moving house next month and I am worrying about paying for a removal van and other expenses that I know will creep up. I haven’t been able to save up as I only get Income Support and Child Tax Credit. Is there anything the Jobcentre can do to help me?

A. If you have been claiming Income Support for 6 months then you would be eligible to apply for a Budgeting Loan from the DWP Social Fund. 
A Budgeting Loan can be paid for removal expenses, furniture and household goods and clothes, etc. A budgeting loan is an interest free loan from the DWP. You cannot owe more than £1,500 to the Social Fund and loans generally have to be repaid within 2 years. The lowest amount you can borrow is £100 and the most is dependent on your circumstances; £348 for single people, £464 for couples and £812 if you claim Child Benefit. 
You can apply for a budgeting loan online at www.gov.uk or by completing an SF500 form from Jobcentre Plus.

Q. I am thinking about claiming Carer’s Allowance for my mother who was recently awarded Attendance Allowance, but I do not live with her. Will that affect my entitlement?

A. You are able to claim Carer’s Allowance for looking after your mother so long as you spend 35 hours per week caring for her. You do not need to be living with or related to the person you are caring for. You must be 16 or over, not be earning more than £116 per week (after expenses) and you mustn’t be a full time student.

You can apply for Carer’s Allowance online at www.gov.uk or by calling 0345 608 4321 to have an application form sent out.

Carers are often entitled to an Income Support top up and Council Tax Reduction depending on their household income and capital.