When it comes to applying for Universal Credit – a government-funded allowance for people looking for work – job-seekers can often be put off by the time it takes to apply and get approved and the stigma attached to receiving financial support.
If that’s you, it’s time to put those doubts away.
Firstly, Universal Credit exists for a reason and no-one should feel guilty about signing up. Once you do get a job you will be (indirectly) paying it back through tax anyway.
Secondly, if you’re under 25 then you have an extra incentive as to qualify for a six month paid placement through the government’s Kickstart Scheme you need to be on Universal Credit. In other words, it could well be worth the wait.
In this blog we take you through the mechanics of applying and explain what happens once you’re signed up. Plus we hear from a recent addition to the Placed team on her experience with Universal Credit.
According to www.gov.uk, you may be able to get Universal Credit if:
- You are on a low income or are out of work currently
- You’re 18 or over, with some exceptions for 16-17-year-olds
- You or your partner are under State Pension Age
- You and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings (combined)
- You are living in the UK.
What’s the application process like?
The process is straightforward but requires you to be proactive if you wish to find jobs. The great thing about Universal Credit is that the HMRC and jobcentre do provide resources which can be a great support tool for young jobseekers.
The first step is to set up your online profile through the website. Once you have completed your profile, you will receive a call from HMRC where they will go over your profile with you.
They ask questions related to whether you are paying rent, whether you are a carer, how many people you are living with, as well as other information related to your circumstances.
After your initial call with HMRC, you will get regular check-up calls to see if your situation has changed as well as reminders about what to do on your profile like updating your CV.
In your actual account, there is a ‘Journal’ section where you can monitor your correspondence with HMRC and access additional resources and information.
What are the alternatives?
The alternative to Universal Credit is Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). However, this process can be more tricky as eligibility is dependent on whether you have paid tax along with others. It’s worth applying for JSA too if you’re not sure whether you can claim from it.
Universal Credit is often said to be a better option for young jobseekers, mainly because the process is more straightforward. It also provides the opportunity to find work again, as the HMRC are hands-on with their support.
Is it worth it?
It’s the only way that you can get a Kickstart Scheme role, so if you’re looking to get a six-month paid placement then it’s worth it for that reason alone.
But there are other benefits, too. The HMRC provides support in the form of a monthly stipend and easily accessible resources. They also send job roles through jobcentre, recommend CV updates, and provide virtual interview tips.
Previously you would go into your local jobcentre and have a lot of face-to-face interaction with your local jobcentre. However, given the new restrictions, all correspondence is handled over the phone or online through your Gov.uk account.
We spoke to our Customer Success & Sales Operations Coordinator, Tanya, who before working at Placed went through the Universal Credit process.
“We are lucky to have a system in place in the UK that supports people who are out of work for whatever reason. Unfortunately, however, there is a lot of stigma attached to those who receive Universal Credit as it is assumed that they are taking advantage of the system.
“I was one of probably thousands who struggled more than necessary because I didn’t realise that I was eligible for receiving Universal Credit until my friend asked me to apply. The process itself was super easy and straightforward to complete and money was in my account within 6 weeks of making my application (you can ask for a payment advance if you have rent or other things that need paying asap).
“Universal Credit isn’t just about providing financial support, it is encouragement and support for your job hunt too. I am very grateful for the help that I received for the 2 months that I needed it for but also equally grateful that I no longer need the help as I am in employment!”
If you want to keep in touch with other people looking to get on the Kickstart Scheme then join our Facebook group.