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A 60 second guide to Universal Credit

calendar06 June 2016

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

A 60 second guide to Universal Credit

What is it?

A re-organisation of the benefits system, rolling six benefits into one monthly payment.

What’s the point?

It aims to encourage people back to work by gradually reducing the payment when someone finds a job. It also gets people used to a monthly payday.

When’s it happening?

That depends on where you live -  it’s being rolled out across the UK one Jobcentre Plus at a time. However, if you’re not making a new claim, it won’t come along until June 2018. Live in Northern Ireland? You can expect to see Universal Credit introduced in 2017.

What are the issues?

Couples will get one joint payment
It will be all online
There will be delays and
Landlords will not be paid rent directly in the majority of cases.

Read more about the issues here

How can I prepare?

See seven things you can do to get ready for Universal Credit

Should I be worried about Universal Credit?

calendar06 June 2016

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Should I be worried about Universal Credit?

Do you receive any of the following?

  1. Jobseeker’s Allowance
  2. Employment Support Allowance
  3. Income Support
  4. Child Tax Credit
  5. Working Tax Credit
  6. Housing Benefit

If so, the new system of Universal Credit is going to make big changes to how you receive your benefits. In a nutshell, Universal Credit combines six benefits into one system of monthly payment, like a monthly wage. Applications will be dealt with entirely online and will be paid directly into your bank account.

The aim is to make it simpler but with any shake-ups, there’s always a few teething problems.

Good news: The changes are happening very slowly across the country, one area at a time and if you’re not making a new claim, you’ll be largely unaffected until June 2018. So, you’ve got time to prepare. Check out: Seven things you can do to prepare for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will be managed online, a big issue if you don’t have access to the internet. However, most Job Centres have in-house computers and offer training. The Department of Work and Pensions are aware this change to on-line is going to be a big issue and the Job Centre will be able to give you support. If in doubt, ask.

Another worry factor could be the monthly payments. Under the old system a lot of benefits like Jobseekers Allowance were paid fortnightly. Universal credit will mean waiting for a month before the next payment and you’ll need to be really careful to ensure you don’t leave yourself short for all the essentials like rent, bills and food.

Should you worry about free school meals as they used to be given depending on the type of benefits you received? No one’s too sure quite what will happen with this but the Department for Education will tell us in due course.

There are concerns about rent, especially. Housing Benefit used to be paid directly to the landlord but, under the new system, most people will get the whole amount and have to pay the landlord themselves. It will seem like a lot of money at the start but it has some key places to go – and you’re in charge of that. There may also be a delay as you move over to Universal Credit. Ask at your Job Centre Plus about any possible delays and keep your landlord in the picture with what’s happening. As this is going to be swapped over area by area, your landlord will likely be having this situation with several tenants if they own more than just your property.

What if you get behind with things? Well, payments will be taken from the Universal Credit automatically. Rent arrears, benefit overpayments, energy arrears, budgeting loans etc can all be taken at source but only up to 40% of the total of the total amount you’d have normally received. Still unsure? Talk to your work coach.

In fact, asking for support is a good idea. It’s up to your work coach to inform you about what help is available. If you need help, ask for it!

Need to learn about budgeting? CAP can help.

What you need to know about employers

calendar05 June 2016

Kathy Freeman's avatar Kathy Freeman

What you need to know about employers

Judgmental, intimidating and stern – three adjectives that have been attached to employers for decades, but are they really this bad? While you might find the odd boss who makes you shiver with fear, most employers are easy to talk to, willing to listen and want to help you develop.

Knowing that your employer is only human will help settle your nerves when stepping into that interview room. They are not looking to catch you out – they want to give you the opportunity to show them your many great qualities.

As all great chefs know, preparation is a vital ingredient when it comes to success – the same is true for getting a job. So, set aside some time and do your homework. So, what exactly do you need to know?

While it’s not important to know what breakfast cereal the CEO prefers, it is crucial that you know the answer to all those big questions – when was the business founded and who by? Who runs it now? What is the company’s purpose and vision? The more you know, the more impressed your employer will be.

Basic information, such as this, can normally be found online. If you don’t have a computer, go and visit your local library and use one there. Take a look at the company’s website and do some research. Revise the information you find out and recite it in front of a friend or even a mirror. Don’t worry if you don’t remember everything, a general overview of the workplace will go a long way.

Remember to show enthusiasm and passion throughout your interview. Knowing the company vision is one thing, but they are looking to see if you are as passionate about it as they are.

Once you’ve got to grips with what the company is all about, focus on what the company is after in an employee. Imagine yourself in their shoes: what type of person would you hire? Note down some of characteristics and qualities you think are key to the job you are applying for. How can you demonstrate you have these?

You don’t have to pretend to be someone else, but you will need to show them you are suited to the position. And just because interviews are serious, it doesn’t mean you have to act dull. Let your character shine and show employers how excited and enthused you are to be part of the company.

If need further support finding work, CAP Job Clubs can help. CAP Job Clubs equip and support you through your return to work, empowering you to communicate your skills and attributes to potential employers.Facing unemployment can be extremely difficult, but you don’t have to face it alone. For more information check out or to book your place call 0800 328 0006.

Written by Kimberley Taylor

Budget recipe binder: Criss-Cross Chicken Pie

calendar26 May 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Budget recipe binder: Criss-Cross Chicken Pie

Comfort food at its very peak, this recipe if cheap and cheerful and a guaranteed hit with all ages. The lattice top is a lovely twist on the classic pie lid and definitely worth the slightly fiddly assembly! Give it a go this Sunday as a great alternative to a traditional roast dinner.

Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves: 4-5
Total cost: £4.08


For the pastry:
225g plain flour
100g butter
Water to mix

For the filling:
500g diced chicken
Tin of mushrooms
Powdered garlic
Dried mixed herbs
1 onion
Tin of chicken soup

To serve:
800g potatoes (uncooked weight)
½ broccoli
3 carrots
100g sweetcorn
100g peas


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
To make the pastry:
2. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Add cold water until it is all combined and forms a ball.
4. Knead for a few minutes.
5. Separate the dough into two.
6. Roll out one piece to a thickness of about 1cm and lay it into a greased pie/quiche dish.
7. Roll out the second piece into a rectangle and cut into 3cm strips.
8. Create a lattice by laying the strips next to each other on cling film. Fold alternate strips upwards and lay one piece horizontally over the other pieces. Lay the folded pieces down and fold alternate pieces upwards and lay another piece horizontally. Repeat until the lattice is full.
For the filling:
9. Chop the onions and mushrooms.
10. Fry the onion until soft, then add the mushrooms and fry until they have reduced to about half the size.
11. Add the chicken and brown.
12. Next, add garlic and herbs, then stir in the chicken soup and heat through.
To finish:
13. Add the chicken mixture to the pastry case.
14. Carefully lift the cling film and flip the lattice onto the top of the pie. Trim the edges and glaze with a little milk.
15. Cook in the pre-heated oven for 40 mins.
16. In the meantime, prepare the potatoes, vegetables and gravy, ready to serve.

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

Seven things you can do to prepare for Universal Credit

calendar25 May 2016

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Seven things you can do to prepare for Universal Credit

Unless you’re going to make a new claim, you have nothing to worry about until after mid-June 2018. However, Universal Credit will soon come round so use this time to get organised. Here are seven things you can do to keep you ahead of the changes.

  1. Make sure you have a bank or building society account and ask them if it’s the type that can receive automated payments.
  2. You’re going to start being paid monthly so one of the best things you can do is draw up a budget. How much money do you receive? What do you spend your money on each month? You need to know this to be able to make it last for all the important things like rent/mortgage, feeding the family and paying the bills. Check out to learn how to budget.
  3. Find out where you can access the internet as the new system will be all online. Jobcentre Plus? Local library? Relative’s house? If you’re worried about your IT skills, ask the Jobcentre or your local library if they can give some help.
  4. Under Universal Credit, couples will be paid a single payment under a joint claim. If you’re worried about this, ask your Work Coach about twice-monthly payments or splitting payments between two people. There may be some support to help you with this – definitely worth asking.
  5. Let your landlord know that you are being switched to UC and that there may be an unavoidable delay during the change over. One of the big differences will be that you will have to organise your income and pay the landlord yourself. However, if there are special reasons, such as poor mental health, this can be paid direct to the landlord although expect around six weeks to get this sorted.
  6. Ask for an advance payment if you will struggle to get by before your first payment.
  7. Contact the Universal Credit if you need some help. Universal Credit helpline Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. Telephone: 0345 600 0723, Textphone: 0345 600 0743 




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