Below are a number of frequently asked questions about the Universal Credit Calculator. These are collated based on feedback on the calculator and other posts on the blog. If you have questions, or see something that is missing or unclear in the blog below, please post your comments at the bottom of this page.
If you are looking for the answer to a question, use ctrl+f to see if it has already been answered.
Q. What information is the calculator based on?
The calculator is currently based on the Universal Credit regulations published in February 2013. It gives an accurate estimate of your entitlement, but does not claim to be exact as it does not ask the full set of (around sixty) questions required by the DWP to process a Universal Credit claim.
Policy in Practice have been working on Universal Credit for a number of years and have a good insight into how it will work and believe the calculator offers the best balance between speed and accuracy for claimants. Welfare Advisors should enquire about the premium version which can be customised and offers a greater level of accuracy.
Q. Why are certain features (such as childcare) only available on the premium version?
The free version of the Universal Credit calculator is intended for claimants, as an illustration of how Universal Credit will work. It offers an accurate estimate of what your entitlement might be, based upon the information entered. Users should be aware that the calculator is a quick ‘ready-reckoner’, rather than a comprehensive calculation which would take approximately sixty questions, rather than the ten shown. However, the premium version of the calculator can be adapted to calculate for the costs of further aspects of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms. Every effort is being made to improve the functionality of the free version as much as possible, so please bear with us in the meantime!
Q. The calculator tells me how much better off I will be in work under Universal Credit, but it doesn’t allow me to see if I am set to gain or lose anything when it comes into effect. If I am in work then how is this information useful to me?
Universal Credit is designed to reward work, and so it is important to see how work pays under the new system. There are many people who do want to know their out of work entitlement, which is also a central part of the Universal Credit calculation. Additionally, it is important to let people see the Housing Element, Child Element, and Unemployment elements of their Universal Credit entitlement since these are all separate payments under the current system.
The premium version allows advisors to compare the current benefit system against Universal Credit. Claimants can compare their current tax credit award / take home pay with what they get in terms of in-work Universal Credit support and take home income under Universal Credit.
Q. The calculator gives figures for both weekly and monthly allowances, but how often will I actually get paid?
Universal Credit will be paid monthly in a majority of cases. In certain exceptional circumstances, landlords and advisors can apply for more frequent payments.
Q. What is an ‘earnings disregard’ / ‘work allowance’?
The earnings disregard, also known as a ‘Work Allowance’ is an amount of money that a household can earn without affecting their Universal Credit award. The amount of the work allowance depends on the household, for example: lone parents receive a higher work allowance because they may face higher costs to go to work, and households with zero housing costs can earn more to encourage lower housing benefit payments.
Q. Does the calculator account for housing under-occupancy?
The premium version of the Universal Credit calculator calculates the cost of the bedroom tax. If you are using the free version of the calculator, you may receive less housing benefit than shown if you have a spare bedroom (i.e. if the number of bedrooms is equal to the number of residents). If you are concerned about how the bedroom tax will affect you, you should contact your Local Authority.
Q. I’m self employed, how do I use the calculator?
It is not yet clear how claims will work for those in self employment. Policy in Practice expect Universal Credit to follow a similar process to the current benefit system. To use the calculator, follow these steps:
1. Calculate your hourly wage by dividing your expected weekly profit by your hours worked.
2. Enter the higher of the minimum wage or the actual hourly wage and the hours worked.
3. Use the calculator as normal.
If your income / hours fluctuate, then Universal Credit will likely take the average income from the last three months to calculate your next Universal Credit award. Read this blog post for further information on self employment under Universal Credit.
Q. Should I include Council Tax Support in the calculations?
A: No, Council Tax Support will not be included in Universal Credit. Policy in Practice have worked with a number of large local authorities to design Council Tax Support schemes that work with Universal Credit and the other changes to the welfare system. Click here for thoughts on the decision to exclude Council Tax Support from Universal Credit.
The premium version of the calculator includes estimates of council tax support based upon the default schemes that the majority of councils will be using.
Q. I’m a student, how do I use the calculator? Will my bursary count as income?
Typically, student income will count as unearned income and will lead to a pound for pound reduction in the Universal Credit award. However, the regulations are unclear and are currently being scrutinised by the SSAC, students may yet be entitled to Universal Credit support.
Having made the choice to be in full-time education, students may be expected to take on the costs of supporting themselves and pay for this through higher future earnings (as under tax credits and JSA).
The alternative is that it will be treated in the same way as earnings. You would keep your housing support, and have your universal credit fall away at a rate of 65p in every pound of bursary above the earning disregard level. You would keep a percentage of your additional earnings from work.
Q. Why can’t I find my local authority in the Local Authority Area drop-down selection?
The drop-down for Local Authority Area does not directly correspond to each local authority, but rather to the Broad Rental Market Area (BRMA) that is used to calculate housing benefit. A local authority may only have one BRMA, but many have more than one BRMA (especially in London) .
You can input either your postcode or local authority into the BRMA finderto find your BRMA, then select this area in the drop-down.