Universal Credit Scottish choices: evaluation - qualitative research - annex b

Annex B containing qualitative research for the evaluation of Universal Credit Scottish choices.

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Advances on Universal Credit - people who have applied for Universal Credit but are still waiting for their first payment are able to apply for an 'advance', which is then paid back out of future Universal Credit payments.

Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) - arrangements agreed by the Department for Work and Pensions whereby someone's Universal Credit housing allowance can be paid direct to the landlord, their Universal Credit payment can be split into more frequent payments (rather than paid once a month), or payments can be split between partners. They are intended for claimants who need additional support - unlike Scottish choices, they are not automatically available to everyone on Universal Credit, and they require the DWP's approval. They can be requested by claimants or landlords.

Arrears / rent arrears - the money owed to a landlord when rent payments are missed.

Assessment period - The personal circumstances of people on Universal Credit are assessed each month to work out the amount of Universal Credit households will get. Earnings are passed to the Universal Credit system by HMRC's Real Time Information System, so payments should take account of fluctuations in earnings. The first monthly assessment period starts on the date of someone's claim. They should receive their first payment seven days after the end of the first assessment period.

Deductions from Universal Credit - deductions are money taken off Universal Credit payments when the claimant is in debt. Reasons for deductions include rent arrears, council tax deductions, energy and water debt, or paying back a Universal Credit advanced payment. Deductions can also be made for sanctions imposed by the DWP, when a person is deemed in breach of their Universal Credit claimant commitment (for example, for failing to attend meetings with a Work Coach).

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - the UK Government Department with responsibility for UK social security policy, including Universal Credit.

Direct Payments to Landlord - a flexibility within Universal Credit which applies only in Scotland, and allows anyone on Universal Credit in Scotland who receives a housing element to opt to have this paid direct to their landlord. This is one of the 'Scottish choices'.

The 'five-week wait' - the period that applicants for Universal Credit wait before receiving their first payment. As noted above, claimants usually receive their first payment seven days after the end of their first monthly assessment period - so roughly five weeks after submitting their claim.

Full-service claim - a 'full-service claim' is a Universal Credit claim that is managed online, through a Universal Credit online account.

Journal notification - a notice in a claimant's Universal Credit online account, informing them of something or asking them to do something. Scottish choices options are currently flagged through a journal notification or 'to do' in people's online account.

Legacy benefits - the six means-tested benefits for people of working age which are replaced by Universal Credit. These are: Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

More Frequent Payments - a flexibility within Universal Credit which applies only in Scotland, and allows anyone on Universal Credit in Scotland to opt to receive their payments twice a month rather than monthly. This is one of the 'Scottish choices'.

Scottish choices - flexibilities within Universal Credit, available in Scotland only and implemented by the Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the Scottish Government. These flexibilities have been possible since the devolution of various elements of social security in the Scotland Act 2016. The two Scottish choices available at the time of writing were Direct Payments to Landlord and More Frequent Payments (see definitions above).

Technical arrears - rent arrears arising as a result of delays in receiving payments from the DWP. These arise when a tenant has opted to have their rent paid directly by the DWP to their landlord, and the money will come through, but is paid behind the date rent is due.

Universal Credit - a benefit for people of working age who need help with their living costs. It was introduced by the UK Government and rolled out from 2013 as part of a wide-ranging set of reforms to social security. Roll-out is currently forecast to be complete by September 2024. Universal Credit replaced six means-tested benefits (sometimes referred to as 'legacy benefits' - see above) for working-age people with a single payment. It was originally designed to be a single monthly payment to an eligible household, paid seven days after the end of the monthly 'assessment period'.

Work Coach - based in Jobcentre Plus offices and employed by the DWP. Work primarily with people who are unemployed to get them back into part- or full-time employment.


Email: Socialresearch@gov.scot

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