Universal Credit (UC) is a benefit being rolled out to replace the old legacy benefit system, including Housing Benefit; and UC now includes a housing costs element.
Under the previous benefit rules, serving personnel living in SFA were unable to claim Housing Benefit for help with their housing costs, as they were treated as Crown Tenants. This was an issue that AFF believed was causing disadvantage to Service families, and we had previously raised it at a high level.
We are delighted to share that this is no longer the case with the new Universal Credit system, meaning that any Service person living in SFA may now include their housing costs within their UC claim.
To apply for the housing costs element, you will need to provide evidence of the Service person’s occupation (a utility bill), payment (a wage slip showing payment of SFA costs) and liability (the licence agreement) to your work coach. The Department for Work and Pensions has also confirmed that specific guidance has been issued to all work coaches, so families should have no difficulty in claiming the housing costs element as part of their UC claim.
We are pleased to hear that a number of Service families are now successfully claiming the housing cost element of Universal Credit.
AFF has discovered that it is not possible to claim the housing costs element of Universal Credit if you have separated from your Service person but remain in your SFA. This is because once the license to occupy the property has finished (at the end of your 93 days) you will be charged Mesne profits if you stay in the SFA (whether or not this has been agreed with the Loss of Entitlement Team (LOET)). Unfortunately, Mesne profits are not considered eligible housing costs under Universal Credit (in the way they were eligible under Housing Benefit), so any charges that are required after a tenancy has been ended will not be considered for the housing costs support within UC.
This is disappointing news but we have raised this issue with the Department for Work and Pensions, and will provide an update in due course.
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The Department for Work and Pensions has now confirmed that members of the Armed Forces/Crown servants are exempt from the basic condition of being in Great Britain to claim Universal Credit.
However, for joint claimants, if the partner of the member of the Armed Forces is not working, they must still satisfy their work-related requirements and meet their Universal Credit claimant commitment whilst they are abroad.
Families told AFF that they had difficulties inputting a BFPO address, when moving overseas and claiming.
We raised these issues to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the MOD. We are pleased to see that new temporary guidance has been issued by the MOD, which includes a set postcode to use when claiming or changing address overseas and all applications being routed to one point of contact within DWP.
Longer term, DWP will update its system to recognise BFPO addresses and look to add further guidance for serving personnel and families to the UC claim form.
More information can be found in Defence Information Note 2022DIN01-050 – this is available to serving personnel on the Defence Intranet.
If you have any issues claiming Universal Credit overseas, please contact firstname.lastname@example.orgBack to top
Previous residence rules exempted Service spouses and adult children returning from overseas to claiming Jobseekers allowance for three-month residence requirement.
However, after AFF identified that Army families returning from overseas assignments would be disadvantaged by that requirement, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that spouses and children (up to 21 years) returning to the UK after accompanying Service personnel on overseas assignments, will be exempted from the three- month residence rule.
AFF can confirm that anyone returning to the UK and wanting to apply for income-based JSA will still be asked to answer a series of questions about their circumstances during a ‘Habitual Residence Test’ interview – a test to ensure all JSA claims are legitimate. However, as a military dependant, you can apply as soon as you return to the UK.
For more information about the changes and the Habitual Residency test, see gov.uk/government/news/changes-to-jobseekers-allowance-to-benefit-armed-forces-families.Back to top
If you have accompanied your soldier on an overseas posting, you may have gaps in your National Insurance (NI) contributions record. This could affect your future entitlement to the state pension and other benefits. In recognition of the fact that overseas postings can affect the ability of the spouse to work and pay NI contributions, leaving many with a gap that can affect the amount of state pension they receive in retirement, systems are in place to allow spouses to reclaim NI credits when accompanying a partner overseas.
It is a good idea to check for any gaps in your NI record first. You can do this by visiting www.gov.uk/check-national-insurance-record
Class 1 credits are available for periods spent overseas accompanying your soldier since 6 April 2010. They can help to protect your entitlement to the state pension and other benefits such as the new-style jobseekers’ allowance. These can be applied for four months before returning from overseas, and you should apply before the end of the tax year following the tax year when the posting ended. A tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.
For example, for a posting that ended between 6 April 2018 and 5 April 2019 you should apply for Class 1 credits by 5 April 2020.
Class 3 credits are available for any period you spent overseas accompanying your soldier from postings on or after 6 April 1975. There is no time limit for claiming. These protect your entitlement to the state pension only.
See gov.uk/guidance/national-insurance-credits-for-partners-of-armed-forces-personnel-overseas to find out more about NI credits and how to claim under each scheme.
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Does the non-serving partner in your family earn less than £12,570? If so, you could pay less tax by applying for the Marriage Allowance.
The allowance lets couples transfer a proportion of the amount you can earn tax-free each tax year between you. To apply you must be married or in a civil partnership, one of you must earn less than £12,570 and the other must be a basic rate taxpayer.
Across the UK, only 10 per cent of eligible couples claim the allowance. You can register at any point in the tax year to gain full benefits. To apply, visit www.gov.uk/marriage-allowance.Back to top
The original instruction from the MOD stated that Sure Start Maternity Grants (SSMG) for those living overseas should be claimed from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) through a single point of contact. This address has since changed and applications should go through the DWP Social Fund department.
All applicants have been requested to annotate ‘HM Forces Staff’ on the personal details part of the form and also asked to try and include as much relevant information as possible. The completed application forms should go to:
Wembley Benefit Centre
Mail Handling Site ‘A’
Tel: 0845 6036 967
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