How to get free travel and childcare when hunting for jobs on Universal Credit

JOB hunting can be tough and even more so if you’re doing it on a budget.

Anyone claiming Universal Credit can get extra financial help to cover costs involved in landing their next job, including travel and childcare.

Getting back to work while claiming Universal Credit shouldn't leave you out of pocket

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Getting back to work while claiming Universal Credit shouldn’t leave you out of pocketCredit: Alamy

The jump from claiming benefits like Universal Credit to getting a new job shouldn’t leave you out of pocket.

A new Restart Scheme designed to help those who’ve been on Universal Credit for more than a year will be launching on July 12.

Those who are put on the scheme, first announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in last November’s Budget, will get extra support to find a job.

This will include help with costs like travel, childcare and other expenses, so anyone participating will not be worse off.

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

But there are big problems – it takes five weeks to get the first payment and this leaves some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working Brits can claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront. We’ve heard of families waiting up to six months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

The harsh taper rate also makes it hard for Brits to get back to work.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. Since December 2018, we’ve been calling for the government to:

  1. Get paid faster: The government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop millions from being pushed into debt.
  2. Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4million families.
  3. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85% of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.

But it’s also not the only support you’ll get – here’s what you need to know about the help you can get already and how to apply.

The Flexible Support Fund

The Flexible Support Fund (FSF) has been around for nine years now but not much is known about it.

This is because it’s only supposed to be issued if all other help has been exhausted – but that’s not to say that you’re not entitled to it.

The FSF is a pot of money that has been put aside by the government to help you with the costs of getting a job.

The fund is managed by local job centres and the idea behind the payout is to give them more freedom to offer support to individual cases in local areas.

The money can be used to cover the following costs of job hunting:

  • Training for a job, up to £150
  • Travel to interviews
  • Childcare
  • Tools for work
  • Cost of medical evidence required by a disabled person
  • Clothing and uniforms to start work
  • Support for single parents in financial emergencies in the first 26 weeks of starting a job.

If you’ve already paid for the items, such as a suit for work or upfront childcare costs, then you are unlikely to be awarded FSF as back pay.

How much you can get depends. There’s no set amount and it’s decided on a case by case basis according to each person’s needs.

You won’t have to pay the money back and you can get it as cash or paid into your account.

You’ll need to show receipts within 14 day to show what you’ve used the money for

You can find out more about how to apply here.

More help with travel costs

Getting to and from job interviews or training that can help you get that job can cost money you just don’t have.

The Jobcentre Plus travel card is available for free and cuts the cost of travelling on public transport, including buses and trains, by 50%.

In London, they’re accepted by Transport For London (TfL), and here, users can save money by purchasing a seven-day or monthly travel card at a child’s rate.

But the discount card is only available to those who are unemployed and looking for work, and those who claim JSA.

You’re also entitled to one if you’ve been claiming Universal Credit for three to nine months and are aged between 18 and 24.

You’ll need to have been claiming benefits for three to 12 months before getting the card if you’re 25 and older.

The cards are supposed to be used to cut the cost of getting to and from job interviews but they can also be used on other journeys.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:

  • Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it’s a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you’re falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you’re part of a couple.
  • Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You’ll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You’ll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
  • Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
  • Foodbanks – If you’re really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

All train operators in England, Scotland and Wales accept the discount and cards are valid for up to three months.

But just because you’re on benefits, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get one – they’re handed out by Jobcentre staff on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the work coaches.

To find out if you qualify for the boost, speak to your work coach at your nearest Jobcentre, which you can find via Gov.uk.

If you’re doing work experience through Jobcentre Plus, or are doing a work trial that could lead to a job, you may be able to get help to cover related costs, including travel.

You’ll need to ask the job centre directly.

Other childcare costs help

If you claim Universal Credit, you might be able to get a refund on most of your childcare costs.

You can claim back 85% of childcare costs up to £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more up to August 31 following the child’s 16th birthday.

You will have to pay your childcare costs yourself up front and then claim the money back through Universal Credit.

The Sun has been calling on the government to change rules and pay parents up-front for childcare costs, as part of our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

Parents may also be able to take advantage of other childcare support, whether you’re claiming Universal Credit or not, including up to 30 hours free childcare

Access to Work scheme

The Access to Work scheme is designed to help people who are disabled or have a physical or mental health condition stay in employment.

The scheme can help you speak to you employers about changes they need to make to support you, and can even provide grants to keep your job accessible.

An Access to Work grant can pay for:

  • special equipment, adaptations or support worker services to help you do things like answer the phone or go to meetings
  • help getting to and from work.

You can also apply to Access to Work to get money for a communication support worker to go to your job interview with you.

You can use this service if you:

  • are deaf or hard of hearing and need a British Sign Language interpreter or lipspeaker
  • have a physical or mental health condition or learning difficulty and need communication support

You can find out more and apply online here.

Anyone who gets a job after claiming Universal Credit may be entitled to other benefits when in work, including tax credits.

Struggling Brits could be missing out on thousands of pounds a year by not claiming the benefits they’re entitled to – here’s how to check.

A £20 coronavirus boost to Universal Credit will end in September this year.

Martin Lewis explains how Buy Now, Pay Later can affect your credit score

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