Universal Credit is coming to Edinburgh

Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit for people under pension age which aims to replace 6 means-tested benefits, i.e. Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance.

From November 2018, anyone in Edinburgh who is unemployed, unable to work due to sickness or on a low income will have to claim UC and will no longer be able to claim income-based JSA, income-related ESA, Income Support, Housing Benefit or Tax Credits.

Who is Affected?

This only applies to people making new claims and does not affect people who already have an existing claim for these benefits. Their existing claims will continue until they are ‘migrated’, i.e. transitioned onto UC. This transition is expected to take between 2019 and 2023, so you may not be affected right away.

In addition, people with 3 or more children won’t be able to make a new claim for UC until February 2019.

 Why This New Benefit?

The Government’s aim is to simplify the benefits system so that you only need to apply for one benefit, instead of claiming different benefits from different agencies (HMRC, DWP and the Council).

However, a lot of benefits will still remain such as benefits that are based on your National Insurance (NI) contributions like contributory JSA and ESA.

Main Features of UC

  • UC is based on your income, not your NI contributions.
  • It is administered by the DWP.
  • UC combines various elements into one single payment for you, your children, for your housing costs and childcare costs, and for being a carer or unfit for work.
  • All claims are digital. You must apply online and manage your claim online in your journal, to communicate with the DWP.
  • A single monthly payment to one person in household is made into a bank account.
  • Rent payments will be made to you directly, NOT to landlords, unless the DWP agree to an Alternative Payment Arrangement.
  • Your award is assessed every month, based on your income for the previous month.
  • You can continue to claim UC if you work over 16 hours per week as long as your income is below the threshold—an improvement for people with variable earnings.
  • Your claim remains ‘dormant’ for up to 6 months—if your earnings are too high. one month but go back down the next month, your claim restarts automatically.
  • UC aims to encourage work. Most people are expected either to look for work, or prepare for work and improve their work prospects depending on their circumstances —although some people are exempt altogether (e.g. carers, people unfit for work in the Support Group).
  • Lone parents (or main carers in a couple) with a child aged 3 or over are now expected to look for work.
  • People who are in work but do not earn over the Conditionality Threshold (which is 35 hours per week at the Minimum Wage) may be expected to look for more work—unless their Work Coach agrees the threshold should be lowered due to caring commitments for example.

Ask us for advice!


You can click here for our factsheet on Universal Credit. In this factsheet, you will find more tips about:

  • Making a claim for Universal Credit
  • How to prepare for Universal Credit
  • How to avoid problems with your UC Claim
  • And some useful contact details


We can also provide training on Universal Credit to charities and housing associations. Contact us for more information.




CHAI is moving Office

After 6 years of having our main office base at ELS House (555 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh) we are on the move.

Our new office is at:

Floor 5, Riverside House,              502 Gorgie Road, Edinburgh,      EH11 3AF.

We’re doing some internal ‘re-fit’ at the moment, but will be fully ‘open for business’ in the very near future.

Meantime, although we can no longer be found at ELS House, our staff and services remain fully accessible at the wide range of outreach venues that we operate from across the City of Edinburgh, and beyond.

To contact us, or book an appointment with our Advice, Employability or Housing Support Teams, use our contact telephone numbers and email address, which remain active and the same as they have always been:

  • Main CHAI telephone:  0131 442 2100
  • Advice Appointments:  0131 442 1009
  • Edinburgh Housing Advice Partnership:  0845 302 4607
  • Email: chai@chaiedinburgh.org.uk

Or use the ‘Contact Us’ section on this website.

We’ll be fully operational at our new office base address soon, but all post sent to ELS House is being re-directed, and will get to us.

See you soon!

Helping You Find Solutions to The Benefit Cap

The benefit cap came into force in April 2013 but the cap levels were lowered in November 2016 which led to an increasing number of people being affected by it. Read on to find out who is affected and how to avoid it.

Or click here to download our newsletter on the Benefit Cap.


The benefit cap only affects people aged between 16 to 64 who are claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, if the total amount of benefits they receive is over a certain threshold. If the cap affects them, their Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is reduced to make sure the total they get is not more than the cap amount, which is:

  • £384.62 a week for a couple with or without dependent children.
  • £384.62 a week for a lone parent with dependent children.
  • £257.69 a week for a single person without children.

Families with 3 children and more tend to be the most affected by the benefit cap.


There are ways to avoid the benefit cap. Going back to work, or increasing your working hours may give you an exemption to the benefit cap, because people who receive Working Tax Credits are not affected by the benefit cap. For lone parents, working as little as 16 hours a week would be sufficient to get Working Tax Credits.

For those who get Universal Credit, there is no benefit cap if your net household’s earnings are over £520 a month.

You will also be exempt from the benefit cap if you, your partner or child receive any of the following benefits:

  • A disability benefit such as DLA or PIP, or the Support Component of ESA or Universal Credit.
  • Carer’s Allowance.
  • Guardian’s Allowance.
  • An Armed Forces payment.


For many people, going back to work, or increasing working hours, will be the best solution to the problem of the benefit cap. However, there are other short-term solutions that you may consider such as:

  • Applying for discretionary housing payment (DHP) from the Council, to help you pay your rent shortfall. DHP will cover 100% of the shortfall for 3 months. This is then reduced to 75% and gradually to zero overtime.
  • Moving house to find cheaper rent in a different tenancy.
  • Maximising your income.

Ask us for advice! Book an appointment to see one of our advisers.


(Source: www.gov.uk, August 2017)

How many households are affected by the benefit cap?

  • 68,000 in the UK
  • 3,810 in Scotland
  • 653 in Glasgow
  • 605 in Edinburgh

How many children have the capped households?

  • 93% have at least a child
  • 41% have 3 children
  • 15% have 2 children
  • 10% have 5+ children


The Problem

Claire is 40-year-old mother of 4 children aged 4, 8, 12 and 14.  She lives in a 3-bedroom private let costing £675 per month. Claire suffers from poor health and is currently unfit for work and claiming Employment and Support Allowance as well as Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits and the Local Housing Allowance.

Claire is affected by the Benefit Cap as she receives over £364.62 per week on benefits. As a result, she only receives £25 towards her housing costs.  Claire is financially unable to pay her remaining rent shortfall and relies heavily on her ex-partner for financial support.

Her ex-partner is now unable to support her, and Claire is now at risk of homelessness. Claire has come to the CHAI Advice service at her local school for housing options and income maximisation. Claire’s mental health is deteriorating as she is fearful her family may become homeless.

What CHAI did

  1. CHAI assisted Claire by running a Benefit Check to ensure Claire was in receipt of all benefits she was entitled to and confirmed she was affected by the Benefit Cap.
  2. CHAI helped Claire apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) through the Council to help cover her rent shortfall for a short period of time. The application was successful, and Claire’s rent shortfall was paid for 3 months. This stabilised Claire’s housing situation for a few months and ensured she did not accrue rent arrears.
  3. CHAI further advised Claire that claiming certain benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP) makes you exempt from the Benefit Cap and that it would greatly maximise her income. Due to Claire’s poor physical and mental health conditions that challenge her daily, she decided to apply for PIP.
  4. CHAI helped her complete the PIP application form, contacted her health workers for further medical evidence and was successful with the claim. Claire now receives £119.80 per week from PIP and is therefore exempt from the Benefit Cap. She now receives full Local Housing Allowance to cover her full rent charge of £675.

As Claire is a single adult and receives the Daily Living Component of PIP, CHAI was also able to apply for a Severe Disability Premium for her ESA for an additional £62.00 per week.

Overall, CHAI assisted this parent to maintain their current tenancy and maximise their annual income by £17,553. 

Financial Capability Resources 

We have produced a handy booklet with lots of budgeting and money management tips to help you take control of your money. You can download it here:

Financial Capability Resources Pack

In this pack, you will find sections on:

  • Maximising your income
  • Accessing free banking
  • Managing your expenditure
  • Saving money
  • How to be credit wise
  • Comparing credit methods to highlight the potential dangers of various ways of borrowing.
  • Credit scoring and how to check your credit report
  • Alternatives to borrowing, including the Scottish Welfare Fund, charity grants and charities for sourcing free or lower price items
  • Affordable credit: budgeting loans and credit unions
  • Dealing with debt problems
  • The dangers of debt consolidation
  • Online resources and e-learning modules

You can also download our budget planner to record your income and regular expenditure items and come up with your own budget.

Solace Recovery Cafe Grand Opening!

Last January, we held an event in connection with the Alcohol, Drugs Partnership to ask people in recovery as well as professionals, “How can we improve recovery in South West Edinburgh?”  The outcome of this was to start a Recovery Café which would be run by people in Recovery for the South West Edinburgh area.

Over the past year we have been meeting with a group of volunteers who are in recovery to set up this initiative.

With this in mind The Solace Recovery Café will open tomorrow from 10am to 3pm for Bacon rolls (up till 12 noon), toasties, Soup of the Day, Dish of the day as well as lush cakes and biscuits. The prices are very cheap and affordable for all budgets.

Grand Opening


Thursday 24th March

10am to 3pm

St Aidans Church Hall on the corner of

Gorgie Road and Chesser Avenue

For Bacon Rolls, Soup, Toasties, Dish of the Day or coffee and cake


Every Thursday between 10am and 3pm

Sandwich and tea

Easter Holiday

CHAI will be closed for the Easter Public Holiday

Good Friday – 25th March 2016

Easter Monday – 28th March 2016

On those dates, all 3 CHAI premises will be closed for business:

CHAI,  ELS House, 555 Gorgie Road, EH11 3LE

CHAI SMS at The Healthy Living Centre, 30 Harvesters Way, EH14 3JF

CHAI at 8 Firrhill Neuk, Oxgangs, EH13 9FF

Partnership working battling to provide basic needs

EHAP advisers have been attending the Bethany Care Shelter on Tuesday nights where people are able to get a three course meal and somewhere warm to sleep for the night.

An EHAP adviser is available every Tuesday night for a chat and some housing advice until lights out at 10.45pm.

Bethany has seen demand for the service increase alarmingly over the last few years and the total number of individuals presenting this year for the duration of the service is on target to top nine hundred. In fact, this winter they have regularly had to turn people away having reached capacity. They offer those turned away sleeping bags, if available.

For more information and an example of a success story see the following article: http://www.ehap.org.uk/about-ehap/news/bethany-christian-trust—blog.aspx

Solace Recovery Cafe attains charitable status

The Solace Recovery Café became a registered charity in Scotland at the end of last month.

Now the main focus will be on acquiring funding.

It is still hoped that the café will be open mid to late February (we will keep you updated)

The Solace Recovery Café opening times will be from 11am until 2pm (with volunteers working from 10am until 3pm to set up and close up)


In the meantime Solace Recovery Café meetings will continue to be held at:

The Healthy Living Centre
30 Harvesters Way
EH14 3JF

on Thursdays at 6pm.  Anyone in recovery is welcome to attend but if you are new to the group we would recommend that you contact us to let us know you will be attending, to allow us to make any changes regarding room size and refreshment requirements.

As always, tea coffee and biscuits will be provided

SMART Recovery


The SMART group facilitated by CHAI SMS staff is held in the friendly surroundings of the Health Agency, within The Healthy Living Centre, in Wester Hailes. Those participating can come along early & grab a hot drink at the cafe if they want or a glass of water before heading in to the group.

Our group has remained quite a small group – typically around 4 or 5 individuals. As a facilitator I really enjoy the informal but structured approach which SMART uses – CBT & REBT is so helpful addressing all sorts of challenging thoughts associated with unhelpful behaviours such as drink or drug use.

A favourite tool of mine is the decisional balance tool which helps with decision making – it allows the individual to objectively weigh up the pros & cons of the decision to be made; it promotes informed choice. One individual, who no longer attends the group, liked this tool so much he was using it regularly for all sorts of situations – from managing thoughts of using to whether or not to buy new trainers! For him it helped him resist an impulsive action by supporting him to think it through – something we can all benefit from!

To look at the tools and other articles to do with recovery & addiction go to:


The Healthy Living Centre
30 Harvesters Way
EH14 3JF

Mondays 11am – 12:30pm


Solace Recovery Cafe update

Having had a very successful soft opening, reinforcing the need and social benefits of the Solace Recovery Café, it is now in the process of becoming a registered charity, once this procedure is completed the focus will be on finding pockets of funding to support the growth and development of the café until it is self sufficient.

It is hoped that the café will be open mid to late February (we will keep you updated)

The Solace Recovery Café opening times will be from 11am until 2pm (with volunteers working from 10am until 3pm to set up and close up)


In the meantime Solace Recovery Café meetings will continue to be held at:

The Healthy Living Centre
30 Harvesters Way
EH14 3JF

on Thursdays at 6pm.  Anyone in recovery is welcome to attend but if you are new to the group we would recommend that you contact us to let us know you will be attending, to allow us to make any changes regarding room size and refreshment requirements.

As always, tea coffee and biscuits will be provided