Category Archives: Blog

Universal Credit For The Self Employed

UPDATE 10/04/2020

You no longer need to call them in order to arrange a call back. This step has now been removed. Instead they will call you if they need more info, or they will message you through your journal.

PDATE 25/03/2020

The system has collapsed under the weight of the number of people applying. This means huge waiting times for certain aspects of the process. For example Digidentiy has a 14 hour waiting time to access their website. You will have a 45 minute window once you reach the front of the queue. This happened at 02:35 for me, i was asleep. I missed my slot i went back to the end of the 100,000 person queue.

Commitment call: essentially all commitments have been suspended. You have a short conversation with someone at a local job centre. They try to work out the latest guidance. Their job is changing every hour currently. The system they deal with is being changed on the fly as they use it. You will have a commitment to agree to in your To Do List. Agree to it. It does not really count now because of the lockdown.

During this phone call you can ask for an advance. I got £348 and it will be paid on Friday 27th. Then I will have money for food.


Here is some info about the process of applying for Universal Credit as a self-employed person.

Here is a link to a document that you can comment on that outlines the process and answers some of the questions.

I have also recorded an audio version which you can listen to here.

Universal Credit For The Self Employed Audio Version

Here is the full text for anyone who doesn’t want to use Google Drive:

Universal Credit For Self Employed People


Thanks to Tessa Gleeson who took comprehensive notes during the Live Zoom call I delivered which made writing up this post much easier. Should you require an online note-taker then please email Tessa your request with timings to:

Thanks to Sara Zaltash for organising the daily Zoom conversations and making one of them about Universal Credit.

I am not an expert on universal credit. I’m just someone who has applied myself and I want to help others get the money they need and have the right to receive. Ed, Bristol,  23/3/20

Before You Start

UC is a nasty system designed to make accessing help harder and less appealing than finding work. It is prescriptive, punitive and seeks to chisel away at your right to help by placing unnecessary barriers and complexity in your path. Under normal circumstances I would never recommend anyone to engage with it.

Last week my income went from low to zero. I live month to month. I have no money to pay rent in April. I was advised by my landlord, a housing association, to apply for universal credit.

UC is a small amount of money, £94 a week for a single person without children.

It replaces other benefits or tax credits you may already be getting.

If you already get working tax credit you may be better off staying on that system. 

Check out this calculator to get an idea of what you might be paid:

If you are living with a partner then you need to do a joint application: it will affect their benefits and their income will be taken into account.

If you are disabled and receive other benefits related to this you may not be eligible for UC. The first few questions in the process will determine if you are eligible for UC.

If you are self employed and are earning little or no money then UC is the benefit you are supposed to apply for.

Expect big delays. Your first payment will be at least 1 month from the date of your phone interview which may be a week away from your first application. This is under normal circumstances.

Phone waiting time: I spent 2 hours on hold to arrange my first phone appointment.

The minimum income floor is gone! Before COVID-19 self employed benefits were calculated on a presumed £16,000 self-employed figure after the first year but now this has been removed and you’ll be judged on the reality of your income.

It is likely that increased support for the self-employed will come from UC, so if you have no other benefits now UC is a good option.

If you get UC you stop getting Working Tax Credit.

If you are on WTC you might be better off staying there – there should be roughly a £80 a month increase to that.

UC and Housing Benefit are mutually exclusive, you can’t do both, UC replaces a whole load of benefits. This is the nasty bind that self-employed people are in – if you have money coming in, stick with current systems and watch for changes. Applying for UC is more for people who weren’t in the benefits system before.

The Application Process:

Click start button

This first section determines eligibility, answer truthfully to make sure you are eligible.

If you are eligible then create an account.

Select security questions, these are asked every time you log in or speak on the phone with someone so you need to write the answers down. Your password manager generally won’t record these and you will need them.

BIG FORK in the road – Joint finances if you live with a partner. If so they will need to create a UC account too and go through the process with you.

There are now 3 sections:


Home provides an overview and links to other aspects of UC such as applying for an advance once you are eligible.

Journal is a list of all the tasks you’ve completed and the place they send messages to you.

To Do List this is where we now do the rest of the application

TO DO List 

State your nationality, and if you have been out of the UK for the last two years it can’t be for any length of time – more than four weeks and you may not be eligible – this is all about denying access to the benefit if you are not of british nationality.

HOUSING – Do you have housing costs? Who do you rent from, day/month year you moved in and how much rent is. Landlord’s name, contact number, email address.

Do you live at the same address as your landlord? (This does make a difference)

Next questions check you are not paying yourself money or paying rent to family, you have to rent from someone non family. You have one bedroom. Is there anyone else on tenancy agreement (answer honestly) they want to know about the total amount of rent.

If you have a casual renting agreement, no formal/written tenancy then write a letter with the details of the arrangement and sign it yourself.

Council Tax – if your name is on the council tax bill you can apply for a reduction in your council tax. This is money your local council can choose not to collect, you will need to contact your council/local authority.

Have you applied? It will share your details with the council but you still need to contact them.

Having children affects your entitlement in a big way. Answer honestly.

Other people who live with you. If you live with a friend but they are a joint tenant then you don’t list them.

This is about determining who is part of your household that you have responsibility for.

Work and Earnings:

Are you Currently working? 

If you are self employed and seeking to continue working then yes you are still working. This counts even if your earnings just went to 0. You are not unemployed, just unpaid!

Are you getting any statutory sick pay from your employer – no if you are self employed.

DO you get maternity allowance currently?

Are you expecting earnings from any previous employment ? Yes, tell them how much or say, no, not expecting any – the amount of money you put in there will affect your entitlement to benefits for the initial payment.

In the next month are you going to be self employed? YES. If you want to stay self employed then answer yes. If you are giving up self employment then answer no. If you are no longer self employed you will be expected to find other work.

If you have more than 16k in savings you have to use that until you have less than that.

Income from other earnings. This is taken into account, if you have other earnings it will reduce your payments.

Training and education = If you are full time you will be ineligible. If you are part time and can work outside your studies you are eligible.

Health – Your health conditions – this can open up possibility of needing other benefits, if you answer yes they want to know what that condition is. This can be important if you are self isolating due to a health condition.

Nasty question – has Dr said you might have less than 6 months to live? No.

If you are literally dying you get money slightly faster.

Do any of your conditions affect your ability to look for work? Answer in relation to the current situation following NHS advice for your condition.

Are you Caring for someone?

If you answer yes there is more to follow – if your care responsibilities mean you can’t work you might not be able to get UC.

If not caring ‘no’ is more simple.

Bank account details – they pay into them fingers crossed.

Confirm details are correct

You see what you wrote and confirm each statement.

First Part Complete. Well done. Next…

Now that you have submitted everything there will be new options in the To Do List

One of the first things is to confirm your identity online. Go through the digidentity app and follow the instructions. 

Next step – the worst part – arrange your ‘in person appointment’ do this right away.

This will involve a loooooong time waiting on the phone. I spent 2 hours waiting.

These appointments are not in person they are by phone. 

The appointment is not in person, it’s on the phone. You have to call them to arrange a telephone call where they call you.

Lines open at 8am

Fill out your previous 12 months of earnings, be honest as whatever your income was each month. Do your accounts to be able to give an accurate figure.

Upload your CV.

Do ALL To Do list suggestions and check for extra stuff  in the Journal.


Well done, now you are through the first step. Wait for your phone call…

When they call you:

Make a note of the time, set an alarm, they may be delayed. You need to answer this call to progress your claim.

The call will just be used to confirm your identity.

The call will confirm the time of your next phone call. This is the commitment interview. I haven’t done this yet.

They are altering this whole process on the fly as it would usually involve in person meetings. 

Expect some inconsistency.

I will update this document as I go through the process. My next phone call with them will be on 25/03/20

Good Luck.

Buying Cryptocurrency in the UK

So you want to buy some Bitcoins, Dash or other cryptocurrency? Welcome to a wonderful world of workarounds and hurdle jumping. If you have verified yourself on an exchange then now you need to get some funds on there.

UK banks won’t give accounts to cryptocurrency exchanges.

This means most exchanges don’t have Great Britain Pound (GBP) markets. The ones that do have their GBP bank accounts in foreign countries, often Germany or Poland.

Because of this it is costly for anyone in the UK to send GBP to an exchange. I use because it is based in the UK and has Euro and GBP based markets. It has GBP and Euro bank accounts based in Germany.

If I try to send GBP from my account in the UK to the exchange’s GBP account in Germany these are the costs:

  1. Normal Current Account, Swift Transfer (£22 flat fee)
  2. Kraken (£10 receiving fee)

Cost: flat fee of £32

My current workflow is this:

  1. Normal Current Account, Bank Transfer (free)
  2. Transferwise (fee = roughly 0.5% or £5 per 1000)
  3. Euro Current Account, SEPA Transfer (£5 using online banking)
  4. Exchange (zero receiving fee with SEPA)

Cost: £5 + £5 per £1000 (so it is cheaper for amounts below £5400)

The Transferwise link above gives you a free £500 transfer from GBP to another currency, you can use it if you set up a Euro current account. I use Transferwise because UK banks will generally charge about £7 plus 3% on currency conversions = £37 per £1000 converted, instead i get a true mid-market rate and just pay a 0.5% fee.

In the UK Barclays and HSBC offer Euro current accounts, you will need to open a normal current account with them if you don’t already have one. This can be done online, but the Euro account will require you to visit a branch.

Allow 3 weeks to get Euro online banking set up and running if you don’t already bank with them.

I hope that is helpful, if you have any questions then contact me directly.

Dash, What’s That?

If email is a electronic mail then Dash is digital cash. One is a system for sending words over the internet and the other is a system for sending value over the internet.

Dash along with others, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin & Etherium, are forms of currency created and transferred between users using cryptography which is the art of writing and solving codes and lies behind the science of securing data.

These cryptocurrencies allow individuals to become their own bank and complete international transactions as well as pay for things in shops where merchants accept them.

Dash also has some interesting features including a system that allows instant payments and a democratically controlled budget that is spent each month on projects that benefit the Dash ecosystem.

On behalf of Circus City I applied to this budget system with a proposal to sponsor the 2017 festival.

I see such huge potential for the technology of Dash and straight away I felt there could be a beneficial collaboration between the decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) that is Dash and Circus City.

The circus world needs an independent international payment solution, a way for people to be their own bank and Dash is seeking real world adoption and integration.

Having explained the background a bit in the next post i’ll talk about the process of creating a proposal and engaging in a meaningful way.

Artists as Detritivores


The Great Chain of Being was an Elizabethan cosmology, with at the top:

God, then King, Nobility, Gentry, Peasantry, Animals, and finally the Land.

This view held that trouble at the top would by it’s very nature shake everything beneath which was suspended from it as links in a chain. King Lear can be read through this lens and we see eventually even the land is driven to madness during the storm on the heath.

There is something pleasantly  simplistic and attractive about hierarchy. No doubt because it implicitly benefits those at the top who in turn seek to define and sustain them.

In the city we might feel ourselves part of a kind of food chain: perched at the top, like magnificently wealthy eagles, sit the developers, then come tame councillors, below them landlords and at the bottom renters. The renters are the grass feeding all the levels above. In this chain you are most likely just food for someone already better off than you.

But the linear hierarchy is an artificial construct, a trick of discourse which defines out thinking, because we are really part of a cycle. In the traditional food chain we have primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers and tertiary consumers however there is one more layer which is simultaneously at the top and bottom of this chain, the link which makes it circular: detritivores, being creatures which eat detritus. Without something to eat the fresh corpse, the fallen branch or rotting fruit the world becomes choked with still unmoving death.

The city needs its detritivores too, the ones who will consume and re-use unwanted buildings and neglected spaces. This is the role of artists and squatters, making use of abandoned buildings, saving them from dereliction and re-purposing them. Living from them during that time when they are of no use to the rest of the chain.  Without them the city becomes a still and barren landscape of decay and disuse. With them there is the possibility of a speedy renewal and of course a continuation of  the cycle.