What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit was introduced in October 2013 to replace six existing benefits. Multiple single-benefit payments have been packaged into one monthly payment from the government.
What benefits does Universal Credit replace?
The six benefits Universal Credit is designed to replace are:
- Housing Benefit (DSS) - helps pay your rent if you are unemployed
- Child Tax Credit - supporting families with children in addition to child benefit
- Income Support - extra money to help you cover costs if you are on a low income
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - money if you can't work due to illness or disability
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) - helping you when you are looking for work
- Working Tax Credit - money to help boost your income if you are on low income
If your circumstances change, for instance if you find a job, move location, have a child or get divorced you should let the DWP know.
Who is eligible for Universal Credit?
Many people are unsure whether they can claim Universal Credit. The answer to this is that you're likely to get Universal Credit if you're on a lower income, or if you don't have a job.
The easiest way to find out if you could be eligible for Universal Credit is to use the Government eligibility checker.
If you don't qualify - don't worry, you may well be eligible for other benefits. Try using a benefits calculator to see what you could be getting.
If your wife or husband is working, that doesn't necessarily mean you won't be eligible, but your partner's income and any family savings will be taken into account.
What you will get on Universal Credit
The payment you can receive is made up of two components - a standard allowance and added extras. The amount in each component is dependant on your specific circumstances.
Your standard allowance depends on a combination of your age and marital status.
For example, a single person over 25 can receive £409.89 a month whereas a couple over 25 could receive £594.04 (for both).
Your added extras will depend on different circumstances. For instance, you may get more if you:
- have children
- have a disability or health condition which stops you working
- need help paying your rent
If you're eligible for top up amounts, you can get £281.25 a month extra for a first child born before 6 April 2017 or £235.83 for a first child born on or after that date.
Someone who can't work because of their health can get up to £341.92 extra per month.
If your circumstances change, the amount you receive is likely to change too. Make sure you update the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) straight away if something changes.
How is Universal Credit paid?
Universal Credit is paid monthly, except in Scotland where some people get two payments a month, dependent on whether you live in a 'full service area' which can be determined through the Citizens Advice Eligibility checker.
The money is usually paid into your building society, bank or credit union. Some extra payments won't come directly to you, for instance help with housing costs may be paid directly to your landlord.
Universal Credit payments
Unfortunately, Universal Credit payments don't kick in straight away, there can be up to a five-week delay while your claim is assessed.
There are advances available if you can't afford your living costs where you can apply through your online account or through your JobCentre Plus work coach.
Universal Credit Contact Numbers
If you need any help, you can call the Universal Credit helpline on -
- Telephone: 0800 328 5644
- Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
- Textphone: 0800 328 1344
After the initial assessment date you should receive a monthly payment on the same day each month, but may arrive earlier if pay dates fall on a weekend or a bank holiday.
How do I apply for Universal Credit?
You can apply for Universal Credit online here and if you live with your partner, you'll have to apply as a couple.
Sometimes you also need to have an appointment with a JobCentre Plus work coach, but you'll be told if you need to do so. The JobCentre Plus work coach may ask you to write a CV, look and apply for jobs or go on training courses. Make sure you turn up, or you might not get paid.
Make sure you have all the right information to hand before you apply. You’ll need:
- your bank, building society or credit union account details
- an email address
- your National Insurance number
- proof of your housing costs
- payslips to show how much you earn
- information about all your savings and investments
- childcare cost details
Check all your details carefully, entering the wrong information could delay your payments or mean you're paid the wrong amount.
You'll also need proof of identity. This could be a:
- driving licence
- debit or credit card
If you think you are eligible or you would like to apply, you can start the application process here.
Talk to us
Whatever your situation, our team will be able to help. Just get in touch and we'll talk through your options to find the best route forward for you.