Please be aware that the rules governing entitlement to benefits including Universal Credit are complex and subject to frequent change.
Universal Credit (UC) is a new, means tested benefit for people of working age. It replaces the following benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
These benefits have become known as ‘legacy benefits’.
Other benefits that are not means-tested continue to be paid separately to Universal Credit such as Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Carer's Allowance. Child Benefit also continues to be paid separately.
Benefits based on National Insurance contributions, such as contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and contributory Employment and Support Allowance are not being replaced and work alongside Universal Credit.
Benefits for those over the state pension age, such as the state pension and Pension Credit, are also not being replaced. Neither is Council Tax Reduction/Support so you should check to see if you can claim it in addition to Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is a benefit for both single people and couples on a low income to provide financial support for living costs. It can be paid to people in or out of work.
You can claim if you are:
- Aged 18 or over (although there are exceptions for some 16 or 17 year olds)
- Are under the qualifying age for Pension Credit. If you are in a couple and only one of you is over Pension Credit age, then you will have to claim Universal Credit.
- Are in Great Britain
- Are not in education
Accept a ‘claimant commitment’. This is a contract between you and the Department of Work & Pensions and may include requirements about what you will do to look for work or increase the number of hours you work.
When calculating how much Universal Credit people will get a basic rate called the ‘standard allowance’ is included and extra amounts for people in different circumstances are paid on top. For example, additional amounts are paid if you have children, you or they are disabled or you need help with housing costs.
In most cases, claims for Universal Credit must be made online at www.gov.uk/universalcredit
Trade Unions, together with welfare rights and disability rights organisations, have expressed serious concern about this requirement as not everyone has access to the internet or is able to use a computer to claim or manage their claim online.
In practice, the DWP says that people in these circumstances will be helped to make a claim online via the telephone service, or possibly at a local office or via a home visit. The Universal credit helpline number is 0800 328 5644 (Textphone: 0800 328 1344) Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays).
- If you live in England and Wales
Your award is assessed over an assessment period of one calendar, beginning from the date of your claim. Universal Credit should normally be paid directly into your account within seven days of the last day of the monthly assessment period.
If you find monthly payments difficult to budget for, or having payment of Universal Credit housing costs for rent paid directly to you rather than your landlord is leading to serious arrears, it may be possible to be paid more frequently through ‘alternative payment arrangements’.
See Problems with Universal Credit
for more information.
You have the option of twice-monthly payments instead of once a month. You can also ask for the housing costs element to be paid directly to your landlord instead of you.
- If you live in Northern Ireland
Things are slightly different in Northern Ireland as, unlike the rest of the UK, unless you ask to be paid your Universal Credit monthly you will get two payments a month instead of one.
Help with your housing costs is also slightly different as your rent will usually be paid directly to your landlord instead of to you.
Many working families, single parents and disabled workers will be worse off:
Coming on top of a decade of cuts, caps and freezes to working age benefits many people who are currently eligible for Tax Credits will be worse off under Universal Credit (UC). However if you are already in receipt of Tax Credits then your claim should not be affected by Universal Credit unless you have a relevant change in circumstances which include a partner leaving or joining the household or where one or both partners stops work.
A single direct payment:
Universal Credit is paid as a single monthly payment, directly into the bank account of the claimant. If you are in a couple you can decide who should receive the payment. Payments can be split between couples or the DWP can decide that the other partner should be paid. If Housing Benefit used to be paid to your landlord, it will now be paid to you, for you to pay your rent to your landlord yourself.
You cannot get any help with your mortgage payments if you (or your partner) have any earned income, no matter how low your earnings are. This is very much a change for the worse as previously people in work on low incomes were able to receive some help towards their mortgage interest payments via Income Support
No minimum hours of work:
there are no minimum hours of work to claim Universal Credit, (as opposed to the Tax Credits system), however you are expected to try to earn at least the equivalent of 35 hours a week at the minimum wage (unless you are the primary carer for a child aged under 5, a disabled worker or a carer).
Payments based on monthly income:
employers report all earnings directly to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs where your Universal Credit (UC) will be calculated, based on your household’s wages in the previous month. If your income varies each month, your next UC payment will increase if your earnings drop, or reduce if your wages increase.