Universal Credit

Overview

You can apply for Universal Credit if you are on a low income or unemployed, the information below will help you determine if you are eligible to apply. The only way to claim Universal Credit is online, to start a claim, register here: https://www.universal-credit.service.gov.uk/postcode-checker. If you are using a public computer, you might want to open a new tab in a 'private browsing mode'.

You must have a registered email address to claim Universal Credit, if you do not have one and need help, please visit our web page 'Set up a Free Email Account'.

Our online guide ‘How to claim Universal Credit Online’ will help you work through the application stages.

Universal Credit is a payment paid monthly (or twice a month for some people in Scotland) to help with your living costs. If you are already in receipt of benefits Universal Credit will replace the following benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit

If you currently receive any of these benefits, you will not be able to claim Universal Credit at the same time. Universal Credit is currently being introduced in stages across the UK, but you will not need to do anything yourself until you receive contact from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about moving to Universal Credit.

Change of circumstancs

You will need to notify them yourself though if your circumstances change.

Severe disability premium

If you are receiving a severe disability premium or obtained the premium within the last month and still eligible, you are not entitled to claim Universal Credit. If you do have a change in your circumstances that affects the severe disability premium or your other benefits, you need to report the change and you will be advised about what you need to do next.

Eligibility

You may be eligible to receive Universal Credit if:

  • You receive a low income or you are out of work
  • You have turned 18 (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17, see below)
  • You or your partner is under the Pension Credit qualifying age
  • You and your partner have savings of £16,000 or under between you
  • You are resident in the UK

Your children

Your eligibility is not affected by how many children you have, but it may affect the amount you receive.

Your partner

Regardless of whether your partner is eligible for Universal Credit or not , their income and savings will be taken into account when determining your eligibility for Universal Credit.

16 and 17 year olds

If you are age 16 or 17 and any of the following criteria applies to you, you will be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit;

  • You have limited capability for work
  • You have medical evidence and you are currently waiting for a Work Capability Assessment
  • You are currently caring for a severely disabled person
  • You have responsibility for a child
  • You’re in a couple and have responsibility for a child and your partner is eligible for Universal Credit
  • You are pregnant and your expected delivery date is within the next 11 weeks
  • Within the last 15 weeks you have had a child
  • You have no parental support, you may be estranged from your parents and you are not under the care of the local authority either

Full-time education or training

A new claim for Universal Credit can be made if you are in full time education or training and any of the following apply:

  • Your partner is eligible for Universal Credit, and your partner lives with you
  • You have responsibility for a child, either as a single person or as a couple
  • You are a disabled person and have entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and you have limited capability for work
  • You are studying in ‘non-advanced education’ such as, A levels or a BTEC National Diploma, you are 21 or under and you do not have parental support

Pension Credit - the qualifying age

At the moment if you are of Pension Credit qualifying age, you will only be eligible to claim for Universal Credit if you are living with a partner who is eligible for Universal Credit and is under Pension Credit qualifying age. If this applies you will have to make a joint claim. Alternatively, you will be able to make a claim for Pension Credit as a couple instead. From 15 May 2019 most couples not already in receipt of Pension Credit will not be eligible for Pension Credit until both partners have reached the Pension Credit qualifying age.

How much you will get

Payments of Universal Credit are made up of a standard allowance, combined with any additional extras you are entitled to, such as; If you have children, if you have a disability or health condition which prevents you from working, or if you need help paying your rent.

The amount of Universal Credit you receive will be determined by your earnings. An assessment of your individual circumstances will be made every month and the amount you receive may change. The benefit cap may also limit the total amount of benefit you actually receive.

Standard allowance

A breakdown of the current figures are detailed as follows:

Your circumstances

Monthly standard allowance

Single and under 25

£251.77

Single and 25 or over

£317.82

In a couple and you’re both under 25

£395.20 (for you both)

In a couple and either of you are 25 or over

£498.89 (for you both)

Additional entitlement

If you are eligible for the additional entitlement, the following are amounts are in addition to the standard allowance:

If you are responsible for 1 or 2 children, you will receive an extra amount for each child.

If you are responsible for 3 or more children, you will receive an extra amount for at least 2 children. You can only get an extra amount for more children if any of the following apply:

  • your children were born before 6 April 2017
  • you were already claiming for 3 or more children before 6 April 2017
  • other exceptions apply

You’ll get an extra amount for any disabled or severely disabled child, regardless of how many children you have or when they were born.

How much you’ll get

Extra monthly amount

For your first child

Extra monthly amount: £277.08 (born before 6 April 2017)

Extra monthly amount: £231.67 (born on or after 6 April 2017)

For your second child and any other eligible children

Extra monthly amount: £231.67 per child

If you have a disabled or severely disabled child

Extra monthly amount: £126.11 or £392.08

If you need help with childcare costs

up to 85% of your costs (up to £646.35 for one child and £1,108.04 for 2 or more children)

You might get the extra amount if you start caring for another child, depending on when they were born and how many children you have.

If you are disabled or you have a health condition:

How much you’ll get

Extra monthly amount: £336.20

If you have limited capability for work and work-related activity

If you have limited capability for work and you started your health-related Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claim before 3 April 2017

Extra monthly amount: £126.11

If you care for a severely disabled person

How much you’ll get

Extra monthly amount: £160.20

You are providing care for at least 35 hours per week for a severely disabled person who receives a disability-related benefit

This amount will be on top of any extra amount you get if you have a disabled child.

Housing

How much help you receive for your housing costs will depend on your age and circumstances. A housing payment could cover rent and some service charges.

Homeowners might be eligible for a loan to help with interest payments on your mortgage or other loans specifically taken out for the home.

Universal Credit and earnings

If you’re employed, there is no limit to how many hours you can work, but your payments will reduce gradually as you earn more, for every £1 you earn your payment will be reduced by 63p.

The work allowance

If you or your partner are responsible for a child or young person, or you or your partner are living with a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work, you are entitled to earn a certain amount before your Universal Credit is reduced. This is known as your work allowance and will be reduced if you receive help with your housing costs.

Your circumstances

Monthly work allowance

You get help with housing costs

£287

You do not get help with housing costs

£503

Surplus earnings

If your monthly earnings exceed £2,500 over the amount where your payment stopped, you will have ‘surplus earnings’.

Surplus earnings will be carried forward to the following month, where they count towards your earnings. If your earnings (including your surplus earnings) are then still over the amount where your payment stops, you will not be eligible for a Universal Credit payment.

If your earnings fall below the amount where your payment stopped, the surplus will decrease. Once your surplus has gone, you will have entitlement to a Universal Credit payment again.It will be necessary to reclaim Universal Credit every month until your earnings have reduced enough to be eligible for another payment.

Further information can be obtained from your work coach and your personal statement in your online journal will show your work allowance and when your surplus has reduced.

You and your partner separate

If you separate from your partner (and you have a joint claim) , any surplus earnings will be divided equally between you. You will both have to make an individual claim and your individual part of the surplus earnings will count towards your earnings.

If you’re a victim of domestic abuse any surplus earnings from your partner will not be taken on by you. You can contact your work coach in this situation.

If you’re self-employed a loss, as well as any surplus will be carried over to the following month. Any loss will be deducted from your next month’s earnings.

Advance and hardship payments

If you need help to pay your bills or cover other costs while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can apply to get an advance.

The most you can get as an advance is the amount of your first estimated payment.

How to apply

You can apply for an advance payment in your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach.

You will need to:

  • explain why you need an advance
  • verify your identity (you do this online when you submit your Universal Credit claim or at your first Jobcentre Plus interview)
  • provide bank account details for the advance (talk to your work coach if you cannot open an account)

You’ll usually find out the same day if you can get an advance.

How you pay back your advance

You start paying it back out of your first payment.

You can choose how many months you pay the advance back over. You must pay it back within 12 months. You do not pay interest on it - the total amount you pay back is the same.

Hardship payment

You can ask for a hardship payment if you cannot pay for rent, heating, food or hygiene needs because you got a sanction. You’ll repay it through your Universal Credit payments - they will be lower until you pay it back.

You must be 18 or over.

You’ll have to show that you’ve tried to:

  • find the money from somewhere else
  • only spend money on essentials

Call the Universal Credit helpline to ask for a hardship payment:

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Welsh language: 0800 328 1744

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

How Universal Credit is paid

Universal Credit is paid once a month, normally direct into your bank, building society or credit union account. This will include your housing amount (if eligible) and you are responsible for paying this to your landlord.

If you’re not able to open a bank, building society or credit union account, contact the Universal Credit helpline to arrange an alternative method of receiving your payment.

Payment dates

You should receive your first payment after 5 weeks (the assessment period), if in the meantime you need help with your living costs, you can apply for an advance. You will then receive a monthly payment on the same date or on the next working day, if this falls on a weekend or bank holiday. You will also receive a monthly statement of the amount you will receive. In Scotland you can get paid once or twice a month.

Payment advance

You can apply for an advance whilst your waiting for your first payment to come though, this will only be up to the amount of your first estimated payment.

An application can be made via your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach. It will be necessary to:

  • Provide details as to why you need an advance
  • Verify your identity (either online when you submit your Universal Credit claim or at your first Jobcentre Plus interview)
  • Give details of your bank account (talk to your work coach if you cannot open an account)

A decision is normally made the same day. If you need further help contact the Universal Credit helpline.

Universal Credit helpline

T: 0800 328 5644

Welsh language: 0800 328 1744

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Find out about call charges

Paying back the advance

Repayments will be taken from your first payment, but you can choose how many months you will pay the advance back over (but within 12 months). You are not required to pay interest on the advance.

Your responsibilities

An agreement called a ‘Claimant Commitment’ will be drawn up with your work coach. The requirements of the agreement will depend on your situation. You might need to do activities such as: write a CV, search and apply for jobs, attend training courses. In addition you may need to pay your own rent and housing costs and you will be required to report any changes in your circumstances.

If you have made a joint claim with your partner, you’ll each have a Claimant Commitment and your own set of responsibilities.

If you are responsible for children

If you’re a single parent or you are the lead carer in a couple, your responsibilities will alter as your youngest child becomes older. See below:

Age of your youngest child

Your responsibilities

Under 1

You do not need to look for work

Aged 1

You do not need to look for work. You need to have interviews with your work coach to discuss plans for moving into work in the future

Aged 2

You do not need to look for work. You need to have regular interviews with your work coach and do work preparation activities (for example, writing your CV)

Aged 3 or 4

Work a maximum of 16 hours a week (or spend 16 hours a week looking for work)

Aged between 5 and 12

Work a maximum of 25 hours a week (or spend 25 hours a week looking for work)

13 or older

Work a maximum of 35 hours a week (or spend 35 hours a week looking for work)

Support with childcare costs

You have a responsibility to do the following if you receive support with childcare costs:

  • You must report your childcare costs when you pay them
  • You must prove you’ve paid your childcare provider

In addition you will need to provide proof of:

  • Childcare provider details for each child, for example an invoice or contract that includes the provider’s registration number and full contact details
  • The amount you paid the provider and when you paid for it, for example a receipt or bank statement

Providing evidence can be done using your online Universal Credit account. The childcare payment will be paid in your next Universal Credit payment.

If your childcare is paid for after it’s been provided, you are able to claim up to 3 months of past costs at any one time, however there may be a limit to how much you get back if you claim for more than one month’s fees at a time.

Breaching your claimant agreement

If you do not meet your responsibilities you will be sanctioned, meaning your payments may be reduced or stopped altogether.

If you apply jointly with a partner and only one of you breaches your responsibilities, you will receive a half sanction.

Help if your payment is stopped or reduced

If your payments have stopped or reduced you can ask for a hardship payment for help to pay for rent, heating, food or hygiene needs. This will be repaid through your Universal Credit payments which will be lower until you pay it back. You must be 18 or over and must evidence the following:

  • You have tried to find the money from somewhere else
  • You will only spend the money on essentials

Call the Universal Credit helpline to ask for a hardship payment.

Change in circumstances

It is essential to report changes to your circumstances straight away otherwise your claim might be stopped or reduced.

Changes in circumstances can include:

  • You have found or finished a job
  • You are having a child
  • You are moving in with your partner
  • You are caring for a child or disabled person
  • You will be moving to a new address
  • You are changing your bank details
  • Your rent is increasing or going down
  • You have changes to your health condition
  • You become too ill to work or meet your work coach
  • There are changes to your earnings (only if you’re self-employed)
  • You have been overpaid
  • You have a terminal illness (life expectancy less than 6 months)

You can report a change in circumstances by signing in to your Universal Credit account online.