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1) What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit will replace the following benefits:
• Jobseeker’s Allowance
This is money people get if they do not have a job, but are looking for work.
• Working Tax Credit
This is money that people get if they have a job and work more than 16 hours a week but they are on a low wage.
• Income Support
This is money people may get if they do not have a job or they work less than 16 hours a week. The money they have coming in also has to be less than the government says that they need to live on.
• Housing Benefit
This is money that that people both in and out of work get to help them to rent a home.
• Child Tax Credit
This is money that is paid to people who have at least 1 child or 1 young person living with them.
• Employment and Support Allowance
This is money people get if cannot work because they are disabled or ill.
Any other benefits not listed you can apply for as usual.
Once you’ve claimed Universal Credit, any benefits that it replaces will stop.
You will then start getting Universal Credit instead.
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages:
• The national roll out of Universal Credit began in May 2016.
• The government is aiming to finish the roll out by December 2018.
• After the rollout process is finished, all remaining existing benefit claimants will be moved to the Universal Credit full service starting in 2019.
To find out if you are in one of the groups or live in an area that has moved on to Universal Credit go to:
If you are not in one of those groups or do not live in one of those areas, then you should apply for benefits as you would normally.
Universal Credit is paid directly to you once a month in arrears.
(This means it is paid a month behind – for example you would get February’s payment in March.)
If you are on housing benefit your rent will be paid to you not to your landlord. You will need to arrange to pay your landlord out of the benefit money you receive.
In a small number of cases Alternative Payment Arrangements can be put in place where a single monthly payment made to the claimant could cause problems.
There is more information about Alternative Payment Arrangements here:
2) What you’ll get
The amount of Universal Credit you’ll get depends on your circumstances and your income.
It can include support:
- for housing.
- for children and childcare.
- if you’re disabled or have a health condition
- if you care for somebody who is disabled
You must pay your rent directly to your landlord if you get Universal Credit to help you with housing.
The Benefit cap
There is a cap on the total amount of benefits, including Universal Credit, that you can claim:
If you live in Greater London, the cap is:
- £442.31 per week (£23,000 a year) if you’re in a couple, whether your children live with you or not.
- £442.31 per week (£23,000 a year) if you’re single and your children live with you.
- £296.35 per week (£15,410 a year) if you’re single and you don’t have children, or your children don’t live with you.
The cap is less if you live outside of London. For more information go to:
You can use the benefit cap calculator to find out how much your benefit might be capped.
The benefit cap will not apply to you if you, your partner or dependent child are getting certain benefits.
This includes attendance allowance, disability living allowance (DLA) or personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance.
In certain situations where you have been working the benefit cap will also not apply.
For more information about the Benefit cap please see:
Work while you claimUniversal Credit
There are no limits to the number of hours you can work a week if you get Universal Credit.
Your payment will reduce gradually as you earn more.
You won’t lose all your benefits at once if you’re on a low income.
How you’ll be paid
Universal Credit is paid differently from current benefits. It’ll be paid once a month, usually into your bank, building society or credit union account.
If you live with your partner and you both claim Universal Credit you’ll get a single payment that covers you both.
There is a waiting period of 7 days from submitting your claim before your Universal Credit will start.
This may apply if you’re out of work and claim Universal Credit, unless you:
• were claiming Universal Credit as a couple and are now claiming by yourself.
• were claiming Universal Credit by yourself and are now claiming as a couple.
• claimed Universal Credit within the last 6 months but left because you earned too much to continue claiming.
• are terminally ill.
• have been the victim of domestic violence within the last 6 months.
• are a carer.
• are 16 or 17 years old and have no parental support.
• have left prison in the last month.
• were entitled to certain benefits.
(see below for details of getting the whole list)
Contact the Money Advice Service to get the full list and help budgeting and planning for Universal Credit:
3) Claimant Commitment
You’ll have to accept a ‘Claimant Commitment’if you want to get Universal Credit.
This is an agreement that you’ll complete certain tasks known as ‘work-related requirements’ in order to claim Universal Credit.
What you agree to do will depend on things such as your health, your responsibilities at home and how much help you need to get work or increase your income.
You are likely to face sanctions (where your benefits are reduced) if you fail to do what was agreed in your work-related requirement.
Limited hardship payments may be available if you are sanctioned.
The work-related requirements could include:
- attending interviews with work coaches
- doing a set amount of job search activity
- being available to go to interviews and start work.
In certain circumstances none of the work-related requirements will apply to you.
This will be the case if you:
• have been assessed in the work capability assessment as having a ‘limited capability for work and work-related activity’.
• are responsible for a child under the age of one.
• have regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person.
4) How to claim
You might also need to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus. You’ll be told if you need to after you apply.
Before claiming online contact the helpline if:
• you have any questions
• your circumstances change and you’re already getting Universal Credit
Universal Credit helpline
The helpline is open Monday- Friday 8am – 6pm.
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
The call is charged at the standard local call charge rate from BT landlines. Call charges from mobiles and other networks may vary. If a call ends suddenly, it is up to you to call back. For more information about call charges go to: www.gov.uk/call-charges
Online applications must be completed in one session. You will not be able to save your information and come back to it later.
If your information is lost you will have to start again from the beginning.
The information you have input will be lost if you haven’t pressed a key or mouse button or entered anything in 20 minutes. You will get a warning message 5 mins before this happens.
Make sure you have the following information before you start:
• your postcode
• your National Insurance number
• your rent agreement (if you have one)
• details of the bank, building society or credit union account you want Universal Credit paid into
• details of your savings or other money
• details of any income that’s not from work, for example from an insurance plan
• details of any other benefits that you are getting
• details of any children, including their Child Benefit numbers
• You might also need these details for people who live in your home. For example your partner.
The Department for Work and Pensions say it should take 20 to 40 minutes to complete your claim on-line. In reality this is not true for everyone and some people may need support.
If you don’t have the support you need you can call the helpline. If you do this you will need the same information as for the online application.
If you’re successful, you’ll usually get your first payment 1 month and 14 days after you made your claim.
5) Universal Credit Interview
You’ll need to go to an interview at a Jobcentre to finish your application – this is sometimes called a “work search interview” or “claimant commitment interview”.
The interview will be with a member of staff who will become your “work coach” while you are getting Universal Credit. You will have to meet your work coach regularly and show them what you are doing to find work.
Within a few days of submitting your application, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you to arrange the interview. This could be by phone call, text, email or letter depending on what you said when making your application about how you prefer to be contacted.
If you miss your interview, your application will be cancelled and you’ll have to start again.
If you chose to be contacted by a phone call: make sure your phone is on during the day and you don’t miss the call.
- Your application might be cancelled if you miss the call more than once.
- The call might come up as an ‘unknown’ number.
There is more information about Universal Credit interviews and preparing for them on the Citizens Advice Bureau website: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/interview/prepare-for-your-interview/
6) Advance payments
You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you’re waiting for your first payment.
If you don’t get an advance payment you won’t get any money until at least 5 or 6 weeks after you apply for Universal Credit.
You should ask for an advance payment if you don’t think you’ll have enough money to live on between when you apply and when you’ll get your first payment.
The DWP should ask you if you need an advance payment at your Universal Credit interview. You’ll need to say how much money you need and give a breakdown of what it’s for.
The advance payment is a loan – you’ll have to pay it back, but you won’t need to pay any interest. The repayments will be automatically deducted from your Universal Credit payments until the advance is fully paid back. This will take several months, and you’ll get less money until then.
For more information about advance payments go to:
7) Universal Credit and other benefits
Housing Benefit and paying your rent
Universal Credit may include money towards your housing costs.
You’ll have to arrange with your landlord to start paying your own rent, if you don’t do this already.
Find out details of your rent from your landlord, for example:
• how much the rent is and how you need to pay it
• if you need to pay any service charges or bills, for example for gas, electricity and water.
If you think you’ll have problems managing your rent, talk to your landlord or work coach.
You’ll be told by HM Revenue and Customs that you need to end your tax credits claim.
You may have to pay back some tax credits if you have paid too much to HMRC – it won’t be automatically taken from your Universal Credit payment.