Universal Credit – All you need to know

Written by Jools Smith

1 February 2018

Whether you are already receiving Universal Credit, or will be moved onto the new benefit soon, here is a quick guide to all you need to know about Universal Credit.

It is intended to be simpler than the current benefits system; however there have been many people worried about how it will affect their day to day lives. 

Will it affect you?

Your circumstances and where you live will determine whether you can claim Universal Credit. If you’re already on benefits, it will replace the following:

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

Can you apply?

Universal Credit is being introduced gradually across the UK, with some places already using it.

If you’re out of work or are on a low income you may be able to claim Universal Credit. However, you don’t need to do anything until the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contact you, unless your circumstances change.

How can you apply?

Firstly, you need to find out if you live in a ‘full service’ area. To find out more on this follow click here

You can only apply for Universal Credit online. Once you’ve applied you must contact your local Jobcentre Plus within 7 days to make an appointment with a work coach. If you don’t attend this appointment you will not get Universal Credit.

If you have claimed Universal Credit before you will usually need to make a new claim online. Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344 if you don’t have an online account and they can tell you if you are able to make another claim.  

What do you need to apply?

It is important to know exactly what you will need before you apply as it could affect how much you get and when you get it. You will need:

  • Your bank, building society or credit union account details
  • An email address
  • Your National Insurance number
  • Housing information (how much rent you pay for example)
  • Your income details (payslips etc.)
  • Details of savings or investments
  • Childcare costs if applying for help with childcare

You will also be asked to verify your identity online with some proof of identity:

  • Driving licence
  • Passport
  • Debit or credit card

What can you get?

Universal Credit is a standard allowance paid to you each month. Your circumstances will be assessed every month and what you are paid may change from month to month.

Your standard allowance will also include any extra amounts which apply to you. This could be if you have children, you have a disability or health condition, or you need help paying your rent. All of these will be considered when determining your monthly allowance.

The monthly standard allowance, before any personal extras are added, looks like this:

  • Single & under 25 – £251.77
  • Single & 25 or over – £317.82
  • In a couple & both under 25 – £395.20 (for you both)
  • In a couple & either of you are 25 or over – £498.89 (for you both)

For how much extra you could receive depending on your circumstances click here

There are no limits to how many hours you can work while applying for Universal Credit, however your payment will be reduced the more you earn. For every £1 you earn your payment reduces by 63p.

If you’re self employed the rules will be different for you, click here for more information. 

How will you be paid?

Your Universal Credit payment will be paid into your bank, building society or credit union account once a month.

For a new claim, it usually takes 5 to 6 weeks to be assessed and for your payment to arrive. If you think you will struggle to wait this long you can apply for an advance on your first payment. However, you will have to pay this advance back through your Universal Credit payments over the following 12 months. This means you will get less each month until the advance is paid back.  

You will receive a monthly statement telling you how much Universal Credit you are going to get. After you receive your first payment, you will be paid on the same date every month.

What else will affect your Universal Credit?

As mentioned earlier, being employed will affect how much you will receive. However, there are other forms of income that can be deducted from your total Universal Credit amount, called unearned income.

Types of unearned income include:

  • Pension income
  • Statutory sick pay
  • Statutory maternity, paternity or adoption pay.
  • Some benefits that aren’t replaced by Universal Credit.

Good news! Not all unearned income will be taken off your Universal Credit. These include

  • Child benefit
  • Maintenance payments
  • Disability living allowance
  • Personal independence payment
  • Income from boarders or lodgers

Finally, any savings you have might affect how much Universal Credit you’ll get.

Find out more

  • Find out how much you could get click here
  • Start your Universal Credit claim here
  • Find out if you live in a ‘full service’ area click here
  • If you’re self employed  click here
  • If you need help with your claim, call the Universal Credit helpline free on: 0800 328 9344
  • Welsh language: 0800 012 1888 (make a claim)
  • or 0800 328 1744 (report changes)
  • 8am – 6pm, Monday to Friday.
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