What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit (UC) is a benefit for people aged between 18 and pension credit age including people who are carers, parents, people in work, people looking for work and people who cannot work due to their condition or disability. Some 16 and 17 year olds are able to apply for Universal Credit. It is a means tested benefit for people who have a low income or no income and whose savings are below £16,000. Find out if you are eligible for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is replacing six other benefits. Carers Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Child Disability Living Allowance and Child Benefit are not affected.

When will I be affected?

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages to different ‘jobcentre areas’ on different dates. Find your local jobcentre, then see if it's on the list of jobcentre areas where you can claim Universal Credit. Find out more about the roll-out timetable.

How will Universal Credit affect me?

UC is replacing several different benefits and is a very complex benefit, so it will affect different people in different ways. We have tried to answer some of the most common questions below.

Will I get the same amount of money as I would have done from existing benefits?

Some people will get more, some the same and some less. Existing claimants who are moved over to Universal Credit even though their circumstances haven't changed will get Transitional Protection. This is an extra 'transitional' amount which tops up your Universal Credit award so that you are not worse off when you move onto Universal Credit. Transitional Protection does not apply to new claimants, or those moved onto Universal Credit from other benefits after a change in circumstances.

Is UC paid in the same way as existing benefits?

No. Universal Credit will be paid monthly in a single payment.  This will include all allowances for living costs for you and your children, childcare costs, housing costs, and extra payments if, for example, you are unable to work due to illness or disability or are caring for someone. If you live with your partner, all of the Universal Credit is paid to one member of the couple. Most new claimants have a seven day “waiting period” after you claim before your entitlement starts.  As UC is paid monthly in arrears you will have to wait at least five weeks before you receive your first payment.  You may be able to claim a short term advance if this will cause you hardship.

Because it is one payment for the month you will be responsible for budgeting and making sure you pay all bills (including rent or mortgage).

I currently get one of the existing benefits. Will I get UC?

In most cases, yes.  However some of the qualifying criteria are different so not everyone who receives existing benefits will qualify for UC.

I currently get one of the existing benefits. When will I have to claim UC?

If your circumstances do not change you will not be transferred onto UC until 2018 – 2022. If you live in a full UC area and have certain changes of circumstances you will have to transfer onto UC. Examples of changes that would prompt a transfer onto UC include: starting or stopping living with a partner, starting or stopping full time work and starting to pay rent.

Examples

Amy is 21. She has just finished University and is living with her parents and is looking for a job. She lives in a Universal Credit area and is claiming benefits for the first time. Amy claims UC as a jobseeker.

 

Brian is 45. Universal Credit has not yet been introduced into his area. He has separated from his partner and is now living alone and is not able to work due to his difficulties. He can claim old style benefits which, in his case, are Income Related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit. He will eventually have to claim UC, which will be after 2018 if his circumstances don’t change before then.

John is 20. He lives in a full Universal Credit area. He gets Personal Independence Payment and attends a residential school. His parents were claiming Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit for him but entitlement to these benefits ended when he turned 20. John has to claim Universal Credit. His PIP is unaffected.

Sandra is 35. She lives in a full Universal Credit area. Sandra works part time and is a lone parent with a 10 year old autistic daughter and for whom she claims Disability Living Allowance. She also claims Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. Sandra has to stop work due to her caring responsibilities. Sandra’s Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit entitlements end and she now has to claim Universal Credit. She can also claim Carers Allowance alongside the Universal Credit. The Child Disability Living Allowance entitlement continues as it is unaffected by UC.

Anita is 50, she lives in a full Universal Credit area. She has an autistic adult son who lives locally, she is his full time carer. Anita has been claiming Carers Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit. Her son has his disability benefit reassessed due to the introduction of Personal Independence Payment, and he is found not to qualify any more. Anita loses her entitlement to Carers Allowance, Income Support and Housing benefit and has to claim Universal Credit instead.

Colin is 30, he lives in a full Universal Credit area. Colin claims Income Related ESA and Housing Benefit. Colin’s partner Jack moves in with him. Jack has been claiming Income Related Jobseekers Allowance. Colin’s Income Related ESA and Housing benefit and Jack’s Jobseekers Allowance claims will all end and they have to make a couple claim for Universal Credit instead.

More information

Universal Credit (gov.uk)

Universal Credit (Citizens Advice)