What’s different?

TIP: If you’re currently getting Tax Credits and are going to make a new claim for Universal Credit then understanding what’s different will help you ensure your claim is a success.
NOTE: If you have capital/savings of £16,000 or more, and are not claiming UC because you have received a managed migration notice, then you will not be entitled to Universal Credit and if you make a claim any Tax Credits you are currently receiving will stop and you may not be able to get back on them!

What’s different about UC?

Universal Credit works differently from the benefits it is replacing and it’s important to know the differences.

The biggest differences are:

  • You will usually need to make and maintain your claim online.
    See How do I claim? for more information.
  • It doesn’t matter whether you are in work or not – it’s there to top up your income and help you pay your essential bills.
    See How much overview for more information.
  • It’s a monthly benefit, so you’ll usually get a single payment each month, rather than several payments weekly or fortnightly.
    See Understanding Assessment Periods for more information.
  • Instead of getting Housing Benefit paid directly to your landlord, help with your rent will usually be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment (as a Housing Costs Element).
    See Help with your rent for more information.
  • You will have to agree a claimant commitment in order to claim it – and whenever your work coach changes the terms of your commitment – otherwise your claim / award will stop.
    See What is the Claimant Commitment for more information.
  • If you are in employment you will not need to provide details of your earnings, the DWP will be sent your wage information from HMRC.
    See How does Universal Credit work for workers? for more information.
  • If you are self-employed you will need to provide details of your income and expenses every month. You will receive a ‘to-do’ on your UC account to do this.
    See What if I am self-employed? for more information.
  • The Benefit Cap reduces the whole of your Universal Credit award and so you can lose more benefit than you could with Housing Benefit.
    See The Benefit Cap for more information.

Helena has been getting Income-Based Jobseekers (paid fortnightly) and Housing Benefit (which is paid directly to her landlord). She becomes unfit for work and so is advised to claim Universal Credit. She has to make this claim online and regularly login to her account. Her Universal Credit payments are paid monthly and include the help she is entitled to towards her rent – which she now has to pay herself.

Otto works and has been getting Housing Benefit to help him pay his rent. His Housing Benefit is paid directly to his landlord and he pays the shortfall himself. He has a zero hour contract and so his hours and wages vary all the time. He does his best to keep the HB Office informed but it can take them a while to catch up and he is forever either being under or overpaid. His Housing Officer explains that he would be better off on Universal Credit and so he makes a claim. He is surprised to find that he doesn’t need to keep the DWP informed of his wages – they pick this up automatically from HMRC. His Universal Credit payments do change every month, and he now has to pay his full rent himself, but he does feel more in control.

NOTE: If you are going to struggle to make and maintain an online Universal Credit claim you can ask for your claim to be managed offline – you would make and manage the claim over the phone and receive letters.

IMPORTANT: If you are currently affected by the Benefit Cap and receive just 50p a week in Housing Benefit you could be worse off on Universal Credit. So if you are told to claim UC get advice first!