What is Universal Credit?

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age who need financial support. It is designed to top up your income to a minimum level.

It is being introduced in stages and the government aims to have it fully rolled out by 2025 – so you may not need to claim it yet.

If you already claim one of the six benefits that will be eventually be replaced by Universal Credit, you will continue to do so for now.

At the moment you will only need to claim Universal Credit if you have a change in your circumstances that would normally mean you would be looking to make a new claim for one of the these (or have been sent a ‘migration notice’).

Key Principles

The key principles of Universal Credit are:

  • It is a means tested benefit so whether you will receive any, and how much you get, will depend on our personal circumstances, your income and any savings you have.
  • It does not matter whether you work or not, or how many hours you work.
  • It is claimed online, and you maintain your claim online.
  • It is a monthly benefit – which means it reassessed and paid as a lump sum every month into your bank account.
  • The amount you receive usually includes support for your rent – so you will responsible for paying this yourself.
  • Universal Credit claimants have a claimant commitment – this outlines what they have to do in exchange for receiving it.

What it’s replacing

The benefits Universal Credit is replacing are:

The benefits Universal Credit is replacing are…….

These are sometimes referred to as the ‘legacy benefits’.

All other benefits remain to be claimed and paid as normal.

If you are getting one or more of these benefits you do not need to do anything now.

Find out when you will need to claim – click here.

IMPORTANT: Universal Credit does not help to pay your Council Tax bill. You must claim Council Tax Support directly from your local Council.
Universal Credit is very different to the current system of benefits – so it is worth finding out about how it will affect you so you can start thinking about what you may need to do to prepare for it.

How can i prepare for UC?

You will need an email address
You will need to have an email address to be able to claim UC. If you do not have one - set one up. Get help if you will find this difficult.
You will need to go online
UC is claimed and managed online. So you will need access to the internet and basic computer skills. If you do not have these - find out where help is available.
You will need to verify your identity
The DWP will want to verify your identity - this is easier with photo ID. Start to gather documents such as your passport, driving licence, birth certificate, marriage certificate, benefits letter, NI card, P45 etc.
Managing a Monthly Budget
Universal Credit is paid monthly and in arrears. If you are used to working out your budget weekly or fortnightly, think about how you will manage your money for a whole month.
Do you have a bank account?
The DWP would prefer to pay your UC into a bank or credit union account. If you don't have one - start thinking now about which account is best for you and get advice.
Paying your rent
On UC you will normally be responsible for paying your rent. As soon as you are told you need to claim UC - contact us

Frequently Asked Questions

I am working age and my partner is Pension Credit age – will we need to claim Universal Credit?

If you are making a new claim for benefit and one member of a couple is over Pension Credit age and the other one is under, it is still possible to claim Pension Credit instead of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.

Pension Credit is usually more generous than Universal Credit. There can be a big difference between the amount of benefit you would receive through Pension Credit and Housing Benefit compared with how much Universal Credit you would be entitled to receive.

So if you are a mixed age couple not already claiming Pension Credit seek advice about whether you can claim, or what changes in your circumstances may mean you could claim. 

When I claim Universal Credit does this include a claim for help with my Council Tax too, like the Housing Benefit form does?

No! Although the online claim asks if you are intending to claim Council Tax Support – you must make a claim separately, from your local council.

I work and get Working Tax Credit – what do these changes mean to me?

Certain changes in your circumstances, such as finishing work or taking on a new partner may mean you have to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. But if you do not have a change in circumstances which means you need to claim Universal Credit you may not need to move onto Universal Credit until at least 2019.

But if you want to move onto Universal Credit you can do so – you do not need to wait until a change in your circumstances means you have to (unless you have 3 or more children). So, you could get advice to check if you would be better off on Universal Credit – but seek advice before making any decisions!

Universal Credit will be paid to you on a monthly basis and as your earnings change the amount of Universal Credit will also change, so you may get paid different amounts every month. This means you will have to think ahead to manage your bills and rent.

If you are getting help with child care costs these can continue to be supported through Universal Credit, although only child care that you have paid to enable you to work will be considered (ie not child care for a day you do not normally work).