Universal Credit is a benefit payment to help with your living costs which replaces six benefits.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit replaces six benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (Income based)
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
If you already claim any of these benefits then don’t worry, you’ll carry on getting your current benefits as normal. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will get in touch with you if anything changes.
But if something happens in your life that affects your benefits, like starting a new job or having a baby, you might need to apply for Universal Credit.
If you’re already claiming Universal Credit, any housing costs you're entitled to should already be included in your Universal Credit payment.
Moving to Universal Credit?
If you're being invited to move to Universal Credit then this guide is packed with useful information to put your mind at rest.
Keeping your rent up to date
It’s important to keep up with your rent payments so you don’t miss any payments and fall into arrears. It might be a good idea to pay a bit extra where you can to build up credit on your account. If you’re worried about paying your rent, let us know as soon as possible.
Get help from our financial support team
Our advisors are trained to give free, one to one support, if you're worried about money. If you're struggling to pay your rent, looking for benefits support or help with budgeting then give us a call. They can even help you find free clothing and interview coaching.
Universal Credit FAQs
Am I entitled to Universal Credit?
You might be entitled to Universal Credit if you’re unemployed or on a low income. To qualify, you must:
- Be over the age of 18 (16-17 year olds can claim in some circumstances)
- Be under the state pension age
- Not have savings over £16,000
- Not be in education (in some circumstances students are able to claim)To check your eligibility, try our free benefit calculator.
If you’re a student then ask for a referral to our financial inclusion team by calling our customer service centre
Remember you should also check if there’s any additional elements of Universal Credit that you’re eligible for.
I live in Scotland, are there any differences?
Yes, the Universal Credit Scottish choices give people living in Scotland the option of:
- Being paid Universal Credit twice a month rather than monthly
- Having their Universal Credit housing element being paid directly to their landlords
How do I claim Universal Credit?
If you’re entitled to claim Universal Credit, you need to make your claim Universal Credit online on the government’s website.
If you and your partner are making a joint claim, you’ll both need to make a claim and then link these claims together using a code that the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) send to you at the end of the application process.
Your claim won’t start until you’ve completed your online form. If you’re worried about using a computer to make your claim or need help with your application, please ask for support straight away. The sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll get your first payment.
Many Jobcentre Plus branches now offer extra support for anyone struggling to claim online and they can also help you get all the paperwork you will need. If there’s a specific reason why you can’t claim online (for example, a sight impairment or you’re unable to read) you might be able to make a non-digital claim.
Who can help me claim for Universal Credit?
How can I prepare for Universal Credit
It can take up to five weeks for your first payment to come through so it’s important to make your claim as quickly as you can. For example, if you can, try to make a claim on your first day of unemployment - that way there’ll be no backdated claims.
To make a claim you’ll need:
- Access to the internet - you’ll need to apply for Universal Credit online, so have a think about how you can get on the internet. If you don’t have a computer at home, you might be able to use one for free at your local library, Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice.
- A bank account - you’ll need a bank account for your money to be paid into. If you need to open one there’s lots of helpful info on how to open a bank account online.
- An email address - if you don’t have an email address you can sign up for a free account online, for example at google mail or yahoo mail.
- Information about your housing, for example how much rent you pay
- Details of your income, for example payslips
- Details of savings and any investments, like shares or a property that you rent out
- Details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs
You also have to verify your identity online. You’ll need some proof of identity for this, for example your:
- Driving license
- Debit or credit card
If you can’t verify your identity online the government’s Universal Credit team can phone you to help you verify your identity.
Where can I find budgeting advice?
Universal Credit is paid once a month so it’s really important you budget to make your money last. The best way to do this is by planning ahead and working out a budget you can stick to. You can do this by using our free online budgeting tool.
If you need support with budgeting our financial inclusion team can help, just speak to our customer service centre on 0345 141 4663 and ask for a referral.
What's a Budgeting Advance?
If you’re claiming Universal Credit and still struggling to make ends meet, you might be able to get some extra help towards your bills with a Budgeting Advance.
A Budgeting Advance is extra money on top of your Universal Credit payment to help you pay for certain essentials, such as an emergency household or funeral costs.
To qualify, you must have been getting one or more of these benefits for at least six months:
- Universal Credit
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit
The smallest Budgeting Advance you can get is £100 and the most is £812, if you have children.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to pay back what you borrow and the repayments will be taken from your Universal Credit. If you stop getting Universal Credit, you’ll need to pay the money back in another way.
There are also other ways you can get help paying for emergency costs. For more info please contact us, Citizens Advice, Turn to Us or ask your local authority if they have any support available, such as a freecycle or community school clothing scheme in your area.
My Universal Credit hasn't been paid. What do I need to do?
If your Universal Credit changes or stops, you should get a letter or a notification when you log on to your Universal Credit online claimant journal. This can happen for lots of reasons, for example a change in circumstances like moving house or a pay rise at work.
If your Universal Credit hasn’t been paid and you haven’t received a letter or online notification, please call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 or contact them using your online account.
How can I appeal a Universal Credit decision?
If you’re not happy with a decision about Universal Credit, you can ask for it to be changed.
A new decision might be made if:
- You’ve been paid the wrong amount
- Your payments have been cut when they shouldn’t have
- You’ve been wrongly refused Universal Credit
Remember to act quickly though - if you want to appeal, you’ll need to do it within one month of the decision date.
To challenge the decision (also known as a mandatory reconsideration) you’ll need to either write a message in your Universal Credit online claimant journal, complete a CRMR1 form, call the number on the decision letter or write a letter to the address on the decision letter.
If this is your first claim for Universal Credit, the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service might be able to help you with this, or you can contact our dedicated financial inclusion team for support by calling 0345 141 4663 and asking for a referral.
How can I report changes to my Universal Credit?
Had a baby? Got a new job? Moved house? Finally got that pay rise? Sometimes things change in life. If you’re claiming Universal Credit and your circumstances change, you’ll need to let the Department for Work and Pensions know.
This is to make sure you keep getting paid the right amount each month. You could get more or less money than you do now, but not reporting a change will count as fraud and you could get in a lot of trouble. You’d also need to pay the money back and any underpayments won’t be backdated, unless in extreme circumstances. So it’s really important that you report any changes straight away.
You can report a change by logging on to your Universal Credit online claimant journal. For more advice on reporting changes that affect your benefits, visit the government’s Universal Credit website.
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Make a spending plan
Create your own personal spending plan with our easy-to-use budget planner.
Our benefits calculator will help you find out what benefits you can claim.
Talk to our financial inclusion team
Our team are trained to give free, one to one support, if you're worried about money. If you're struggling to pay your rent, looking for benefits support or help with budgeting then give us a call. They can even help you find free clothing and interview coaching.