What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It is paid monthly and you may be able to get it if you are on a low income or out of work.
Eligibility depends on where you live and your circumstances.
Universal Credit is a complicated benefit that changes as your life circumstances change.
If you already get benefits
Universal Credit will replace the following benefits:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit.
If you currently receive any of these benefits, then you cannot claim Universal Credit at the same time.
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages across the UK. You do not need to do anything until you hear from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about moving to Universal Credit, unless you have a change in circumstances.
Severe disability premium
You cannot claim Universal Credit if you either:
If you have a change of circumstances that affects the severe disability premium or your other benefits, you need to report it and you’ll be told what to do next.
Are you eligible?
You can make a new Universal Credit claim only if you live in a ‘full service area’. The Citizens Advice eligibility checker allows you to see which rules apply to you.
You may be able to get Universal Credit if:
- you are on a low income or out of work
- you are 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 or 17)
- you or your partner are under State Pension Credit qualifying age
- you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you
- you live in the UK.
If you live with your partner
If you live with your partner, their income and savings will be taken into account, even if they are not eligible for Universal Credit.
If you’re 16 or 17
You can make a new Universal Credit claim if any of the following apply:
- You have limited capability for work or you have medical evidence and are waiting for a Work Capability Assessment
- You’re caring for a severely disabled person
- You’re responsible for a child
- You’re in a couple with responsibility for at least one child and your partner is eligible for Universal Credit
- You’re pregnant and it’s 11 weeks or less before your expected week of childbirth
- You’ve had a child in the last 15 weeks
- You do not have parental support, for example you’re estranged from your parents and you’re not under local authority care.
If you’re in training or studying full time
You can make a new Universal Credit claim if any of the following apply:
- You live with your partner and they’re eligible for Universal Credit
- You’re responsible for a child, either as a single person or as a couple
- You’re disabled and entitled to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and have limited capability for work
- You’re in ‘non-advanced education’ (e.g. studying for A levels or a BTEC National Diploma), are 21 or under and do not have parental support.
If you’ve reached Pension Credit qualifying age
You can only claim if you live with a partner who is eligible for Universal Credit and under Pension Credit qualifying age.
If you prefer, you can make a claim for Pension Credit as a couple instead.
Universal Credit payments
Your Universal Credit payment is made up of a standard allowance and any extra amounts that apply to you, for example if you:
- have children
- have a disability or health condition that prevents you from working
- need help paying your rent.
How much Universal Credit you get will depend on your earnings.
Your circumstances are assessed every month and what you’re paid may change.
The benefit cap may limit the total amount of benefit you receive.
- If you’re single and under 25, the monthly standard allowance is £265.31.
- If you’re single and 25 or over, the monthly standard allowance is £334.91.
- If you’re in a couple and you’re both under 25, the monthly standard allowance is £416.45 for you both.
- If you’re in a couple and either of you is 25 or over, the monthly standard allowance is £525.72 for you both.
You may get more money on top of your standard allowance if you are eligible.
- If you have one or two children, you’ll get an extra amount for each child.
- If you have three or more children, you’ll get an extra amount for at least two children.
You can only get an extra amount for more children if:
- your children were born before 6 April 2017
- you were already claiming for three or more children before 6 April 2017
Other exceptions apply.
You’ll get an extra amount for any disabled or severely disabled child – no matter how many children you have or when they were born.
- For your first child, you may get £290 if they were born before 6 April 2017 or £244.58 if they were born on or after 6 April 2017.
- For your second child and any other eligible children, you may get £244.58 per child.
- If you have a disabled or severely disabled child, you may get £132.89 or £414.88.
- If you need help with childcare costs, you may get up to 85% of your costs (up to £646.35 for one child and £1,108.04 for two or more children).
You might get the extra amount if you start caring for another child, depending on where they were born and how many children you have.
You cannot claim Universal Credit if you have more than three children and you’ve not claimed in the last six months. You will have to apply for Child Tax Credit instead.
If you have a health condition or disability
- If you have limited capability for work and work-related activity, you may get an extra £354.28 each month.
- If you have limited capability for work and you started your health-related Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claim before 3 April 2017, you may get an extra £132.89 each month.
If you care for a severely disabled person
If you provide care for at least 35 hours a week for a severely disabled person who receives a disability-related benefit, you may get an extra £168.81 each month. This is on top of any extra amount you get if you have a disabled child.
You could get money to help pay your housing costs. How much you get depends on your age and circumstances.
Other support you could get
If you receive Universal Credit you may also be able to get other financial support depending on your circumstances and where you live.
How your earnings affect your payment
If you’re employed, how much Universal Credit you get will depend on your earnings. Your Universal Credit payment will reduce gradually as you earn more – for every £1 you earn your payment reduces by 63p.
There’s no limit to how many hours you can work.
Use a benefits calculator to see how increasing your hours or starting a new job could affect what you get.
The work allowance
You can earn a certain amount before your Universal Credit is reduced if you or your partner are either:
- responsible for a child or young person, or
- living with a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work.
This is called a ‘work allowance’. Your work allowance is lower if you get help with housing costs.
- If you get help with housing costs your monthly work allowance will be £198.
- If you do not get help with housing costs your monthly work allowance will be £409.
If your payment stops because your earnings increased
As your income increases, your payment will reduce until you’re earning enough to no longer claim Universal Credit. Your payment will then be stopped. You’ll be told when this happens.
If your earnings decrease after this and you want to restart your Universal Credit payment, you’ll need to make a new Universal Credit claim online. You can do this by signing into your account.
If you do not have an online account, call the Universal Credit helpline. A helpline adviser will tell you if you can claim again.
If your monthly earnings are more than £2,500 over the amount where your payment stopped, this becomes ‘surplus earnings’.
Your surplus earnings will be carried forward to the following month, where they count towards your earnings. If your earnings (including your surplus earnings) are then still over the amount where your payment stops, you will not get a Universal Credit payment.
If your earnings fall below the amount where your payment stopped, your surplus will decrease. Once your surplus has gone, you’ll be able to get a Universal Credit payment again.
You’ll need to reclaim Universal Credit every month until your earnings have reduced enough to get another payment.
You can talk to your work personnel for more information about surplus earnings.
If you have an online journal, the statement will show your work allowance and when the surplus reduces.
If you separate from your partner
If you’re part of a couple that claims Universal Credit together, any surplus earnings will be divided equally between you if you separate. You will then need to reapply individually, with your part of the surplus earnings counting towards your earnings.
If you’re a victim of domestic abuse you do not take on any surplus earnings from your partner. Talk to your work coach to make sure your partner’s surplus earnings are not divided between you.
If you’re self-employed
You can carry over a loss or a surplus to the following month. A loss will be deducted from your next month’s earnings.
How you’re paid
Universal Credit is paid once a month, usually into your bank or building society account. Call the Universal Credit helpline if you’re not able to open a bank or building society account and an alternative way of getting paid may be arranged.
It usually takes around five weeks to get your first payment. If you need help with your living costs while you wait for your first payment, you can apply for an advance.
If you live in Scotland
In a Universal Credit ‘full service’ area you can get paid once or twice a month.
If you’re making a new claim, you’ll get a notification about how often you want to be paid.
If you’re already getting Universal Credit and have not had a notification, you can ask your work coach to be paid twice a month.
When you’re paid twice a month your first payment will be for a full month. You’ll get the first half of your second month’s payment a month after this and the second half will be paid 15 days later.
If you live with a partner
If you both claim Universal Credit, you’ll get one payment each month for your household.
If you live in a ‘full service’ area in Scotland and you’ve chosen to be paid twice monthly, you’ll receive two payments each month for your household.
If you’re employed and get paid more than once a month
How often your employer pays you can affect your Universal Credit.
If you’re paid once a month on the same date and nothing changes in your earnings, then your Universal Credit amount should stay the same.
If you’re paid weekly, every two weeks or every four weeks, you’ll receive more than one set of wages during some assessment periods.
This means your earnings might be too high for Universal Credit. You’ll be told if they are and whether you’ll need to reapply to continue to get Universal Credit.
If you have a disability or illness that affects your work
You may need a Work Capability Assessment to see how your disability or health condition affects your ability to work.
Depending on the outcome of your assessment you may be eligible for an extra amount on top of your standard allowance.
If you’re terminally ill, you may get extra money for Universal Credit.
If you’re making a new claim, you can declare this during your application. If you’ve already made a claim, you’ll need to report this as a change of circumstances.
How to claim
You need to apply for Universal Credit online.
You have to apply as a couple if you and your partner live together.
You might also need to phone the Universal Credit helpline to book an interview with a work coach. You’ll be told if you need to do this after you apply.
You will not get Universal Credit if you do not attend the appointment.
What you need to apply
- your bank or building society account details
- an email address
- your National Insurance number
- information about your housing, such as how much rent you pay
- details of your income
- details of savings and any investments, such as 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.
If you do not provide the correct information when you apply it might affect when you get paid or how much you get.
You also have to verify your identity online by providing some proof of identity, such as your:
- driving licence
- debit or credit card.
If you disagree with a decision
You can challenge a decision about your claim. This is called asking for mandatory reconsideration.
You’ll make an agreement called a ‘Claimant Commitment’ with your work coach.
What you need to do depends on your situation. You might need to do activities such as
- write a CV
- look and apply for jobs
- go on training courses.
You’ll also need to do things such as
- pay your own rent and other housing costs
- report any changes in your circumstances
If you’re claiming with your partner, you’ll each have a Claimant Commitment and set of responsibilities.
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Posted August 2022.