Universal Credit (UC) is now available in all Jobcentres within the UK. More and more people are being asked to claim it, or transfer over to it from other previous benefits.
As it’s a new scheme and may cause confusion, we’ve put together a list of questions and answers that you might find useful. If you’re still in doubt by the end of the article, call London Advice Centre to book a consultation.
What is Universal Credit?
It’s a single benefit available to those of working age. It can be claimed alone or as a couple (meaning one payment for the both of you). You may be eligible if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work. UC has replaced several benefits including:
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax credit
- Working Tax Credit
What’s different about Universal Credit? (For England and Wales)
The biggest difference is that you can claim and receive UC is you’re working or unemployed. UC has combined a lot of previous individual benefits meaning its open to all.
UC is paid monthly to one account (even if you apply as a couple) in a single payment. Previously, most benefits have been paid weekly or fortnightly. The sum will go towards your living costs, housing costs and childcare (if you have children). This also means that you will pay your rent directly to your landlord, instead of your housing benefit being paid directly over to them.
What about Scotland and Northern Ireland?
UC is mostly the same for these countries however the payments are managed differently.
In Scotland you can ask for 2 monthly payment (instead of just one) and pay your landlord directly.
In Northern Ireland, you will automatically receive two monthly payments. You can ask for them to be just one (both options) and your landlord can be paid directly.
How does it work?
Universal Credit is made up of ‘standard allowance’ and an extra which you may be eligible for on top of that. You may be able to receive these extra payments if:
- You care for one or more children. If you have 1 or 2 children you will receive an extra amount per child, however there is a 2-child cap. If you have 3 or more children, you can now only get an extra sum if you’re children were born before 6th April 2017 or were already claiming before this date.
- Work and pay for childcare
- Are disabled or have a health condition
- Care for a disabled person (including having a disabled child). If your child is disabled or severely disabled, you’re entitled to an extra amount no matter how many children you have. If you provide at least 35 hours of care for a disable or severely disable person weekly you’ll be entitled to an extra payment (on top of the amount if you have a disabled child).
- You need help with housing costs. Your UC payment can be changed to help with the costs of renting however you are responsible for paying the rent each month, even if you’re living in social housing. However, if you have debt, or are struggling with money you can ask the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) to pay it directly to your landlord.
Your UC will always change as your job and earning do; if you’re job ends (for any reason) or you have a pay decrease, your UC will increase you help you cover those costs. As you start earning more, your UC will decrease gradually. As long as you keep you UC account up-to-date with your most relevant, honest information, your benefits will reflect this.
Can I still receive other benefits whilst on Universal Credit?
For some benefits, yes. Council Tax Reductions are a good example as they are monitored through your local council so are separate entirely. If you’re disabled you can still apply for PIP (personal Independence Payment) or if you’re caring for someone, who is you could be eligible for DLA (Disabled Living Allowance). None of these will affect your Universal Credit allowance, however if you need further advice on which benefits you are eligible for, please contact London Advice Centre or another reputable advice centre for professional advice and guidance.
Depending on your National Insurance contributions you may also be able to claim ‘new style’ JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) if you’re unemployed or ‘new style’ ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) if you can’t work due to illness or disability. However, these might reduce your UC Claim so it may be worthwhile asking a trained consultant.
Please note: this post was written in line with guidance at the time of publishing. For the most up-to-date guidelines please refer to gov.uk