Universal Credit - the details
Universal Credit (UC) is a new 'means-tested' benefit that is being introduced by the government.
Universal Credit is a 'top-up benefit' that you may be able to claim if you are of working age and do not have enough money to live on. Whether you can claim it depends your circumstances and where you live.
Universal Credit replaces these means-tested benefits:
- Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
This means that Universal Credit will eventually replace all means-tested benefits for people who are unemployed, working part time, working full time or unable to work because of illness or disability (temporary or permanent).
Universal Credit is not replacing all benefits
Not all benefits are being replaced by Universal Credit.
Other benefits such as Child Benefit, Carers Allowance and both Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance which are based upon your National Insurance contributions, will stay in place.
What happens to your claim if you get benefits now
If you're already getting one of the benefits that Universal Credit (UC) replaces, you'll stay on that benefit for the time being.
If you live in an area where the Universal Credit 'full service' area has started, you may be moved over to UC if you have a change in your circumstances which would require you to make a new claim for one of the benefits that UC is replacing. For more information, see 'Universal Credit - What is happening now and in the future' which is attached to this page.
However, if your circumstances remain the same, you may not be moved to UC until between July 2019 and March 2022. You'll get a letter about this.
Basic conditions for claiming Universal Credit
To claim Universal Credit, you need to meet the following conditions:
- your situation must fit the financial rules for Universal Credit (your income is low enough to qualify, and you must not have over £16,000 in savings)
- you must be in Great Britain (temporary absence will be permitted) - there are also rules relating to your 'right to reside' in the UK and 'habitual residence'
- you must usually not be 'receiving education'
- you must accept a 'claimant commitment' - the leaflet 'A short guide to Universal credit' attached to this page explains more about this.
How old you must be to claim Universal Credit
You must usually be 18 years old in order to claim. There are special rules for 16 to 17 year olds, who may be able to claim in certain circumstances. If you, or your partner, or both, are under 18, seek advice to make sure of your correct entitlements.
Pension credit age
Unless you have reached the age at which you can claim Pension Credit, you must claim Universal Credit. 'Pension Credit age' is the age at which you may claim Pension Credit. Universal Credit - a short guide' which is attached to this page, has more information.
Ill or disabled
If you're already claiming benefits due to illness or disability it's likely there won't be changes to your claim until between July 2019 and 2023 unless you report a change of circumstances.
If you are on Employment and Support Allowance and you are found fit for work and you disagree with this decision, seek advice from Derbyshire Welfare Rights, email: email@example.com or tel: 01629 531531.
UC is only replacing the income-related (means-tested) version of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It doesn't replace ESA based upon your National Insurance contributions or Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance.
How Universal Credit is worked out
Like the previous mean-tested benefits, Universal Credit is only payable if you don't have too much in savings and your income is below what the law says you need to live on. The attached factsheet 'How is Universal Credit worked out' has further information.
Recent changes in the rules mean that you may only be allowed a UC 'child element' for the first two children for whom you claim. No help may be given with third or subsequent children (born after April 2017). There are exceptions to this policy so get advice if this change affects you.
The majority of Universal Credit Claims will be managed online. The system is responsive to changing circumstances, so for instance, if a claimant does a week's work during the month, they will be able to add this information to their 'account' and their benefits will be adjusted accordingly. This is to make it easier for claimants to take on extra hours, or take a short term job without having to worry about losing their benefits or making a new claim due to change of circumstances.
Housing costs and Council Tax support
When you start to claim Universal Credit any payments for housing costs will be included. You'll not need to a make a separate Housing Benefit claim, it will all be calculated together. You can claim whether you are a social or private housing tenant.
Rent costs will usually not be paid direct to your landlord. You will be expected to manage the payments yourself. Seek advice if this arrangement would cause you difficulty. 'Universal Credit - a short guide' which is attached to his page has more information. You may also find information on waiting for a Universal Credit claim to be processed useful.
It may be possible to get mortgage interest help on secured loans under £200,000 if you claim Universal Credit. However, this is help with interest only. From April 2018 mortgage help will be in the form of an interest bearing loan − you can find out more on the welfare benefits news page or seek advice.
When you claim Universal Credit, you'll no longer need to claim Housing Benefit, but you do need to make a separate claim for help with your Council Tax bill. Contact your local borough or district council to do this.
Conditionality and sanctions
In order to get Universal Credit, you'll have to agree to certain 'conditions' or 'work-related requirements' and make a 'claimant commitment'.
Sanctions are reductions in your Universal Credit imposed by Jobcentre Plus if you don't comply with the conditions. You can find out more about this on the in the attached factsheet − a short guide to universal credit.
Universal Credit - childcare element
We have more information about claiming the childcare element of Universal Credit.
More information about Universal Credit
The attached factsheet 'A short guide to universal credit' also includes information about:
- rules on savings
- rules on income
- making a claim
- keeping a claim up-to-date
- waiting for a payment and backdating
- what do if you disagree with a Universal Credit decision
You will also find other factsheets attached to this page which cover other aspects of Universal Credit.
We have more support and advice on Universal Credit if you can't find the information you're looking for.
The following documents are in Portable Document Format (PDF). You can download software to view PDF documents for free from the Adobe website (opens in a new window)
- A short guide to Universal Credit (88KB)
- Help with health costs on Universal Credit (237KB)
- How is Universal Credit worked out (61KB)
- I have claimed Universal Credit - what can I do until I'm paid it (40KB)
- Universal Credit Full Service - what this means for your benefit claim (62KB)
- Universal Credit claimant commitment (55KB)
- Universal Credit sanctions and hardship payments (57KB)
- Universal Credit - What is happening now and in the future (78KB)
- Universal Credit - What if I am ill or disabled (116KB)
- Universal Credit - Managing your money (64KB)