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What is Universal Credit?
When will I
be expected to claim Universal Credit?
How do I make a
claim for Universal Credit
Universal Credit will I get?
Will I be worse off on Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age. It
is paid both to people who are out of work and to those in
employment. It is replacing most of the current means-tested
benefits for people of working age, with a single payment made by
the Department for Work and Pensions.
benefits is Universal Credit replacing?
These are known as the 'legacy benefits'.
Other benefits such as Carer's Allowance, Disability Living
Allowance, Child Benefit and Council Tax Reductions continue to
exist as separate benefits.
You normally need to be at least 18 to claim Universal Credit
but special rules allow some 16 and 17 year olds to claim,
including many disabled 16 and 17 year olds.
People aged over pension credit age cannot normally claim
Universal Credit and must claim Pension Credit instead. If you are
a couple where one partner is of pension credit age and the other
is of working age you can currently get Pension Credit. However
this will change on 15 May 2019 when mixed age couples who make a
new claim will have to apply for Universal Credit
Universal Credit has replaced new claims for means-tested
benefits in all parts of the UK. This means that if you try to make
a new claim for one of the legacy benefits that Universal Credit is
replacing, you will be told that this legacy benefit no longer
exists for new claimants. You will also be told that you have the
option of claiming Universal Credit instead.
It is up to you whether you claim Universal Credit or not.
However if you do decide to make a claim it will also replace any
legacy benefits you are already getting.
If someone in a full service area already gets income-related
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Jobseeker's Allowance
(JSA) but makes a new claim for contributory ESA/JSA, their income
related ESA/JSA award will be abolished and a claim for Universal
Credit may be needed instead.
Disabled adults who have been getting a payment known as the
severe disability premium as part of their legacy benefit are
exempt from Universal Credit and are still allowed to make new
claims for the old legacy benefits. If you are unsure whether or
not you currently get the severe disability premium, check your
benefit award letters or call our free helpline for advice.
Common reasons families end up on Universal Credit
If your circumstances change so that you try to make a new claim
for a legacy benefit, you will be told that benefit no longer
exists for new claimants. You will be told that you can claim
Universal Credit instead. For example:
Some people can be left worse off after claiming Universal
Credit so it is always worth getting advice before making a
Only new claims for the means-tested legacy benefits are
affected by the introduction of Universal Credit. It will still be
possible to make new claims for other non-means-tested benefits and
for a council tax reduction.
Making a new claim for Disability Living Allowance, Personal
Independence Payment or Carer's Allowance will not lead to any
expectation that you claim Universal Credit. Neither will notifying
the tax credits office that you have been awarded DLA for your
child. This is because this will be treated as a review of an
existing tax credit claim and not as a new claim.
Universal Credit rollout to existing benefits
For the time being, existing claimants who do not try to make a
new claim for one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing
will not be affected.
However, between July 2019 and the end of 2023 the government
intends to invite all existing claimants of means-tested benefits
and tax credits to claim Universal Credit. They have called this
process 'managed migration' onto Universal Credit. Initially only a
small sample of around 10,000 claimants will be migrated between
July 2019 and summer 2020. This process will start in the Harrogate
jobcentre area in North Yorkshire. However, larger numbers are
expected to be moved onto Universal Credit from the summer of
Warning- Unless you are a disabled adult who is
exempt, there is nothing preventing you from opting to move from
your existing means-tested benefits onto Universal Credit. However,
this may not be a good idea as many families with a disabled child
will be worse off under Universal Credit and once you claim
Universal Credit you cannot move back onto your old legacy
benefits. You can check your likely entitlement to Universal Credit
benefit calculator on our website.
In most cases you need to make a claim for Universal Credit
online. In order to do this you will first need to set up an online
account via the www.gov.uk
website. If you are unable to claim online you may be able to claim
by phone instead via the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328
Once you have lodged a claim you will normally also have to
attend an interview in person.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) won't normally write
or phone you about your Universal Credit claim. Instead they will
send you messages via your online account, so you will need to
check this regularly to see if there is anything they have asked
you to do or any information that they have asked you to
Listen to an adviser from our helpline explain how you make a
claim for Universal Credit.
The claimant commitment
In order to be paid Universal Credit you will need to sign a
'claimant commitment' - this is an agreement between Jobcentre Plus
and you, setting out what steps you need to take in order to be
paid Universal Credit.
Some groups of claimants will need to look for work in order to
be paid. Others, including many - but not all - full-time carers
will be exempt from having to meet any work-related
Listen to an adviser from our helpline explain more about the
Getting paid Universal Credit
Universal Credit is normally paid monthly in arrears, although
if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you should have the
option of receiving twice monthly payments instead. You receive one
payment per household.
There is usually a wait of at least six weeks before you will
get your first payment. If this delay causes you hardship you can
ask for a 'short
term benefit advance'. This is a discretionary loan that needs
to be repaid to the DWP from your future payments.
If you are renting a property then any help you get with rent
will normally be paid to you rather than your landlord. This means
that you will have to pass on part of your Universal Credit
payments to your landlord to avoid falling into rent arrears. If
you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you can arrange to have
rent payments made directly to your landlord instead.
In England and Wales it is only possible to get more frequent
payments, split payments or payments direct to your landlord in
Universal Credit is a means tested benefit. This means that the
amount that you get will depend on what other income and savings
that you have. It also depends on your individual family
The calculation starts with a 'maximum amount' of Universal
Credit you would get depending on factors such as your family size,
caring responsibilities, housing costs and childcare costs.
The amount of Universal Credit you will receive is reduced
depending on what other income you have coming in.
You can check your likely entitlement to Universal Credit
using the benefit calculator on our
Child disability addition for families with a disabled
As part of the maximum amount calculation, a child disability
addition is included for each dependent child in your family who
Living Allowance (DLA) (or Personal
Independence Payment (PIP))
This is paid at one of two rates. The higher rate of £86.34 will
be awarded for a child who:
All other children on DLA or PIP will qualify for the lower rate
of the addition. This will only be £29.10 per week.
If your child is awarded DLA or PIP, or has an existing award
increased to the highest rate DLA care component or the enhanced
daily living component of PIP, make sure you tell Universal Credit
as quickly as you can.
You can get an idea of how much Universal Credit you will
qualify for by using the benefits calculator on our
website. However please remember that this figure will replace
any legacy benefits you already receive such as tax credits or
Contact is worried that many families with a disabled child will
be worse off under Universal Credit. This is particularly likely if
you are an out of work family with a disabled child who does not
qualify for the higher disability addition.
This is because the lower rate of the child disability addition
is set at £29.10 per week. Given that the equivalent additional
payment under the existing benefits system is £64.19 per week, this
represents a cut of £35.09 per week or just over £1,800 per year.
Since the child disability addition is paid for each disabled
child, those families with two children on the lower addition could
lose twice this amount.
You can find out more about this issue and the other reasons why
some families with disabled children could be worse off under
Universal Credit in our briefing -
Universal Credit and Disabled Children.
Won't families be transitionally protected to make sure they won't
lose out under Universal Credit?
The government has said that it will transitionally protect some
existing claimants. However, this will only apply to existing
claimants with no changes in their circumstances who are moved onto
Universal Credit by the government as part of 'managed migration'
between 2019-2023. These families will be able to receive top-up
payments to ensure they are no worse off under Universal
However, if you are someone who has to claim Universal Credit
because you have had a change of circumstances and tried to claim
one of the legacy benefits, you will not get any transitional
protection. The only exception to this is some disabled adults who
have already been moved onto Universal Credit and who previously
qualified for a payment known as the severe disability premium.
Phone our free
helpline for more details if you think this applies to
This means that most families claiming Universal Credit between
now and July 2019 will not be transitionally protected.
Even if you are someone who receives transitional protection you
are still likely to be worse off over time as transitional
protection payments will not be uprated with inflation. Some
changes in circumstances will also reduce the amount of
transitional protection you will receive.