What to do about universal credit deductions for debt

Your options if you're struggling because your universal credit is being reduced to repay debts.

Getting deductions changed

If universal credit deductions for debts are leaving you with little to live on, it may be possible for them to be made at a lower rate.

Speak to a benefits adviser from Citizens Advice if you need more help.

Negotiate with your work coach

Try discussing the deductions with your work coach at Jobcentre Plus or an adviser on the universal credit helpline.

Call 0800 328 5644 Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm

Showing you can clear the debt yourself may mean the deductions are stopped.

You should also explain if the reduced amount is making things hard for you, for example if you’re struggling to:

  • buy food
  • look after your children

Universal credit is supposed to help you manage your money, so the deductions could be altered if they’re causing you to struggle.

If you’re repaying rent arrears

Get advice from Shelter if you’re in rent arrears

Anything between 10% and 20% of your standard allowance can be taken to help repay rent arrears.

If a higher rate is used to work out the deduction, ask your work coach or an adviser to drop it.

Example – if your £317 standard allowance is being reduced by 20% for rent arrears, you’ll be left with £253. Getting this dropped to the lowest possible rate of 10% will give you £32 more a month.

Make sure the right amount is being deducted

Debts other than rent arrears and court fines should be repaid at 5% of your standard allowance. Only 3 deductions should be made at a time.

The total amount taken from your universal credit award every month shouldn’t normally be more than 30% of your standard allowance.

Work out how much your benefits are being reduced by – and check how many deductions are being made. Tell your work coach or an adviser if it’s more than the rules allow.

You can also find out more about how deductions are made.

Sometimes more than 30% of your standard allowance can be taken for debts if it’s thought to be in your best interests. For example, if deductions for rent arrears will help you keep your home. Tell your work coach or ring the universal credit helpline if the higher deduction isn’t working.

Get your universal credit paid differently

Universal credit is normally paid straight to you every month. If you’re struggling and you’ve got a good reason, you can ask your work coach or an adviser for it in a different way.

For example:

  • getting the housing part of your universal credit paid straight to your landlord could help you keep your home if you’re in rent arrears
  • more frequent payments can help you to manage your money more easily

Make a complaint

You can complain about deductions from your universal credit. This could help you get the decision reconsidered.

Find out how to make your complaint.

Last updated 04 Dec 2019 | © Shelter

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