Universal credit is a new benefit that will eventually replace certain benefits including jobseeker's allowance, housing benefit and tax credits.
What universal credit is
Universal credit is a new benefit for people of working age who need help with living and housing costs.
It's intended to replace the following benefits:
- housing benefit
- jobseekers allowance (income-based)
- employment and support allowance (income-related)
- income support
- child and working tax credits
If you're already claiming these benefits
You'll probably be transferred onto universal credit at some point between 2019 and 2022. Jobcentre Plus will tell you when this is going to happen.
Who can claim universal credit
You can claim universal credit if you:
- need help with living and housing costs
- live in an area where the full digital service has been introduced
- aren't already claiming a benefit which UC will replace
You must be of working age but it doesn't matter if you're in work or not working.
Who can't claim
You can't claim universal credit if you:
- have £16,000 or more in savings
- are excluded from benefits because of your immigration status
Currently you can't make a new claim for universal credit if you have 3 or more children - it's expected that families in this situation will be able to claim from November 2018.
You can't usually claim if you're under 18 or a student but there are exceptions if you:
- have a child or caring responsibilities
- are disabled
- can't live with your parents
Use Shelter's directory to find a benefits adviser if you're unsure whether to claim.
Where universal credit is available
Universal credit is being rolled out in stages.
From January 2018 you can only make a new claim for universal credit if you live in an area where the full digital service has been introduced.
If the full service is not yet available in your area but you're already getting universal credit then this will continue.
How to claim universal credit
You have to make an online claim for universal credit. It should take 20 to 40 minutes.
You'll need the following information to apply:
- your email address and bank details
- national insurance number and proof of identity
- household income and savings
- rent, mortgage and childcare costs
Call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 if you need help.
Appointment at Jobcentre Plus
You usually have to make an appointment at your local Jobcentre Plus within 7 days of making an online claim. You must attend the appointment to complete your claim.
When universal credit is paid
Universal credit is paid monthly in arrears. You should receive your payment on the same date each month.
You usually have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first payment. You can ask for a universal credit advance if you're struggling to buy food or pay rent while you wait.
Help with rent under universal credit
Your universal credit payment can include help with housing costs. You don't need to make a separate claim for this.
Universal credit is paid directly to you each month. It is usually your responsibility to budget and pay the full rent to your landlord.
Jobcentre Plus can sometimes pay your housing costs element direct to your landlord instead if you have rent arrears or need support to budget.
Get advice if you're struggling to pay your rent.
Help with your mortgage
Universal credit can help with mortgage interest payments if you're not in paid work. This is sometimes called support for mortgage interest (SMI).
From 6 April 2018, SMI is only offered as a loan. You have to repay the amount you receive plus interest when you die or sell your home.
If you accept an SMI loan, Jobcentre Plus makes payments direct to your mortgage lender.
The monthly payment won't usually cover your full mortgage amount because it:
- doesn't include any money towards capital repayments
- uses a set interest rate - currently 2.61% - rather than your actual interest rate
You can't get SMI for the first 9 months after you claim universal credit. Your SMI payments stop if you do any paid work.
Find out how to deal with mortgage arrears.
Benefit cap under universal credit
The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits that some working age households can receive.
If you're affected, your monthly universal credit payment is reduced to the cap level.
Benefit cap if you live in a London borough
These limits apply:
- £1916 per month for couples or families with dependent children
- £1284 per month for single people without children
Benefit cap outside London
These limits apply if you don't live in a London borough:
- £1666 per month for a couple or family with dependent children
- £1116 per month for a single person without children
If you're working
You won't be affected by the benefit cap if you work and have monthly take-home pay of at least £520.
If you earn this for at least 12 months but then lose your job or reduce your hours the benefit cap won't apply for a 9-month 'grace period'.
If you claim disability or carers' benefits
You're exempt from the benefit cap if you claim certain disability or carers' benefits including DLA, PIP or carer's allowance.
Last updated 12 Feb 2018 | © Shelter
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