Claiming universal credit

Universal credit is a new benefit that will eventually replace benefits including jobseeker's allowance, income support and housing benefit.

What is universal credit?

Universal credit is a new benefit for people of working age.

It will eventually replace a number of other benefits that people claim when out of work or when working and living on a low income.

You can claim universal credit whether you are working or out of work. Your claim continues if you move in and out of work as long as your income and savings don't go above certain limits.

Benefits universal credit replaces

Universal credit will replace these benefits:

  • housing benefit
  • income support (IS)
  • income-based jobseekers allowance (JSA)
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • child tax credit
  • working tax credit

Many other benefits will continue to exist.

Find out more from Gov.uk about benefits you may be entitled to.

Who can claim universal credit

Universal credit is being introduced in stages.

In some areas only single people without children can apply. In other areas, couples or people with children can also apply.

Check whether you can claim universal credit in your area

Who can't claim universal credit

You can't normally claim universal credit if you are:

  • under the age of 18
  • a student
  • not usually resident in the UK

However there are some exceptions. Get advice to check if you're eligible.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

You can't claim universal credit if both you and your partner are over pension credit age. You claim pension credit instead.

Find out more from Gov.uk about pension credit.

How to claim universal credit

Apply for universal credit on the Gov.uk website

You have to complete the online application in one go. You can't save changes and come back to it later.

Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 0723 if you need help making your claim online.

This is not a freephone service but you can ask them to call you back.

If you are entitled to universal credit you usually have to go to an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus.

Find your local Jobcentre Plus.

Help with paying your rent

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 pay your universal credit housing costs element direct to your landlord instead if you have rent arrears or need support to budget.

Get advice if you are struggling to pay your rent.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre

Help with paying your mortgage

You can get universal credit to help pay your mortgage interest if you are not in paid work.

Jobcentre Plus pays your housing costs element direct to your mortgage lender. The payment won't usually cover your full mortgage amount.

You won't get any money to help pay your mortgage for the first 9 months after you claim or if you are in paid work.

Find out how to deal with mortgage arrears.

How universal credit is paid

Universal credit is paid monthly. You should receive your payment on the same date every month.

Payments are made in arrears, not in advance.

You will usually have to wait at least 6 weeks for your first payment. If you need help while you wait for your first payment, you may be able to get a short-term advance of universal credit.

You must have a bank, building society or credit union account to receive your universal credit payments.

Find out more from the Money Advice Service about opening a bank account.

In some circumstances, universal credit housing costs can be paid direct to your landlord.

How to report a change of circumstances

You must report any changes in your circumstances that could affect the amount of universal credit you are entitled to.

Do this through your online universal credit account.

When the benefit cap applies

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits that many working age households can receive.

If you are affected by the benefit cap, your monthly universal credit payment is reduced so that the amount you receive is below the cap.

Benefit cap in London

These limits apply if you live in a London borough:

  • £1,916 per month for a couple or family with dependent children
  • £1,284 per month for a single person without children

Benefit cap outside London

These limits apply if you live outside a London borough:

  • £1,666 per month for a couple or family with dependent children
  • £1,116 per month for a single person without children

When the benefit cap does not apply

You are exempt from the cap if you:

  • work and have take-home pay equivalent to at least 16 hours per week at national minimum wage
  • claim certain disability or carers' benefits, for example, DLA, PIP or carer's allowance

If you work for at least 12 months and earn the equivalent of at least 16 hours per week at national minimum wage but then lose your job or reduce your hours, the benefit cap will not apply for a 9-month 'grace period'.


Last updated 27 Apr 2017 | © Shelter

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