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Universal Credit

Need information about how Universal Credit affects you? We've tried to answer some of the common questions for this

What is Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a benefit which is paid in one payment, monthly, it is available to people whether they are working or not. It can cover living costs, housing costs and childcare. It also includes amounts if you are too sick to work and/or if you are caring for someone who is disabled.

Everything is paid in one payment each month, so you do not get separate amounts for rent or other costs. You will need to budget to pay rent, bills and other costs out of this one amount.

It is gradually replacing the following benefits:

  • Housing Benefit;
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
  • Jobseekers Allowance (Income-Related)
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Income Support

All other benefits, including Carers Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Contribution Based (Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance) will continue.

Do i have to claim Universal Credit?

Not everyone will have to claim Universal Credit. Eventually people on the benefits it is replacing will be moved over, but this is not due to start until at least July 2019.

If you are not currently claiming benefits, and need to make a new claim for help, this is likely to mean you have to claim Universal Credit.

If you are currently receiving benefits you don’t need to automatically transfer, you will only need to claim Universal Credit if your circumstances changes and this means either that one of your current claim ends (and to replace it you need Universal Credit) or you are now entitled to an additional money (for example you have your first child) and would need to claim Universal Credit to get this.

It can be hard to work out whether a change means you have to claim Universal Credit, but once you have claimed you can’t go back to your old benefits.

To read more click here

If you’re still confused, you can complete a contact form. Tell us your circumstances and we’ll try and help you work out what’s best in your situation.

There are two examples below:

Example 1

Keisha and Johal are claiming Working and Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit as a couple. They break up and Johal moves out. Tax Credit Rules means that Chantelle must end her tax credits claim as a couple and make a single person claim. As Universal Credit has replaced tax credits, to replace her tax credit Chantelle must claim Universal Credit. This also stops her housing benefit.

Example 2

Sanam and Dave are claiming Working and Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit as a couple. They are living in Coventry and move from one rented house to another. As they have stayed in Coventry, they don’t need to make a new claim for housing benefit, just update their new one. So they can continue to claim Housing Benefit and not claim Universal Credit. As long as they don’t claim Universal Credit they will continue to get tax credits and housing benefit.


Will I be better off on Universal Credit? Or will I lose money?

Some people currently on benefits will get more money under Universal Credit, some people will get less money from claiming Universal Credit.

It depends very much on your particular circumstances. It’ll be different for everyone.

If you’re currently getting other benefits and are transferring (for whatever reason) it is worth doing a benefit calculation to see what the change will be.

If you’re considering applying for Universal Credit, check you won’t lose money before making a decision.

You can complete an online benefit calculation here

If you struggle to use this, just contact us. We’ll do our best to help


How do I claim Universal Credit?

If you going to claim Universal Credit you’ll need to set up an account and complete an application online. You’ll need all the correct information with you. If you can’t do it online you can do it over the phone. You will also need to verify your identity online or by arranging an appointment at the jobcentre to take documents in.

If you would struggle to do this, we have a Help to Claim service. Citizens Advice can provide support over the phone or online, and if you need support in person you will be referred to your local office.


0800 144 8444

Monday-Friday 8:00am-6:00pm

There is more information about this here

How long will it take me to get paid?

After the application it should take 5 weeks to get your first payment. If you are on housing benefit you will get this for another two weeks (and won’t need to pay it back).

This can be very difficult to manage. You may need to talk to people such as your landlord to explain the situation.

At Citizens Advice we can provide food vouchers, you just need to come to our reception before 1:00pm.

You can ask for an advance payment to cover living costs, but you would need to pay this back from your ongoing Universal Credit payments over about 12 months. Make sure you understand how much will be taken and think about if you can afford this, before agreeing. For more info on an advance payment click here


I'm getting Universal Credit, but I think they've made a mistake

If you think that they’ve made a mistake, for example you are getting too little money. You can challenge this decision.

First you can complete a “Mandatory Reconsideration” within one month. Click here for more info 

If this doesn’t work you can appeal, within one month of the reconsideration decision, to an independent tribunal. Click here for more info

If you need help, contact us and we will see how we can help.



I've been sanctioned

If you’ve been sanctioned for Universal Credit read here for what to do

You might be able to get hardship payments, while you are sanctioned to give you some income. You can read about that here

You can check whether you can challenge your sanction here



My ESA has stopped, they told me to claim Universal Credit

If your employment and support allowance has stopped, such as because they said you are fit for work. Be careful about applying for Universal Credit. Once you claim you cannot go back to ESA, and you would need to check you aren’t going to lose any money.

If you challenge your ESA decision, you may receive payments if you go to a formal appeal (but not while asking for reconsideration). Most people will get payments during an appeal.

Contact us if you are not sure what to do.

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