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Universal Credit (UC)

Find out more about Universal Credit.

1. What is Universal Credit (UC)?

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit for people of working-age who are on a low income.

It replaces six existing means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

Universal Credit is intended to be simpler than the current system of benefits and tax credits.

Universal Credit is paid on a monthly basis. Entitlement is worked out by comparing your basic financial needs that the government says you need to live on with your financial resources.

Universal Credit is being introduced gradually. Whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances.

If you don’t live in a qualifying area or you are not eligible to claim Universal Credit you may be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or other means tested benefits

You don’t need to do anything if you are already claiming existing benefits. You will be told by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) when you have to claim Universal Credit
 

Applies to: England, Scotland and Wales

Universal Credit will be introduced in Northern Ireland on a gradual basis from September 2017 onwards. See the NI Direct website for more information.

Type  of benefit: Means tested

Taxable: No

Administered by: Department for Work and Pensions

2. Which benefits will Universal Credit (UC) replace?

Universal Credit will replace:

Which benefits will remain alongside Universal Credit?

Universal Credit will not replace the following benefits, these will remain alongside Universal Credit:

Contributory Benefits

o contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance
o contributory Employment Support Allowance
o Bereavement benefits
o Maternity Allowance

Statutory Benefits

o Statutory Sick Pay
o Statutory Maternity Pay
o Statutory Paternity Pay
o Statutory Adoption Pay

As some people will be entitled to both contributory benefit and Universal Credit, contributory benefits will be administered using the same systems.

3. Can I get Universal Credit (UC)?

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages. Whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances.

To claim Universal Credit you must:

  • be 18 or over (in most cases)

  • be under Pension Credit age

  • be in Great Britain

  • not be in education

  • have accepted a claimant commitment

If you have a partner you will make a joint claim as a couple. If one of you does not meet any of the above conditions, that person will be ignored for the purposes of calculating the Universal Credit maximum amount - although their savings/capital, income and earnings will still be taken into account.

What if I am aged 16 or 17 years?

The minimum age for claiming Universal Credit is 16 years if the 16/17 year old:

  • has limited capability for work;

  • is awaiting an assessment to determine whether they have limited capability for work and has a statement from a medical professional stating they are not fit for work;

  • has regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person;

  • is responsible for a child;

  • is a member of a couple and their partner is entitled to UC and is responsible for a child or a qualifying young person;

  • is pregnant, and it is 11 weeks or less before her expected week of child birth, or was pregnant and it is 15 weeks or less since the date of the birth; or

  • is without parental support.

If you are under 18 and want to know more about your benefit entitlement please seek further advice from a professional advice service. You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find a local adviser.

What if I am over Pension Credit age?

Universal Credit is paid to people of working age and is not a benefit for people who have reached Pension Credit age.  You would claim Pension Credit instead of Universal Credit.

However, if one member of a couple is Pension Credit age and the other one is under, and you live in a Full Digital Service Area, you can claim either Pension Credit or Universal Credit.  You can check whether you are better off on Pension Credit or Universal Credit by using our Benefits Calculator.

As Universal Credit replaces Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit but is only for working-age people there will be some changes to Pension Credit so that it includes support for rent and an additional amount for pensioners with dependent children.

 

Updated June 2017

4. When can I get Universal Credit (UC)?

When can I get Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is being phased in gradually, and it will depend on where you live as to whether you can make a claim for Universal Credit..

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages. It is available to single people, couples and families in some areas of the country. It has been rolled out nationally to all single jobseekers without children for new claims.  From the summer of 2016 it is gradually being rolled out to all claimant types of working age making new claims (apart from families with more than 2 children), but this is still only occurring in certain areas currently.

See our Universal Credit Timetable for further details and to see a list of Job centres currently taking claims for Universal Credit.

For those on benefits that are being replaced, when people start to be moved on to Universal Credit, this will be done in one of two ways:

Natural Migration - If you experience a significant change of circumstance that affects your benefit entitlement the opportunity will be taken to move you on to Universal Credit at that point

Managed Migration - If your circumstances don't change, once Universal Credit has been established in every area for new claims, the Department for Work and Pensions will begin to move people over to Universal Credit on a systematic basis

 

Updated 21 July 2016

5. How much Universal Credit (UC) will I get?

The amount awarded will depend on the income and circumstances of all the household members. To get an estimate of what you may be entitled to when you claim Universal Credit you can use the Turn2us Benefits Calculator.

In working out your Universal Credit award, firstly your household’s maximum Universal Credit award is calculated. This will be made up of one basic allowance and any additional elements that apply.

Universal Credit Basic Allowance

Your basic allowance will depend on whether you are single or claiming as a couple, and your age. There is one basic allowance for your household:

  • Single claimant aged under 25: £251.77 per month

  • Single claimant aged 25 or over: £317.82 per month

  • Joint claimants both aged under 25: £395.20 per month

  • Joint claimants either aged 25 or over: £498.89 per month

Universal Credit additional elements

There are additional elements that can be added to your basic allowance. Your household may qualify for more than one of these:

  • Child element

  • Childcare costs element

  • Limited capability for work element (abolished for most new claimants from 3 April 2017)

  • Limited capability for work-related activity element (LCWRA element)

  • Carer element

  • Housing costs element

The same person cannot get a LCWRA element as well as a Carer element even if they are eligible for both.

Universal Credit award

If your household has no earnings, other income, capital or savings the Universal Credit award you receive will be your maximum Universal Credit award (one basic allowance plus any additional elements) unless you are affected by the Benefit Cap which limits a household's total income from certain benefits to:

  • £1,916.67 per month for a couple or a lone parent in Greater London; or

  • £1,666.67 per month for a couple or a lone parent outside Greater London; or

  • £1,284.17 per month for a single person with no children in Greater London; or

  • £1,116.67 per month for a single person with no children outside Greater London

If anyone in your household has earnings, other income, savings or capital these will need to be taken into account to work out the Universal Credit award you may receive.

See our Universal Credit income and capital guide for further details.

What if my Universal Credit entitlement is less than my current entitlement?

If you are part of the managed migration on to Universal Credit you will not be worse off when you move over to Universal Credit. From July 2019 onwards, people will be transferred to Universal Credit from the existing benefit system.  The Department for Work and Pension call this 'managed migration'.  People moved over to Universal Credit by 'managed migration' will not be worse off when they are transferred.   If they are entitled to less under Universal Credit than under the benefits that are being replaced by it, they will receive a ‘transitional amount’ to top up their Universal Credit to the same amount, under managed migration.

However, people who make a new claim for Universal Credit will not receive any transitional amount if their Universal Credit entitlement is less than they would get under the benefits it replaces.  Only people transferred by managed migration from July 2019 onwards will get the transitional amount.  Therefore no current Universal Credit claimants are entitled to a transitional amount and they could be worse off if they claimed Universal Credit. By using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator you can see which system you are better off under - the current benefits system or Universal Credit.

See our Universal Credit Transitional Protection guide for further details

How will I be paid?

Universal Credit is a single payment made monthly in arrears.

It will be paid into one bank account or other account nominated by each household.

The DWP will have the ability to pay more frequently or to split payment in exceptional circumstances.

 

Updated December 2017

6. Additional Elements of Universal Credit (UC)

Carers Element

You can get this addition of £151.89 per month if you are caring for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week. You do not have to claim Carer's Allowance to get this element. Unlike Carers Allowance, a person can still receive the Carers Element of Universal Credit, no matter how much they earn.

If you are making a joint claim you can get a carer element each if you both qualify for it, but you cannot be caring for the same severely disabled person.

Child Element

Your Universal Credit will include a child element if you are responsible for a child or qualifying young person who normally lives with you. You receive a higher element for a first or only child of £277.08 per month if you are responsible for a child born before 6 April 2017.  Otherwise you receive a child element of £231.67 per month per child.

If you are currently getting Universal Credit you will not be paid a child element for a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017, unless an exception applies.  

New claims for Universal Credit will not be accepted for families with three or more children until November 2018.  They will in the meantime have to claim Child Tax Credit for the children instead.

There are also two disabled child additions. 

  • Disabled child addition of £126.11 per month for each child or qualifying young person that is in receipt of DLA or PIP; or

  • Severely disabled child addition of £372.30 per month if your child or qualifying young person gets the highest rate of the care component of DLA, the enhanced rate for daily living of PIP, or is registered blind.

You can still receive a disabled child addition for a third or subsequent child, even if you cannot get the child element for that child.

Childcare Costs Element

You can receive this if you pay for registered childcare when you go to work. There is no set number of hours you need to work. If you are part of a couple then both of you must be in work unless the non-working partner:

  • has limited capability for work or limited capability for work related activity, or

  • has regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person, or

  • is temporarily absent from your household (for example, they are in prison/hospital/or residential care)

You will get 85% of your childcare costs met, up to a maximum of £646.35 per month for one child and £1108.04 per month for two or more children.

Housing costs element

For details about the housing costs element please see our Universal Credit housing costs guide.

Limited Capability for Work Element

You will get one of these if you satisfy the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). See our Universal Credit - Work Capability Assessment information.

You can get either the:

  • limited capability for work element (LCW) £126.11 per month (From 3 April 2017 the limited capability for work element will not be available to claimants who claim UC on or after this date); or

  • limited capability for work related activity element (LCWRA) £318.76 per month 

If you are making a joint claim and you both have LCW or LCWRA, your award will only include one element:

  • If one or both of you have LCWRA you will receive that element
  • If you both have LCW you will receive that element

If you earn more than the equivalent of 16 hours a week, paid at the National Minimum Wage rate, you will not be able to get either of the capability for work elements unless you are also getting Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

You may have to wait three months for your LCW or LCWRA element to be added on. Though there are some instances where it can be added on straight away such as if you are terminally ill or you were entitled to one of the Employment and Support Allowance components immediately prior to your Universal Credit claim.

 

Updated October 2017

7. How do I claim Universal Credit (UC)?

Online

You can start a claim for Universal Credit on the Apply for Universal Credit page of the gov.uk website

In most cases, you have to claim Universal Credit online and then attend an interview in person. 

If you don't have internet access, you might be able to use a computer at your local jobcentre or local council who can also offer face to face advice.

Phone

If you have a reason for not being able to apply online, you may be able to claim by phone instead.  You can claim by phone if, for example, you can't use a computer or you have problems reading or writing.

To start a claim by phone, call the Universal Credit helpline: 
Telephone: 0800 328 5644 (full digital service area)
Telephone: 0800 328 9344 (live service area)
Welsh language: 0800 012 1888
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Face to face interview

Once you have started your claim online or by phone, you will be asked to attend a face to face interview at your Jobcentre. 

At the face to face interview you must agree a claimant commitment. This will set out what you have to do in order to continue to receive Universal Credit. Joint claimants must both agree a claimant commitment in order to receive Universal Credit.

The start date of the claim is the date that the claim is submitted, as long as the claimant commitment is signed.

When a claim isn’t needed

Re-awards: If you leave Universal Credit due to your earnings increasing, or changes which reduce your award to nil, a re-award allows you to be able to return to Universal Credit within six months of your claim closing, without having to make a new claim. You will return to your previous assessment period (you won’t have to wait a month for payment) but it will still be considered a new award, not a continuation of your old award.

Rapid re-claims: If you return to Universal Credit but don't fit the re-award criteria you will need to make a claim but there will be a rapid re-claim process.

Backdating

A claim for Universal Credit can be backdated for a maximum of one month if you or your partner could not have reasonably been expected to make a claim from an earlier date and one of the following circumstances apply to you: 

  • You were previously in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance and were not notified that your entitlement was going to end
  • You have a disability 
  • You were unwell and this prevented you from claiming earlier (you will need to provide medical evidence showing this) 
  •  You could not claim earlier due to a system failure or planned system maintenance, and have made a claim on the first day following this 
  • You had a joint claim for Universal Credit which stopped due to a breakdown in a relationship and you are now claiming as a single person
  • You made a joint claim for Universal Credit which was either stopped or turned down because your partner did not accept the claimant commitment and you have now ceased to be a couple and are now claiming as a single person 

 

Updated: November 2017

8. Universal Credit (UC): Claimant Commitment/Conditionality

Everyone who receives Universal Credit will be placed in a conditionality group based on their circumstances and work capability. The group you are in will determine what is expected of you during your claim.

No work-related requirements

You will be placed in this group if you are earning above your earnings threshold. This is based on what you would earn if you worked for 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. If you have caring responsibilities your threshold may be lower than this.

You will also be placed in this group if you:

  • have limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA)
  • receive the carers element or are providing care for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week  
  • are responsible for a child under the age of one
  • have reached Pension Credit age (but are part of a UC claim because your partner has not)
  • are pregnant and it is 15 weeks or less until your expected week of childbirth
  • are an adopter (this is for up to one year after the adoption)
  • are a young person with no parental support and you are in full time non-advanced education

Work-focused interview requirement only

You will be placed in this group if you are responsible for a child aged one or you are a foster carer for a child under 16, or 18 if the child has extra care needs

If you are in this group you will be required to stay in touch with the labour market by attending work-focused interviews. These are regular interviews to discuss plans and opportunities for returning to work in the future.

You will not be required to apply for, or take up a job, or engage in work preparation activity.

Work preparation requirement

You will be placed in this group if you are assessed as having limited capability for work (LCW). If you are placed in this group, you will be expected to prepare for a move into work, additional work, or better paid work. Actions to get ready for work could include attending training courses, preparing a CV or taking part in the Work Programme.

You will not be required to take steps to apply for or take up work as a condition of your claim.

All work-related requirements

This is the full conditionality group, if you are in this group you will be required to look for and be available for work. You will usually be expected to look for full-time work of 35 hours a week but this can be less in certain circumstances, for example if you have caring responsibilities or have physical or mental health problems.

In-work conditionality

You might face conditionality requirements even though you are already in work. Your conditionality requirements depend on how much you are earning and whether your wages are over your earnings threshold.

If you are earning below your threshold you will be expected to make efforts to increase your income. The DWP suggest that this may include increasing the hours you work, finding additional work or finding a new job with a higher income. 

The threshold is based on what you would earn if you worked for 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. Though if you have caring responsibilities your threshold may be lower than this. If you are claiming as a couple, the DWP will look at whether you are earning above your threshold as a couple.

If you are single and earning over your earnings threshold, or you are a couple and earning over your joint earnings threshold, you will be subject to no work-related requirements.

If you are single and earning less than your earnings threshold but more than £338 per month, you will be subject to all work-related requirements, except for looking for work. You will still have to be ready to take up more work, to do the things your job coach asks you to and to go to work-focused interviews.

If you are a couple and earning less than your joint earnings threshold but more than £541 per month, you will be subject to all work-related requirements, except for looking for work. You will still have to be ready to take up more work, to do the things your job coach asks you to and to go to work-focused interviews.

If you are single and earning less than £338 per month, or you are a couple and earning less than £541 per month, you will be subject to all work-related requirements. The amount of time you are expected to spend on looking for and preparing for work will depend on how much you are working and if you have caring responsibilities.

 

Updated May 2017

 


 

9. Universal Credit (UC) sanctions

In order to receive Universal Credit you will need to sign a claimant commitment to say you understand what is expected of you.

A sanction is a cut in your benefit if you fail to meet your claimant commitment without good reason. If you do this on numerous occasions you could face a sanction of up to three years.

Hardship funds may be available to cover part of the sanction period.

10. How do I challenge a Universal Credit (UC) decision?

Mandatory reconsideration

If you think a decision made about your Universal Credit entitlement is wrong you can contact Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and ask them to look at the decision again, explaining why you think it is wrong.

This is called 'mandatory reconsideration'. The contact details will be on your decision notice.

You will receive a 'mandatory reconsideration notice' in response. The decision may be changed or you may receive an explanation of why it remains the same.

If you still think the decision is wrong after receiving the mandatory reconsideration notice you can make an appeal to the tribunal.

Appeal

You can make an appeal to the tribunal by completing a 'Notice of appeal against a decision of the Department for Work and Pensions' form (link opens in a new window) You must have followed the mandatory reconsideration process before appealing. You will be asked for the mandatory reconsideration notice.

If you do want to challenge a decision you can get help with this by contacting a benefits adviser. Use our Find an Adviser tool to locate one in your area.