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Universal Credit (UC)

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

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

The above six benefits are also known as legacy benefits.

Universal Credit is paid on a monthly basis. How much money you will get is worked out in two steps. First the DWP works out what it thinks you should need to live on, based on your household’s circumstances. Next it takes away some of the income you have coming in.

You don’t need to do anything if you are already claiming existing legacy benefits and your situation stays the same. 

Applies to: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales


Type  of benefit: Means tested

Taxable: No

Administered by: Department for Work and Pensions

 

Updated: June 2019

2. Can I get Universal Credit (UC)?

Whether you can claim Universal Credit depends on your personal circumstances.  If you are receiving any legacy benefits, you will lose these if you claim Universal Credit, and will not be able to go back on them.

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 disabled?

Most people with illnesses or disabilities can claim Universal Credit. Some people with disabilities or illnesses who get or are entitled to get a Severe Disability Premium cannot claim Universal Credit and are still allowed to make new claims for the benefits Universal Credit replaces.

What if I am aged 16 or 17 years?

You should look at our page on claiming benefits as a young person.

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.

If one member of a couple is Pension Age and the other one is working age, you will usually need to claim Universal Credit. If one member of a couple was pension age on 14/05/19 and the other was still working age, you can still make a backdated claim for Pension Credit, but you will need to do this before 13/08/19.

 

Updated: June 2019

3. Do I need to claim Universal Credit?

If you are already claiming any of the benefits that Universal Credit replaces, you can carry on getting your benefits. If you have any change of circumstances that means your existing claims for these benefits ends, you won’t be able to make new claims for any of the benefits Universal Credit replaces.

No one has to make a claim for Universal Credit. However, you might find that a change of circumstances means you need help that is now provided through Universal Credit.

If you have had a change of circumstances, you should speak to an adviser to find out whether this means you should make a claim for Universal Credit.

In the future everyone will be moved on to Universal Credit through a process called managed migration. At the moment the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) plans to complete managed migration by the end of 2023.
 

Updated: June 2019

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

How much Universal Credit you can get 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 Standard Allowance

Your standard allowance will depend on whether you are single or claiming as a couple, and your age. There is one standard 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 ​

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?

Some people find they receive less money under Universal Credit than they would have received under the legacy benefit system. 

People who were receiving the Severe Disability Premium before they moved on to Universal Credit should be entitled to money to compensate for the difference. However, at the moment the government has not decided how much this will be.

People who are part of the managed migration on to Universal Credit will not be worse off when they move over to Universal Credit 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 they were getting on legacy benefits.

People who make a new claim for Universal Credit, including people who need to claim Universal Credit because of a change of circumstances, 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.  

See our Universal Credit Transitional Protection guide for further details

Updated: June 2019

5. Additional Elements of Universal Credit (UC)

Carer's Element

You can get this addition of £160.20 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 Carer's Allowance where you are prevented from claiming if you are earning above a certain level (£123pw for 2019/20), for the Carer's Element your level of earnings does not prevent you from claiming. However, as the Carer's Element is a part of Universal Credit (UC), which is means-tested, your earnings and other income will affect whether you can get this and how much Universal Credit you are entitled to.

If you are making a joint claim, you can get a Carer's Element each if you both qualify for it. However, you cannot be caring for the same severely disabled person.

Getting the Carer’s Element of Universal Credit might affect the benefits of the person you care for. It might mean they lose their entitlement to the Severe Disability Premium.

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 usually receive a child element of £231.67 per child per month. If your first or only child was born before 6 April 2017 you will receive a slightly higher amount for that child of £277.08 per month. 

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. This is called the Two-child limit. If you have three or more children, check if you qualify for an exception to the Two Child Limit. You should still report all the children who live with you when you claim Universal Credit.

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 Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP); or

  • Severely disabled child addition of £392.08 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 £1,108.04 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 might 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 Universal Credit (UC) on or after this date, unless they were in receipt of a work related activity component in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) immediately before they claimed UC); or

  • limited capability for work related activity element (LCWRA) £336.20 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.

You may have to wait three months for your LCWRA element to be added on. Although 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 (ESA) components immediately prior to your Universal Credit claim.

If you have already been assessed as having limited capability for work or for work related activity as part of your UC claim, you can work while still being treated as having limited capability for work. If you are doing a lot of work, this might mean the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will want to do another Work Capability Assessment to check whether your condition has changed.

If you haven’t had a work capability assessment yet and are earning more than £131.50 per week you won’t be able to have a work capability assessment unless you are also getting PIP, DLA or Attendance Allowance.

Updated June 2019

6. How will I be paid Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a single payment made monthly. It is paid after the end of each month when you were entitled to Universal Credit.

It will take at least five weeks for you to receive your first payment. Once you make your claim, there is a one-month assessment period and then payments are made seven days after the assessment period.  

If you are going to struggle to wait five weeks for your money, you can request a Universal Credit Advance payment, which you will then need to pay back through deductions from your Universal Credit. If you think that you might struggle to manage your money, you can ask for Personal Budgeting Support from Citizens Advice’s Help to Claim service.

Universal Credit will be paid into one bank account or other account (such as a post office card system account) nominated by each household.

For most people, your Universal Credit payment will include money for your rent and it is up to you to make sure you pay that rent to your landlord. If you are worried you might struggle to do this, you can ask for the money to be paid direct to your landlord instead.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can pay more frequently or split payment in exceptional circumstances. If you live in Scotland, you can ask for your Universal Credit to be paid twice monthly.

Updated: June 2019

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

If you are getting Severe Disability Premium or are entitled to get it, you will not be able to claim Universal Credit. You can still make new claims for the benefits Universal Credit replaces. If you aren't sure which benefits to claim, use our Benefits Calculator to check what you might be entitled to.

Citizens Advice’s Help to Claim Service can give you advice and information on applying for Universal Credit. They may also be able to give you access to a computer to use to apply and face-to-face support in making your claim.

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. For more information about making an online claim, read our guide on how to claim Universal Credit.

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 
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.

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 Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) 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 

For a practical guide to claim online please  read our guide on how to claim Universal Credit.

Updated: June 2019

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

Everyone who receives Universal Credit (UC) will be placed in a conditionality group based on their circumstances and work capability. What group you are in will make a difference to what you are expected to do to get your Universal Credit.

No work-related requirements

You will be placed in this group if you are earning above your earnings threshold. This is usually 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 Carer's 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 is working age)
  • are pregnant and it is 11 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 under 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 for 35 hours a week, and may be expected to take work of up to 48 hours per week. 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 usually 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. If you are claiming as a couple, the Department for Work and Pensions (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 June 2019

 


 

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

Mandatory reconsideration

If you think a decision made about your Universal Credit (UC) 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'. Each monthly statement is a decision and can be challenged through mandatory reconsideration and appeal if you think the decision on how much UC to award you is wrong

The best way to request mandatory reconsideration of a decision is to write a message in your journal saying that you want a mandatory reconsideration of the decision and explaining why you think the decision is wrong. It can take a long time for messages in the journal to be read, so you should also phone the Universal Credit helpline to tell them that you are asking for a mandatory reconsideration.

If your claim has been closed, you will not be able to leave messages in your journal. If you want to challenge a decision on a closed claim (including the decision to close the claim), you will need to call the DWP helpline 0800 328 5644 and ask for the address to which to send your written request for mandatory reconsideration. You can use the Challenge a decision made by the Department for Work and Pensions form to complete your request. Make sure you keep a copy of the form you send.

You should ask for mandatory reconsideration within a month of the original decision. If you have missed this deadline, you should still ask for mandatory reconsideration. If the DWP say you have missed the deadline and they will not reconsider their decision, you should speak to an adviser.

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 a tribunal. This means that someone independent of the DWP will look at the decision and if they think it is wrong they can change it.

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. You will be expected to have followed the mandatory reconsideration process before appealing. You will be asked for the mandatory reconsideration notice.

You have one month from the date of the mandatory reconsideration notice to submit your appeal. If you have missed this deadline, you can still appeal but you will need to explain why your appeal is late. There is a risk that it might not be allowed to go ahead.

Your mandatory reconsideration notice will be uploaded on to your journal. To send it with your appeal, you will need to print it off. If you don’t have a printer, you might be able to use one at a library. If you manage your claim over the phone, you will need to call and ask for a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice to be posted to you.

Some mandatory reconsideration notices for decisions on Universal Credit aren’t dated and this can cause problems with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) (the organisation that manages appeals). If you have problems with this, you should speak to an adviser or to your MP.

If your Universal Credit account has been closed, you might have difficulty getting a copy of your mandatory reconsideration notice. You should ask your local Jobcentre to give you a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice. If your Jobcentre can’t help, you should speak to an adviser or complain to your MP.

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.

 

Updated June 2019