Universal Credit is a new working age benefit introduced by the Government to help with your living costs. It is available to those who are on low income because they are, out of work, work part-time or are not working due to illness, disability or caring commitments.

Universal Credit replaces six existing benefits:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support

You cannot claim any of these benefits and Universal Credit at the same time.

What are the main differences between Universal Credit and the current system?   

Under Universal Credit:

  • Claims can only be made online
  • You will be paid monthly
  • Universal credit is paid in arrears and can take up to five weeks from when you claim for your first payment to be made
  • Your rent will be included in your monthly payment and you will be responsible for paying it to your landlord (except in certain circumstances)
  • Your existing Housing Benefit will be paid for two weeks after you have made a claim. You will then need to wait for your first Universal Credit payment before you receive any more money towards your housing costs (see previous point)
  • If you are living as a couple and both of you claim Universal Credit then you will be paid one joint monthly payment
  • There is no limit on how many hours you work. Instead of losing your benefits all at once they will gradually reduce as you earn more

You may also want to have a look at Universal Credit and You, a handy guide from the Department for Work and Pensions.

There's also a short video explaining the changes available to view or visit www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk for more information.