Universal Credit is a new benefit to support you if you’re working and on a low income or you’re out of work. This page explains how Universal Credit is different from existing benefits, how much you’ll be paid and how to apply for it.
Our advisers will point you in the right direction.
Start a webchat online or call us on 0800 138 1677.
In Northern Ireland, Universal Credit works differently. Find out more on the nidirect website.
In Scotland, you might be offered some choices about how your Universal Credit is paid. Read our guide to Universal Credit in Scotland.
Universal Credit is a benefit payment for people in or out of work.
It replaces some of the benefits and tax credits you might be getting now:
The DWP calls these legacy benefits.
You might have to wait up to five weeks before your first payment.
Make the most of your Universal Credit payment with personalised help from our Money Manager tool.
Don’t delay making your claim for Universal Credit and apply as soon as you are entitled to do so as it can take up to five weeks for your first payment to reach your account.
The date you submit your claim is the date of the month your Universal Credit payment will be paid. This is called your assessment date.
Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears, so you’ll have to wait one calendar month from the date you submitted your application before your first UC payment is made. This is called your assessment period.
You then have to wait up to seven days for the payment to reach your bank account.
This means it can take up to five weeks before you get your first payment.
Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears in England, Wales and Scotland.
However, in Scotland, you can ask for fortnightly payments instead of a single monthly payment.
In Northern Ireland, the default payment period is every fortnight, but you can choose to get monthly payments.
Universal Credit is made up of a basic allowance plus different elements for things like housing costs, bringing up children, caring or sickness and disability.
The amount you get in Universal Credit can go down or up depending on what income you get from:
If you’re working and on Universal Credit, find out if you qualify for the Help to Save account, which gives you up to a 50% bonus from the government on your savings.
You can work as many hours as you like when you’re on Universal Credit.
There are no limits as there are with existing benefits such as Income Support or Working Tax Credits.
If you’re in paid work you might be entitled to a work allowance.
The work allowance is the amount of money you’re allowed to earn before your Universal Credit payment is affected.
You will be entitled to a work allowance if you’re:
If you’re entitled to the work allowance, you can earn up to the threshold for your circumstances.
Your Universal Credit payment will then go down by 63p for every £1 you earn above this amount. This is called the earnings taper.
If you don’t qualify for the work allowance, your Universal Credit payment will go down by 63p for every £1 on all your earnings.
Employer-paid benefits, such as Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Sick Pay are treated as earnings and are affected by the taper.
Watch the video from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to find out.
Some income that you didn’t get from working can be deducted from your maximum award. This is called unearned income.
Unearned income that will be taken off your Universal Credit payment includes:
Usually £1 will be deducted from your Universal Credit payment for every £1 of unearned income.
Unearned income that won’t be taken off your Universal Credit payment includes:
If you have savings or capital (from things like investments or shares) this might affect how much Universal Credit you’ll get.
If you’re entitled to claim Universal Credit, you are expected to make your claim online on the Apply for Universal Credit website.
Find out what information you need to gather before you start your claim on Making a Universal Credit claim.
If you and your partner are making a joint claim, only one of you will need to complete the online claim form, but that person will need to enter details for both of you.
If you’re claiming Universal Credit for the first time, Citizens Advice has a dedicated service to help you. Call 0800 144 8444 in England or 0800 024 1220 in Wales. For more information and to find your local Citizens Advice on their website
In Scotland, call 0800 023 2581, via webchat on the Citizens Advice website or contact your local bureau directly during their usual business hours.
If you’re worried about using a computer to make your claim, it’s important you get help. This is because your claim will not start until you have sent your online form. There is then a five-week wait for your first payment. Any delays can mean you have to wait longer than this.
If you don’t have access to a computer at home, you might be able to use one for free at your local Jobcentre, library, Citizens Advice or council.
Many jobcentres now offer extra support for people who are struggling to claim online and can also help you get all the paperwork you need together.
If you’re new to computers or haven’t felt confident about using them in the past, now is a good time to learn or get up to speed.
You can find free digital skills support in your area from the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900.
You will have to repay the advance from your future Universal Credit payments, so only ask for what you need.
If you will have little or no money until your first payment, you can request an advance payment from your work coach or by calling the free Universal Credit helpline. You will have to pay this money back within 12 months and the first repayment is usually taken from your first Universal Credit payment.
If you’ve been claiming Universal Credit for six months, you might be able to claim a Budgeting Advance for essential costs.
If you need help with your claim, call the Universal Credit helpline free on:
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
8am – 6pm, Monday to Friday (closed on bank and public holidays). Calls are free.
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.