Universal Credit is a benefit introduced by the Government to help people of working-age with living costs.
It's available to you if you:
- are on a low income
- are out of work
- are unable to work due to illness, disability
- have childcare commitments
- care for a disabled person
What does Universal Credit replace?
- Jobseekers Allowance (Income based)
- Housing Benefit
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Employment and Support Allowance (Income based)
- Income Support
How is Universal Credit different?
- Claims can only be made online
- You will be paid monthly
- It is paid in arrears, so may take up to five weeks to receive your first payment
- You will be responsible for paying rent directly to your landlord
- Couples who both claim Universal Credit will be paid one joint monthly payment
- There is no limit to how many hours you can work. Instead of losing your benefits all at once they will gradually reduce as you earn more
Please visit the Understanding Universal Credit website for more information.
How to apply
Help to complete your Universal Credit claim
If you cannot use digital services due to a disability or an exceptional circumstances then please use the following contacts below to seek advice:
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8 am to 6 pm
For help from the early stages of your Universal Credit application right up to your first payment:
- Use the Help to Claim service, for free advice and help from Citizen Advice advisors.
Will I be affected?
If you are working age and you need to make a new claim for any of the following benefits then you will now need to make a claim for Universal Credit;
- Housing Benefit
- Jobseekers Allowance (Income Based)
- Income Support
- Employment & Support Allowance (Income Based)
- Tax credits (*Working and Child tax credits)
*Please note – if you are already in receipt of Child or Working tax credits and need to make a claim for the other type of tax credits, this is not seen as a new claim and instead a change in circumstances only. You will not be required to claim Universal Credit if you are already in receipt of one form of tax credits.
People already claiming any of the benefits listed above who have a change in their circumstances may have to switch to Universal Credit instead.A change of circumstances can include:
- A change of address outside of the Local Authority that you are currently living in.
- You become pregnant or have a child that requires you to make a new claim for Income Support or Child Tax Credits.
- You start work and need to make a new claim for Working Tax Credits when you are not yet in receipt of any tax credits.
- Your extended period of sickness ends and you are still unable to work
- You separate from your partner who was in a joint claim with you.
- You are claiming Income Support and leave full-time education.
If you want to see if you may be affected then you can use this eligibility checker (please note South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits Service is not responsible for the content of external sites).
The Money Advice Service website also contains lots of information about what will change when you move from one of the six benefits to Universal Credit. The Government plans to move everyone claiming the six benefits on to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2023. You do not need to do anything until you hear from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), unless your circumstances change.
The following groups are exempt from Universal Credit:
- Single people that have reached state pension age.
- Couples that have both reached state pension age.
- People who receive the Severe Disability Premium in the assessment of any of the benefits mentioned above.
- People living in supported or council placed temporary accommodation will need to apply for Housing Benefit for help with their rent and Universal Credit for help with living costs.
Apply for free school meals
You may also be entitled to free school meals if you claim Universal Credit, but you’ll need to apply for this separately.
Advice for landlords and employers
Advice for landlords
Most private sector landlords won’t see any change with the introduction of Universal Credit.
This is because most working age claimants in the private rented sector are already used to receiving their Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance payments directly from us and are responsible for paying their own rent.
If a tenant cannot manage and gets into arrears then it’s important to note that private landlords no longer need explicit consent from their tenant to apply for rental payments to be made directly to them.
The Department for Work and Pensions should start making payments direct to landlords if:
- a claimant is in arrears with their rent for an amount equal to, or more than, two months of their rent.
- a claimant has continually underpaid their rent over a period of time, and they have accrued arrears of an amount equal to or more than one month’s rent.
If a managed payment is not set-up by the Department for Work and Pensions then landlords can request one by completing the form on GOV.UK.
The Government has created a dedicated page on their website for Universal Credit and rented housing which contains detailed advice.
Advice for employers
Universal Credit can benefit employers as well as individuals by creating a more flexible workforce as there is no upper limit to the number of hours people can work before losing their benefits. Instead, benefits will gradually reduce as people earn more.
Read the Universal Credit for employers: how it helps your business guide to help employers with staff claiming Universal Credit
As an employer there are some basic things you can do to help your staff make the move to Universal Credit.
- Report PAYE information accurately and on time to HMRC. Failure to do so can lead to your staff not receiving enough Universal Credit payment or none at all which could lead to financial hardship. If you do not use the Real Time Information (RTI) system then let your employee know as they will need to report their work details themselves.
- Be open and flexible to staff requesting additional hours or ad hoc overtime. Discuss with them how they could earn more by taking on additional responsibility or upskill themselves.
- Universal Credit claimants, particularly when waiting for their first payment, can struggle to meet housing and living costs. Be aware of the financial support on offer and direct staff towards it. Alternatively, you may wish to consider advancing payments or loans to your employees that they pay back over a set period of time in a way they can afford.
- Consider paying staff monthly instead of once every four weeks. Paying staff once every four weeks can mean at certain times of the year they will be assessed as having been paid twice within one Universal Credit period. This could mean their earnings are too high and they drop out of the Universal Credit system. They will then need to reapply to ensure payments continue in the next four-week cycle. This can lead to delays and financial hardship.
Help managing your money
The money management service has developed a free online tool especially for people making a new claim or moving to Universal Credit from existing benefits.
Struggling with debt?
If you are in financial difficulties then there is a range of financial support on offer to help you.
If you have little or no money to see you through until your first Universal Credit payment then you can apply for an advance payment by calling the Universal Credit helpline or asking for advice from your local JobCentre Plus.
You can apply for up to one full month’s payment in advance. Please note though, this is a loan and not a grant, you will have to pay it back but will have 12 months to do so.
You can borrow from £100 up to £812 (if you have children) to help with emergency household costs such as replacing a broken cooker or help getting a job or staying in work. This money will be repaid through your regular Universal Credit payments.
Eligibility criteria applies and how much you receive depends on your circumstances. Speak to your Jobcentre work coach for more information and to apply.
Help paying your Council Tax
Council Tax Support (previously Council Tax Benefit) is not including in Universal Credit so you will still need to apply to our Revenues and Benefits service separately for help paying your Council Tax bill. For more information, see Council Tax Support.
Discretionary Welfare Assistance
The South Worcestershire Discretionary Welfare Assistance Scheme will provide assistance in the form of goods or vouchers to help individuals or families facing exceptionally difficult circumstances or an emergency.
Discretionary Housing Payments
Discretionary Housing Payments are paid on top of any Housing Benefit/Universal Credit Housing costs you may receive. They act as additional financial support for those who need extra help with their rental liability. They are normally only paid for a short period of time. There is only a limited amount of money available so not everyone who applies will receive payment, it will depend on your circumstances. For more information, see Housing Benefit.
If you claim Universal Credit you may also be entitled to:
- Disabled Facilities Grant – to help make adaptations to your home if you are disabled
- Affordable Warmth Obligation – help making your home more energy efficient
- Help paying for childcare
- Free School Meals
Are you claiming everything you are entitled to?
Use this free benefits calculator to check you are not missing out on any financial help you could be claiming.
Challenging a Universal Credit decision
If you disagree with a decision about your Universal Credit claim then the first thing you should do is contact your local job centre using the details on your decision letter and ask for an explanation of the reasons behind a decision. You should do this as soon as possible.
Please note that Wychavon District Council does not hold detailed information regarding Universal Credit claimants and will not be able to advise you as to why or why not a payment decision has been made.