Universal Credit advice

The introduction of Universal Credit is bringing changes to the benefit system. The following article explains more about how this may affect you and the payments you receive.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new benefit payment if you’re out of work or on a low income. It's for people of working age and it will help you to be better off in work, start a new job, or work more hours.

The government is combining six separate benefits into one single monthly payment, which will eventually replace most other benefits including:

  • Income support
  • Housing benefit
  • Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment Support Allowance
  • Working tax credits
  • Child tax credits
What does it mean to me?
  • Universal Credit will normally be paid in one single payment to one nominated person in your household
  • It will be a monthly payment in arrears, and will be paid on the same date each month
  • It will include your housing cost - even if you’ve had Housing Benefit paid directly to us in the past, your Universal Credit housing cost will be paid direct to you.
  • Personal benefit payments, for example to non-dependants, will still be paid directly to them.
When will I have to move to Universal Credit?

Currently you only have to apply if you have a change in circumstances, which could include the following:

  • If you need to make a new claim, for any of the six benefits listed above, it will now be a new claim for Universal Credit.
  • If you’re receiving Housing Benefit and you move to an address in another local authority area.
How you’ll be paid

Universal Credit is paid differently to current benefits. It will be paid once a month into your bank, building society or credit union account. Any help you get with your rent will be included with your Universal Credit payment and you’ll then pay your landlord yourself. Your payment may be reduced if the Universal Credit benefit cap affects you.

Please note: some types of housing are exempt from these changes so if, for example, you live in supported, or sheltered housing, please speak to us for advice.

The claimant commitment

Once you’ve submitted your claim for Universal Credit, you’ll be asked to go to an interview with a Jobcentre work coach and accept a claimant commitment. This sets out what you have to do to prepare for work or find work. If you’re already working, it may set out what you have to do to find better paid work or work more hours.

What about mixed-age couples?

Where one member of a couple is over Pension Credit age and the other one is under, you will not be able to claim Pension Credit anymore, as a couple.  It is important that you contact the Financial Skills Team at Accord for advice on how the state pension will affect your entitlement to Universal Credit for the younger partner.

Universal Credit does not replace Council Tax Support.

If you are paid Universal Credit and had previously received Council Tax Support benefit, you need to:

  • Inform the local authority of your change and provide the LA with any information requested
  • Make a new claim for Council Tax Support - this will be via a Housing Benefit / Council Tax Support claim form held by the local authority.
How much Council Tax Support will someone on Universal Credit get?

This depends, both on your particular income and circumstances - and also on the way your local authority has decided to assess Council Tax Support for people on Universal Credit. If in doubt contact your local Council Tax department for advice.

If you receive Universal Credit you may be able to get some extra support. Here’s just a few examples:

  • Help with health costs, including prescriptions and dental treatment
  • Free school meals – in England and Wales those Universal Credit claimants who become eligible for free school meals and apply for them, will receive free school meals until the date the child leaves primary/secondary/further education, even if their earned income increases and exceeds the earnings threshold
  • Free early education for two-year-olds
  • Sure Start maternity grants
  • Cold weather payments
  • Support with travel costs to attend job interviews or start work
  • Support with provision of clothing to start work
  • Support with upfront childcare costs until you receive your first wage
  • Additional help towards housing payments if your Universal Credit payment is not enough to pay your rent via the local authority's Discretionary Housing Payment.

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