Universal Credit is a new benefit that is being phased in over several years to replace a range of existing benefits and tax credits. Universal Credit hasn’t been introduced in Northern Ireland.
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Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit that will replace the following means-tested benefits:
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income Support.
The term means-tested means that the amount you get varies according to how much or how little other money you have coming in.
Other benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment will remain largely unchanged by the introduction of Universal Credit.
To claim Universal Credit you must:
- be of working age, which is normally from age 18 (16 or 17 in some cases) up to the qualifying age for Pension Credit - visit the GOV.uk website for more on Pension Credit age
- pass the UK residence and presence tests, which means you must be habitually resident (intend to settle), have a right to reside and not be subject to immigration control (there are complex restrictions on migrants that aren't covered here – seek advice if they apply to you)
- not be in education (except where you’re in education and claiming Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment with a limited capability for work)
- have accepted a claimant commitment
- have capital or savings under £16,000
- have earnings or income that aren’t too high for any Universal Credit to be paid.
The amount you’re paid depends on your circumstances. It’s worked out by comparing what you need to live on with any other earnings or income that you have. The amount you need to live on includes amounts for children, for having a disability or health condition, and for housing costs if you pay rent or have a mortgage.
As with other means-tested benefits, some earnings and some income is taken into account in full, some in part and some is ignored. For example, any income you may be getting from Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment is ignored.
If your earnings or other income go up, the amount of Universal Credit will gradually be reduced.
If you’re on any of the existing means-tested benefits and are moved onto Universal Credit you’ll normally keep the same level of benefit as long as your circumstances remain the same. This is called transitional protection.
The benefit cap
There is a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap. How much you get for certain benefits may go down to make sure you don’t get more than the cap amount. This will apply if you get Universal Credit.
The only way to get extra Universal Credit for having a disability or health condition is if the DWP decides that you have limited capability for work or limited capability for work-related activity. The tests for these are the same as those for the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance.
You may also be able to get extra Universal Credit if you’re a carer.
You’re normally expected to claim Universal Credit online through the GOV.uk website . If you don't have internet access, it can be provided by your local Jobcentre or local council, which may also offer face-to-face advice.
Make sure you have the following information before you start:
- your postcode
- your National Insurance number
- details of the bank, building society or credit union account you want Universal Credit paid into
- your rent agreement (if you have one)
- details of your savings or other capital
- details of any income that’s not from work, eg from an insurance plan
- details of any other benefits you’re getting.
You might also need these details for people who live in your home, like your husband, wife or civil partner.
It should take between 20 and 40 minutes to complete your claim.
If you don’t want to claim online, you’ll usually need to say why. For example, by saying you can’t use a computer, or you have problems with reading or writing.
If you need to apply by phone or in person, you can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0345 600 072 (textphone 0345 600 0743), Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. The application can take up to 40 minutes on the phone. There is a charge for this phone call, so ask the person on the helpline to call you back so you don't have to pay.
If you qualify
If you qualify, you’ll usually get your first payment one month and 14 days after you made your claim. Normally, your Universal Credit will be paid in arrears as a single payment each month into your bank or building society account.
If your claim is rejected
If you’re refused Universal Credit or you disagree with the written decision, you have one month to ask for the decision to be reconsidered. If you’re not happy with the outcome, you have another month to appeal the decision.
To qualify and keep getting Universal Credit, you may need to do certain things like look for a job. This is called your claimant commitment. However, any work-related requirements won’t apply to you if you’re living with a terminal illness within the definition used by the DWP. The requirements are also less demanding for carers and disabled people than for most other people.
If you don’t follow the requirements in your claimant commitment, the amount of Universal Credit you get is likely to be reduced. If this happens, you may be able to get a hardship payment.
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