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Universal Credit

You may be able to claim Universal Credit if you’re on a low income or unemployed. How much you get depends on your circumstances, including if you have a partner and/or children. 

On this page:

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new benefit that replaces some other benefits. It is a single, means-tested benefit for people of working age. Means-tested benefits top up a low income, and vary according to how much other money you have coming in.

Universal Credit will eventually replace:

If you are already claiming these benefits, your local Jobcentre Plus or Tax Credits Office will tell you when you have to move to Universal Credit. 

Universal Credit will not replace other benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment

In some areas of the country, Universal Credit is only available to single people looking for work. To check to see if you are eligible to claim, visit the   website, or nidirect   if you live in Northern Ireland.

Universal Credit is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), or the Department for Communities (DfC) in Northern Ireland.

Am I eligible for Universal Credit?

To claim Universal Credit you must:

  • be 18 years of age or over
  • be under State Pension Age (check your State Pension Age at GOV.UK  )
  • pass the UK residence and presence tests, which means you must be habitually resident, have a right to reside and not be subject to immigration control (there are complex restrictions on migrants that aren't  covered here so it may be useful to seek advice from a benefits adviser)
  • not be in full-time education (unless you get Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment and you have a limited capacity to work)
  • have accepted a claimant commitment
  • not have capital or savings of more than £16,000. 

How much could I get?

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 any:

  • children (including childcare costs)
  • disability or health condition you may have
  • caring responsibilities you may have
  • housing costs (if you pay rent or have a mortgage).

As with other means-tested benefits, some earnings and income are taken into account in full, some in part and some ignored. For example, if you receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) these are not taken into account.  

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 (if this is higher than Universal Credit) as long as your circumstances remain the same. This is called transitional protection.  

You can read more about what you’ll get at GOV.UK  , or nidirect   if you live in Northern Ireland.

Extra Universal Credit for having a disability or health condition

If you or your partner has a disability or health condition that either prevents you from working or limits the amount of work you can do, you may be eligible for extra amounts.

The only way to get extra Universal Credit for having a disability or health condition is if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides that you have a limited capability for work-related activity. This is tested under the work capability assessment – similar to the assessment used for Employment Support Allowance. If you have a limited capability for work-related activity, you will be put in the support group of claimants. In this group, as well as having more Universal Credit, you will also not be expected to meet work-related conditions to keep the benefit in full.

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.  

How do I make a claim? 

You’re normally expected to claim Universal Credit online through the website

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 or earnings you have
  • details of any other benefits you’re getting.

You also need these details for your husband, wife or civil partner, if you have one, and any children. 

It should take between 20 and 40 minutes to complete your claim.

After you apply, you need to contact your local Jobcentre Plus within seven days to make an appointment with a work coach. You might also need to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus. You’ll be told if you need to after you apply.

If you aren’t able to apply online, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office or local council, who may also offer face-to-face advice. If you need help or want to ask for the application form in an alternative format, call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344 (textphone 0800 328 1344). 

If you qualify

If you qualify, you’ll usually get your first payment five weeks after you made your claim. Normally, your Universal Credit will be paid in arrears as a single payment each month into your bank, building society or credit union account.

If you need help to pay your bills or cover costs, you can apply to get an advance on your first payment. If you’re eligible, you could get this within five days of applying. It’ll be taken out of your payments over the following months. If you want to apply for an advance, speak to your work coach or call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344 (textphone 0800 328 1344). 

Your Claimant Commitment

To qualify and keep getting Universal Credit in full, you may need to do certain things called ‘work-related requirements’, such as look for a job. The work-related requirements you must meet are listed in a claimant commitment. This is drawn up at an interview with a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Department for Communities (DfC) workcoach.

However, work-related requirements don’t apply to some people living with a terminal illness. Special rules  apply to people whose death ‘can reasonably be expected’ within the next six months, and sometimes people who are expected to live longer. The requirements are also less demanding for carers and disabled people.

If you don’t follow the requirements in your claimant commitment, the amount of Universal Credit you get is likely to be stopped or reduced (sanctioned). If this happens, you may be able to get a hardship payment – find out more from Money Advice Service  .

If your claim is rejected

If you’re refused Universal Credit or you disagree with the award 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.

Reporting a change in your circumstances

If there is a change in your circumstances or you gave incorrect information by mistake, you need to report it.

Find out more about reporting a change in circumstances at GOV.UK   or nidirect   if you live in Northern Ireland. 

Useful links

GOV.UK   - apply for Universal Credit

nidirect   - Universal Credit in Northern Ireland

About this information

Marie Curie's Information and Support team has produced this information with help from:

  • Director of Corporate Services, Marie Curie
  • Disability Rights UK
  • Our Readers Panel volunteers.

This information is not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it's used.

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