What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit that is being introduced in stages across the country. It aims to support those who are working and on a low income or those who are not working. It affects those of working age only and does not affect those of pension age. [Please note that from 15 May 2019, different arrangements are being introduced for couples where one member is over the age for Pension Credit, and the other is under the Pension Credit age].
Universal Credit replaces the following six benefits:
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
- Income Support
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
How do I claim UC?
You must claim Universal Credit online
The Government has produced guidance to assist customers claiming housing costs as part of their claim for Universal Credit
– click here for a copy of the Housing Costs Completion Guide
Please make sure that where you are asked for details of your landlord, you give our full name – The Buckinghamshire Housing Association.
How is UC paid?
Instead of getting separate benefit payments, UC is paid as one single monthly payment, direct into your bank account. UC is paid directly to the person claiming benefit. If you live with someone as a couple and you are both entitled to UC, you will get one joint payment into one bank account.
Your payment will include your housing costs. If you receive UC, you will normally be responsible for paying your own rent.
When will I get my money?
UC is normally paid monthly in arrears and it can take up to five weeks after you claim before you get your first payment.
If you are worried about how you will manage until you get your first payment, you may be able to request an advance payment. However, any such advance must be repaid from your future UC payments, so it is important to only ask for what you need.
Get ready for Universal Credit
There are a number of steps you will need to take to get ready for UC:
Get the right bank account
UC is paid monthly into your chosen bank, building society or Post Office account. If you don’t have one, you will need to open an account. You can do this at any high street bank.
You will need access to the internet and an email address to apply for and manage your account online. If you don’t have access to a computer at home or at work, you might be able to use one for free at your local Job Centre, Citizen’s Advice, library or council offices.
Set up a budget and prioritise your rent
Your UC payment will be paid to you and you need to make paying your rent your priority.
It might be helpful to set up a monthly budget now to avoid falling into debt on your rent.
Your UC payment could be reduced if you regularly fail to pay your rent on time.
Notify the DWP of any change in your circumstances
If you receive UC, you must inform the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) whenever there is a change in your circumstances. This includes when your rent and service charges change. You must let them know of the change within 14 days to make sure you get the correct payment, or you could be left out of pocket.
Claim Council Tax Support
If you wish to apply for a reduction in your Council Tax, you will need to claim this separately from UC.
Further information on Universal Credit
If you need help with a new claim, you can call the UC helpline free on 0800 328 9344.
If you already have an online account and journal you should call the UC full service helpline free on 0800 328 5644.
The Money Advice Service has created a useful Money Manager tool that provides tailored information specifically for Universal Credit claimants.
If you are struggling with your UC application, cannot pay your rent whilst waiting for a claim to be awarded or would simply like to talk through the process with someone, please contact our Welfare Benefits Officer.