Universal Credit

Universal Credit replaces a number of income-related benefits. It is a payment for people who are on a low income or out of work.

It replaces:

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

If you get one of these benefits, you will be transferred to Universal Credit at some point.

To claim Universal Credit, you must:

  • live in an area where it is available
  • be aged 18 or over (or 16 or over in certain cases)
  • not be in full-time education or training
  • accept an agreement called a claimant commitment.

Universal Credit is gradually being introduced across the UK. The amount you can get depends on your income and circumstances.

You can apply for Universal Credit online at gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit (UC) is a benefit for people under retirement age who are either:

  • out of work, for example due to an illness or caring
  • on a low income.

UC is gradually being introduced across the UK. It can include money for basic living costs, looking after children and housing.

UC is replacing six other means-tested benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

If you currently get any of these benefits, and your circumstances change, you may have to claim UC instead. You can speak to a welfare rights adviser to find out more. After 2019, more people will gradually be moved to UC, and will need to be reassessed. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or the Department for Communities (DfC) in Northern Ireland will contact you to change your claim.


Is Universal Credit available in my area?


Who can claim?

To claim UC, you must:

  • live in an area where it is available
  • be aged 18 or over (or 16 or over in certain cases)
  • not be in full-time education or training
  • accept an agreement called a claimant commitment.

If you live with someone as a couple, you will need to include their details on the claim form. This is called making a joint claim. Both of your savings and incomes will be considered.

Before you make a claim for UC, you should apply for any contribution-based benefits you may be able to get. You can get more information about this from a welfare rights adviser.

If you have a terminal illness, you can claim under special rules. This means your claim should be fast-tracked and you will receive extra money. We have more information about special rules.

You can find more information about who can claim at gov.uk

Claimant commitment

Your claimant commitment is a record of the responsibilities you will have if you get UC. When you apply, you will have a conversation with a work coach at your local Jobcentre Plus. Your claimant commitment will be written during this conversation with your agreement.

You may want to speak to your health or social care professional for advice before meeting with your work coach.

The claimant commitment is based on your individual situation. For example, you may currently have a limited ability to work, but are expected to get better. Your claimant commitment might state that you should prepare for work as much as you can.

You will then be placed into a ‘work-related activity group’. This is sometimes called a ‘conditionality group’. Each group contains types of activities that you will have to do to prepare for work.

If you are too unwell to work at all, you will not be expected to prepare for work.

If you do not keep to your claimant commitment, your benefit could be stopped or reduced. So it is important to make sure that it reflects what you can and cannot do.

If you are waiting for, receiving or recovering from certain cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you should ask to be placed in the ‘no work-related activity group’.

You should also make sure you are referred for a work capability assessment. You will need to complete a UC50 form, or a ESA50 form if you are also applying for new style ESA. We have got more information about the work capability assessment process.

Completing the form will help to make sure you receive any extra money because of your condition, and that you get the right amount for your circumstances.


How much you could get

The amount of UC you can get depends on your income and circumstances. It may also depend on the income and circumstances of people living with you.

These are the current standard monthly rates:

  • A single person aged under 25 would get £251.77.
  • A single person aged 25 or over would get £317.81.
  • A couple both aged under 25 would get £395.20.
  • A couple where one person is aged 25 or over would get £498.89.

UC is paid monthly. You will need to wait for 7 days after you make a claim before you can be paid. You can apply for an advanced payment to help you budget. This will need to be repaid. This is done by reducing your UC payments over 12 months.


Extra payments

UC also gives extra payments, called ‘elements’, for people in certain situations. You may get the following elements:

  • The child element, if you are responsible for a child who lives with you. This generally means a child aged under 16. In some cases, it could mean a young person aged 16 to 19 who is in full-time education or doing certain training. Extra money is added for any child or young person who has a disability. You can only get this element for up to 2 children.
  • The childcare element, if you pay for childcare so that you can stay in work.
  • The limited capability for work-related activity element, if you have a limited ability both to work and to do work-related activities. This is similar to being in the support group for Employment Support Allowance.
  • The carer element, if you look after someone who is severely disabled and have regular and considerable caring duties. You can either get the carer element or the limited capability for work element but not both. You will get whichever is greater.
  • The housing element, if you meet certain criteria. This helps with rent or service charges.

You can find out more about extra payments at gov.uk

Qualifying for UC may make you eligible for other help, such as free prescriptions and free school meals.


How to claim

You can apply for UC online at gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

You can apply by calling the Universal Credit helpline. Call 0800 328 9344 or use textphone 0800 328 1344.

If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can also call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Universal Credit helpline. Call 0800 328 9344 or 0800 012 1888 for Welsh language, or use text phone 0800 328 1344.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can call your local Jobs and Benefits or Social Security Office.

It helps to provide as much information as you can, such as:

  • an email address
  • your National Insurance number
  • details of your income, savings and housing costs
  • details of your health condition.

Once you apply, you will usually need to meet with a work coach at your local Jobcentre Plus. This must be arranged within 7 days. If you cannot attend the appointment because of your condition or treatment, it is important to let them know. This is so that your claim is not cancelled.

You can ask a Macmillan welfare rights adviser to help with your claim.


Challenging a decision

If you are unhappy with a decision about UC, you may be able to ask for it to be looked at again. This is called a mandatory reconsideration. We have more information about this.

The Department of Work and Pensions has a video about how to claim Universal Credit.

Back to Working age benefits

Jobseeker's Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance can give you a weekly income if you are unemployed and able to work.