Universal credit is being introduced in stages across the UK. It will eventually replace housing benefit, income support, employment and support allowance, jobseeker's allowance and some tax credits.
What is universal credit?
Universal credit is a new way of paying benefits. It brings together several different benefits and combines them into one monthly payment which goes straight into your bank account. Under universal credit you'll be expected to either look for work or take action to find work.
Universal credit will replace:
- housing benefit
- income-based jobseeker's allowance
- income-related employment and support allowance
- income support
- child tax credits
- working tax credits.
Many benefits will continue to exist:
- Disability living allowance
- Contribution-based jobseeker's allowance.
Universal credit is made up of a 'standard allowance' and potentially five extra 'elements':
- child element and disabled child additions
- childcare element
- carer element
- limited capability for work element
- housing element.
When will I start to get universal credit?
People who made new benefit claims from October 2013 were the first people to start to receive universal credit. It will be introduced for other benefits claimants gradually from 2014 through to 2017.
How do I claim universal credit?
Claims for universal credit will be made and managed through an online account. If you need help making a claim you can call the universal credit helpline on 0845 600 0723.
It's very important that you provide the correct information in your universal credit claim. If you get an overpayment because of wrong information in your claim you could be fined up to £50.
When will I get a universal credit payment?
Universal credit payments will be made monthly and they'll go straight into your bank account. This means that you need to make a monthly budget to make sure that you can afford important payments, like your rent. If you think you'll have trouble preparing for getting your benefit in one payment speak to a money adviser who will be able to help you make a monthly budget.
What happens to my universal credit payments if I start work or increase my hours?
If you start work, or start working more hours, your benefits won't stop automatically. The payments will be gradually reduced the more you earn.
Universal credit and housing costs for 18 to 21 year olds
If you are under 22 and make a new claim for universal credit, in a full digital service area, you might not get help towards paying your rent.
You will still get help with your rent if you:
- are already claiming universal credit housing cost or housing benefit
- claim universal credit in a live service area
- are working at least 16 hours per week.
If you are a new claimant in a full digital area, you can still get help with your rent if you:
- claim as a couple
- have a dependant child
- were in care when you were 16 or 17
- are in receipt of the daily living component of PIP or the middle/high component of DLA.
If you are affected by this change you should make an application for a community care grant via the Scottish welfare fund.