Skip to main content

View our coronavirus (COVID-19) housing advice

Universal credit

Find out if you could be entitled to claim universal credit and how to apply.

What is universal credit?

Universal credit is a new way of paying benefits. It brings together several 'elements' depending on your needs and combines these into one monthly payment. This payment goes straight into your bank account.

Universal credit replaces most new claims for:

  • housing benefit
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • income support
  • child tax credits
  • working tax credits.

If you already get one of the benefits above you will usually stay on it until your circumstances change, but if this happens get advice. Not every change means your benefits need to change.

Who can claim universal credit

You could be entitled to universal credit if you are

  • working but on a low income, or have expensive childcare costs or,
  • if you are looking for work, or
  • if you care for someone or
  • you can't work due to health problems or a disability

To be able to claim universal credit you need to:

  • be 18 years old or over – if you are 16 or 17 in limited circumstances, for example, if you have a child
  • be under State Pension age
  • live in the UK - there are extra rules if you’re not a British citizen
  • have less than £16,000 in savings

If you live with a partner, their income and savings are taken into account too.

If you live with other adults this might affect how much you get. For example, if you live with your parents you might get less help with housing costs.

You can claim universal credit if you’re working on a low income, this includes being self-employed. The amount of money you’ll be entitled to will be reduced in proportion to how much you earn.

You won’t be able to claim universal credit if you’re getting, or recently stopped getting a benefit with a ‘severe disability premium’ (SDP).

How the amount you get is worked out

Universal credit is made up of a 'standard allowance' for you and your partner if you have one and five additional 'elements' which you might get depending on your circumstances:

  • child and disabled child additions
  • childcare
  • carer element
  • disability or health needs
  • housing costs

How do I claim universal credit?

Claims for universal credit are made and managed through an online account.

If you need help making a claim you can call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644

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.

When will I get a universal credit payment?

Universal credit payments are 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, food and bills.

Once you apply it will usually take 5 weeks to get your first universal credit payment.

You can ask for an advance payment of universal credit if you don't think you'll have enough money to live on while you wait for your first payment.

Paying your rent

If you pay rent, some of your universal credit will be for your housing costs. Usually, this will be included in your universal credit payment that goes into your bank account so you will need to arrange to pay this to your landlord.

If you're already on housing benefit when you apply for universal credit, you’ll still get this for 2 weeks after you make your claim. You don’t need to pay this back.

If you think your rent will be late because you’re waiting for your universal credit payment, talk to your landlord. They might agree to wait for payment if you explain the situation.

If there is a shortfall between the amount of rent you need to pay and the amount covered by universal credit, check if you can apply for Discretionary Housing Payment.

What happens to my universal credit payments if I start work or increase my hours?

If you start work or start working more hours, you need to update your online account but your benefit won't automatically stop. The payments will be gradually reduced the more you earn.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're in England

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us