This is a basic guide to Universal Credit, who it applies to and where to find further support and information. After each section, there is a link to our more detailed guide to Universal Credit
Our new page concentrates on the move to Universal Credit, how it is happening, if you have a choice, if you would be better off on Universal Credit - or not and where to get help
- What is Universal Credit?
- When and how is Universal Credit being introduced?
- Who can get Universal Credit?
- How much is Universal Credit?
- How to claim and manage Universal Credit
- How is Universal Credit paid?
- How Universal Credit affects those not in full time work (work related requirements)?
- Universal Credit and volunteering
- Other benefits, help and general rules
- Extra help and support with Universal Credit - including in Newcastle
- Will my benefit go up or down when I transfer to Universal Credit?
- Toolkits for employers and landlords and Homelessness guides
- More details on Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a new Government benefit replacing six working age and means tested ( income-related) benefits, called 'legacy benefits'
Universal Credit is now available across the UK
The reasons for getting Universal Credit are similar to those for the 'legacy benefits' that it is replacing. For example, having no or little income and being in various situations, such as being too ill to work, in work, unemployed, a lone parent, a carer, or needing help with rent. Other rules and the amounts may differ
Universal Credit is for people of ‘working age’. Those of 'pension age' may be able to claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit instead
The amount you get depends on your circumstances such as being single, in a couple, having children, a disability, are working and have housing costs like rent. This total amount may be reduced by certain incomes you may have, such as earnings. The amount may be increased for carers, children with disability or those with certain levels of incapacity for work. The amount will also change as your income changes. For example, your payment will reduce gradually as you earn more. The amount can also be reduced for various reasons, such as the benefit cap.
You are expected to claim and manage your Universal Credit online
This includes notifying any changes in circumstances online and also Jobcentre Plus notifying you online of any actions you have to take. Remember, you must do these actions or you may lose money
If you cannot manage online you can make the claim over the phone
If you have difficulties with claiming online, see 'Extra help and support with Universal Credit - including in Newcastle' below
Once you have submitted your Universal Credit claim online you will be invited to an interview with a Jobcentre Plus Work Coach to verify your information and discuss any appropriate work-related activity, which includes agreeing your ‘Claimant Commitment’. This may be over the phone or in the Jobcentre Plus office
Help with housing costs, such as rent, will normally be paid with your Universal Credit payment. In limited circumstances it can be paid directly to your landlord for a temporary period
You are expected to have a bank account or similar for Universal Credit
Universal Credit is usually paid to one person in the family but can be split between a couple for certain reasons
Universal Credit is paid one month in arrears. It can mean waiting for five weeks or more for your first payment. If this causes hardship, you can claim an ‘advanced payment’ of Universal Credit. After six months on Universal Credit you can also claim a ‘budgeting advance’ to help with furniture and other one-off costs. Both payments are loans and deducted from future Universal Credit payments. You can ask for two weekly payments
How Universal Credit affects those not in full time work (work related requirements)
To get Universal Credit you and any partner may have to take part in ‘work-related activity’, such as looking and applying for work. The level of activity depends on various circumstances and is decided when you agree your Claimant Commitment and at ongoing interviews. Even if you are working you may be expected to do such activity, depending on the level of your earnings
These work-related requirements have to be ‘reasonable’, and you can ask for them to be revised, but if you fail to comply, your Universal Credit can be reduced for a certain length of time (called a sanction).
We have produced an information sheet on the rules for volunteering under Universal Credit
Universal Credit is replacing six benefits but others continue to be paid and interact in various ways with Universal Credit
All other benefits continue, including contribution based Jobseekers Allowance, contributory Employment and Support Allowance, disability benefits, pension age benefits and many others. See our benefits information page for more information on all these benefits
You can get free school meals and help towards health costs if you are on Universal Credit and earn below a set amount
As with other benefits you can challenge most Universal Credit decisions
Some people may have serious difficulties with the way that Universal Credit is paid and claimed, such as being paid monthly, in arrears and to one person in a couple, with housing costs being paid to the claimant and having to claim it online. In recognition of this the government allow temporary easements, such as the housing costs being paid direct to the landlord and are also working with local authorities and others to support people, such as online claim support
For those supporting Universal Credit claimants there is guidance on permission to speak to the Jobcentre Plus on their behalf
- If you have to claim Universal Credit and it is lower than the benefits it is replacing, you will usually drop down to the level of Universal Credit
- At some stage, those still on 'legacy benefits' will be told in writing to claim Universal Credit. In which case you will keep the higher amount as a top up to your Universal Credit
- If Universal Credit is higher, in either case you will get the higher amount of Universal Credit
Much of this will depend on your individual circumstances
The government provide useful information about Universal Credit, including advice for landlords and employers and those supporting homeless people
- Benefit advice services in Newcastle and benefit offices
- Benefits information
- Changes to the benefits system
- Check your entitlement to benefits online
- Information for professionals and volunteers - financial inclusion
- Universal Credit more detailed guide
- Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you