The following information gives you a simple explanation of Universal Credit, including when it is coming in, 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 .
- What is Universal Credit?
- When and how is Universal Credit being introduced?
- Who will be able to get Universal Credit?
- How much is Universal Credit?
- How do I claim and manage Universal Credit online?
- How is Universal Credit paid?
- How will Universal Credit affect those not in full time work or not working enough?
- Universal Credit and volunteering
- Other benefits, help and general rules
- Extra help and support under Universal Credit
- Will my benefit go up or down when I transfer to Universal Credit?
- Toolkits for employers and landlords
- More details on Universal Credit
Universal Credit is a new government benefit replacing six working age and income-related benefits, also called 'legacy benefits'.
Universal Credit is being introduced in various ways across the country. In Newcastle:
- Since 15 March 2017, 'full service' Universal Credit has been rolled out all three Newcastle Jobcentre Plus areas
- From 27 April 2015, a limited version of Universal Credit was made available for new claims from single jobseekers –called ‘live service
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 or mortgage payments. However, other rules and the amounts may differ.
Universal Credit is usually paid to one person in the family. It is a ‘working age’ benefit. Those who have reached 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 or disabled people. 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 have to claim Universal Credit online. The kind of online claim depends on whether it is ‘live service’ (limited) or ‘full service’ Universal Credit.
The three Newcastle Jobcentres are all now 'full service'. With ‘full service’ Universal Credit, you also have to manage your claim online. This includes notifying any changes in circumstances online and also Jobcentre Plus notifying you electronically of any you have to take. Remember, you must do these actions or you may lose money.
You can also phone the Jobcentre for help
There is support for people who have difficulties with claiming online. See ‘Extra help and support under Universal Credit’ below.
Once you have claimed Universal Credit you will be invited to an interview with a work coach at your local Jobcentre Plus office to verify your information and discuss any appropriate work-related activity, which includes agreeing your ‘Claimant Commitment’.
If you need help with housing costs, such as rent, this 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 paid one month in arrears. You are not entitled to any Universal Credit for the first seven days of a new claim unless you are exempt. It can mean waiting for six 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 your future Universal Credit payments.
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’, 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 describing the rules for volunteering under Universal Credit
Universal Credit is replacing six benefits but many others continue to be paid and interact in various ways with Universal Credit. For example, getting Personal Independence Payment may increase your Universal Credit.
You can get free school meals and help towards health costs if you are on Universal Credit
As with other benefits you can challenge a Universal Credit decision if you don’t agree with it.
Some people may have serious difficulties with the ways Universal Credit is paid and claimed: being paid monthly, in arrears and to one person in a couple, with housing costs being paid to the claimant and having to claim Universal Credit 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 to support people, such as online claim support and personal budgeting 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
- If you are still on the old ‘legacy benefits’, from about 2019 or 2020 you will, at some stage, be moved across to 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.
This is a simple explanation of Universal Credit. For more details, see our more detailed guide to Universal Credit.