If your Universal Credit is stopped or reduced
If the amount of Universal Credit you get changes, you'll either get a letter or a message when you log into your Universal Credit online account. If you have an online account, you can also sign up for text or email alerts.
Your Universal Credit might be reduced if:
- you've reported a change of circumstances that means you'll get less - for example, you've moved home or you're paying back an advance payment, hardship payment or budgeting advance
- you've been sanctioned - find out what to do if you've been sanctioned
- you've earned more from work - find out how working affects Universal Credit
You'll also get less money if the Jobcentre previously paid you too much Universal Credit, or HM Revenue and Customs paid you too much tax credit. This is called an 'overpayment'.
If you have certain types of debt, a creditor can also apply to have money taken from your payment - this is called a 'third party deduction'.
If you've had an overpayment
You'll get less each month until you pay it back. In most cases, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will reduce your payment by between 15% and 25% of your 'standard allowance' – this is the basic amount you get, not including extra amounts called ‘elements’.
Coronavirus – if you’re paying back a benefit overpayment
You don’t have to make any repayments until at least 1 July 2020 – this includes payments to debt collection companies.
If money is normally taken off your benefits or earnings to repay an overpayment, this will stop – you don’t have to do anything.
If you normally repay the overpayment yourself, you can stop making payments. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your bank to cancel it.
For example - if your payment is reduced by 15% of your standard allowance and your standard allowance is usually £317.82 a month, your total payment will be reduced by £47.67.
Your payment can also be reduced if your overpayment happened because of fraud. The DWP won’t usually take more than 30% of your standard allowance.
If you think you won't have enough money to live on because you're paying back an overpayment, contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can help you budget or ask the DWP to take repayments at a lower rate.
If your Universal Credit is reduced to pay off your debts
You'll only get a deduction if the creditor asks the DWP - this is called a 'third party deduction'. It's usually 5% of your basic standard allowance but could be more. The DWP will tell you if this has happened - they'll do this either in your online journal if you have one, or by letter.
Deductions can only be made for:
- rent arrears and other housing costs like service charges - the deduction can be between 10% and 20% for rent arrears
- gas, electric or water arrears
- council tax bills arrears
- child support maintenance
- some loans
- some fines
Your Universal Credit will be reduced by 5% of your basic 'standard allowance' for most third party deductions - more money can be taken for some debts. For example, for rent arrears.
You'll never get more than 3 third party deductions at a time and in most cases no more than 30% of your standard allowance can be taken.
Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think you won't have enough money to live on. An adviser can help you budget and ask the DWP to change their decision or make an appeal if suitable. For example, you might be able to appeal how much they're taking off your Universal Credit for rent arrears.
If you don't have enough to live on
You can ask for a smaller deduction if the amount your Universal Credit is being reduced means you don't have enough money to live on. You might have Universal Credit deduction for:
- a benefit debt
- a Social Fund loan
- rent arrears
You'll need to show the DWP that you don't have enough to live on - this is called financial hardship. You'll need to give them a financial statement showing your income and what you spend your money on. You'll also need to show you can't meet your basic living costs with the current rate of deduction. You can send this information through your online journal or in a letter if you don't have an online account.
If you think your payment is wrong
You should call the Universal Credit helpline or ask for an explanation using your online account if you have one. You should do this if:
- your payment is less than you expected and you haven't been told why
- you think there's been a mistake with how your Universal Credit has been worked out
Provide any evidence you have
It's a good idea to give them some evidence of the mistake if you can. You'll need to do this through your online account if you have one, or by letter. Evidence could be, for example:
- your tenancy agreement - if you think your housing costs are wrong
- payslips or bank statements - if there's been an error in your earnings (ask your employer for payslips if you don't have them)
- childcare bills - if they have your childcare costs wrong
If you still disagree with the deduction
If the DWP give you an explanation and you still disagree with the decision, you can challenge it - this is known as a mandatory reconsideration.
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Calls to this number are free.