What Universal Credit is
Universal Credit has replaced these benefits for most people:
- Housing Benefit
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income Support
You might be able to get Universal Credit if you’re not working or you’re on a low income - check if you're eligible for Universal Credit.
Universal Credit works differently from the old benefits - so it's important to know the differences.
The biggest differences are:
- you can get Universal Credit if you're unemployed but also if you're working
- you'll usually get a single payment each month, rather than weekly or fortnightly
- instead of getting a separate housing benefit, your rent will usually be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment
How Universal Credit works
You'll usually get one monthly payment to cover your living costs. If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, you and your partner will get one payment between the 2 of you. The payment is made up of a basic 'standard allowance' and extra payments that might apply to you depending on your circumstances.
You might be able to get extra payments if you:
- look after one or more children
- work and pay for childcare
- need help with housing costs
- are disabled or have a health condition
- are a carer for a disabled person or you have a disabled child
Check how much you might get on GOV.UK.
If you get help with rent
If your UC payment includes help with rent, you'll usually need to pay your landlord each month from your Universal Credit payment, even if you live in social housing. You can ask the DWP to pay your rent directly to your landlord if you're in debt, have rent arrears or are struggling with money.
If you're working
You can work and still get Universal Credit - your Universal Credit will reduce gradually as you earn more. Your Universal Credit will go up if your job ends or you earn less.
If you're self-employed, your payment might also be affected by how much the DWP expect you to earn each month - this expected amount is called your 'minimum income floor'. Find out how the minimum income floor works and if it applies to you.
Claiming other benefits if you get Universal Credit
You should apply for Council Tax Reduction - if you get it, it won't reduce the amount of Universal Credit you get.
If you’re disabled, you should check if you’re eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you’re responsible for a disabled child, you should check if you can claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for your child. Getting PIP or DLA won’t reduce the amount of Universal Credit you get.
You can also claim other benefits if you have enough national insurance contributions. For example:
- if you’re unemployed, check if you can claim contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), also called ‘new style’ JSA
- if you can’t work because of illness or disability, check if you can claim contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), also called ‘new style’ ESA
If you get either of these benefits, your Universal Credit will be reduced, but it might still be worth claiming.
Applying for 'new style' JSA
It’s free to apply online on GOV.UK. Take a photo or screen-shot of the message that says your claim has been sent - you might need this later to prove when you first claimed.
If you can’t apply online, call the Jobcentre Plus:
Jobcentre Plus claim lines
Freephone: 0800 055 6688 (Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 6.00pm)
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
NGT text relay (if you're unable to hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 055 6688
Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.
Applying for 'new style' ESA
You can apply online for new style ESA on GOV.UK, unless you’re applying for someone else.
You’ll need to do this even if you’re on Universal Credit. You can’t apply for ESA through your Universal Credit online account anymore.
If you're claiming ESA for someone else or you can’t apply online, you can call the Universal Credit helpline to claim ESA:
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 these numbers are free. It’s best to call from the phone number you gave the DWP when you set up your Universal Credit account. You'll have a shorter wait and be put through to the same person who handled previous calls you've made.
If you need help with your Universal Credit application, you can talk to an adviser. They can help you work out if it's worth claiming other benefits at the same time as Universal Credit.