What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit (UC) is a means tested benefit, which is paid in a monthly lump sum in arrears and includes 6 legacy benefits:
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Employment Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefit
(Benefits such as Child Benefit, Personal Independence Payments and Disability Living Allowance continue to be paid separately.)
Am I eligible?
You can check your eligibility by inputting your income details at:
How do I apply?
Applications for Universal Credit are primarily carried out online at the gov.uk website. To apply you will need to do the following:
- Create a user name, password and 3 security questions to set up your profile
- Verify your email address by entering a code sent to you (check spam)
- Joint applicants need to create separate profiles and are given a code to merge them
Once your profile is set up, you can login and then you will be asked to enter the following details:
- Employment status.
You will be asked if you are in work, self-employed, seeking work or unable to work. If you are working or self-employed you will be asked to enter your income and number of hours worked. Please enter any details of pensions that you pay into.
- Housing Costs.
This includes your rent, but also any service charges that are payable. Please check your tenancy agreement for full details on any service charges.
- Household Details.
You will need to specify the number of adults, children and/or non-dependents living with you.
- Any other Income.
For example, savings, pensions in payment or disability benefits such as Personal Independence Payments or Disability Living Allowance.
- Claimant Commitment.
Lastly you will be asked to accept that you will look for work if you are eligible and capable to do so. This also means that you will look for more hours if you are working part time. If you unable to work due to illness, you agree to keep the DWP informed of any changes that occur.
What happens now?
Once you have completed the online application, the next step is verifying your ID. This can be done by setting up or using an existing Government Gateway account online. Many applicants with Tax Credit claims in place will have a Gateway ID already. Ordinarily however, verification is done by bringing the relevant ID and address documents to the Jobcentre. Due to recent lockdown restrictions the majority of Jobcentres are closed so staff are verifying details by phone with paper verification to be decided on later.
When will I receive the first payment?
Your first Universal Credit payment will not be made until 5 weeks after your application, therefore you can ask for an advance for the intervening period. This can be up to the value of your award, and is deducted monthly from your award for a maximum of 12 months and you can defer payments for a total of 3 months. It is important to exercise caution when applying for an advance as this will reduce your ongoing award in the upcoming months. You can apply for an advance on the UC website or with a Jobcentre work coach when you verify your ID.
You are expected to log in regularly to your Universal Credit account and have a To-Do section that explains any next steps you need to take. This could be details of any appointments or interviews you are expected to attend. If you need to contact the Jobcentre you can do this electronically via your journal. A Payments section includes a full breakdown of your award each month, with any deductions explained. This is available 5 days before the payment is made.
Important points to note
If you qualify for Universal Credit, you may also qualify for Council Tax Support. This is administered by your local authority and after an injection of £500m by the government due to COVID 19, those who qualify can have a further reduction of £150 on their council tax bill.
Check your eligibility at www.turn2us.org.uk or www.entitledto.co.uk. If you are, check with your local authority how you can apply. Some councils require you to apply online and some require paper forms to be submitted.
Although Universal Credit is a predominantly online service, offline applications for Universal Credit are available. These can be done by calling the UC Helpline on 0800 3285644.
- If you are self-employed you will need to report your income monthly using your UC journal.
- If you are in work, your award is based on the previous month's earnings.
Can Hightown help?
If you require any help understanding the process, or support, please contact your Income Officer who may refer you to the Financial Inclusion Team.