Universal Credit

Information and step-by-step breakdown

The current situation is new for us all so, as with our Corona Virus Help post, I’ll do my very best to keep this post as up to date as I can to help as many people as possible, but if you see something that you know to be out of date, please let me know for everyone’s benefit. We’re stronger together!

Note that you can still get access to Self-employed Income Support Sceme when they roll it out even if you claim Universal Credit now.

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly - or twice a month for some people in Scotland - and you may be able to get it if you’re on a low income or out of work. The amount you get depends on your earnings and is made up of a standard allowance and any extra amounts that apply to you (e.g. if you have children, a disability or need help paying your rent).

Usually you have to attend an interview at the job centre but with the current circumstances, if you are affected by coronavirus you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a job centre.

You can do all this online through your account (when you make one) so you DO NOT need to be on hold on the phone for hours on end! You connect with your local Job Centre through the 'journal system', arrange and confirm your initial appointment with them and receive a phone call at a scheduled time to set you up with your correct Universal Credit allowance. The monthly standard allowances are as follows:

GroupMonthly payment
Single and under 25£251.77
Single and 25 or over£317.82
In a couple and you’re both under 25£395.20 (for you both)
In a couple and either of you are 25 or over£498.89 (for you both)

Your circumstances are assessed every month and changes to them can affect how much you’re paid for the whole assessment period - not just from the date you report them.

Universal Credit helpline: 0800 328 5644


1) Check if you're eligible

You may be able to get Universal Credit if:

  • you’re on a low income or out of work;
  • you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17);
  • you’re under State Pension age (or your partner is);
  • you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you; and
  • you live in the UK.

Your partner’s income and savings will be taken into account, even if they are not eligible for Universal Credit.

Here’s the link: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit/eligibility

2) Create an account

You need an online account to claim Universal Credit and once you’ve made your account, you need to submit your claim within 28 days. You need to apply for Universal Credit online and you have to apply as a couple if you and your partner live together (you don’t need to be married).

If you do not provide the right information when you apply it might affect when you get paid or how much you get. You’ll need:

  • your bank, building society or credit union account details (call the Universal Credit helpline if you do not have one);
  • an email address;
  • information about your housing, for example how much rent you pay;
  • details of your income, for example payslips/invoices/contracts;
  • details of savings and any investments you have;
  • details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs; and
  • proof of identity (driving license/passport/debit or credit card) - you should now also be able to use an existing Government Gateway ID instead to prove your identity onlie. This is great because previously you had to talk to a 3rd party call centre and this was causing holdups.

FYI - If you live with your partner, they will also need to set up an account. You'll be given a code to link the accounts together.

Here’s the link to apply online and make your account: https://www.universal-credit.service.gov.uk/postcode-checker

3) Interview

Usually, you have to attend an interview with Jobcentre Plus. However, at the moment because of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you to let you know what you need to do instead. Currently, it looks like all interviews are being conducted over the phone with a claim administrator who assesses your situation and claim. This should be within 10 working days of submitting your claim.

Since I've not applied for Universal Credit, here's the experience as described by my friend Aaron:

For anyone wondering what to expect in their first Universal Credit (phone) appointment, just thought I’d post how my phone call went. Firstly make sure you have completed EVERYTHING in your ‘to-do list’ and upload a CV if you have one. This made things a LOT quicker when I had the call as they will confirm some of the details you have entered with you.

Also they asked what documentation I COULD bring in one day in the future if asked to come in, so make sure you have some bills to hand (council tax, utilities) and your tenancy agreement. If you are still needing to confirm identity have 2/3 pieces of ID to hand, passport, license etc. Also make sure you have bank details to hand. Not everyone will be the same I’m sure, but was told that we won’t be asked to come in because of COVID-19. Hope that’s helpful a little bit.

4) Apply for an advance on your first payment

If you need help with bills or other costs while you wait for your first payment, you can apply to get an advance. You do this on your Universal Credit account and usually find out the same day if you can get the advance. You’ll need to:

  • explain why you need an advance;
  • verify your identity; and
  • provide bank account details for the advance.

You start paying the advance back out of your first payment and can choose how many months you pay the advance back over (but it must be paid back within 12 months). You don’t pay interest on it though so the total amount you pay back is the same.

Be careful: Universal credit is not a huge amount of money. If you get an advance and are paying this off out of future payments, you need to make sure you can survive off this reduced amount.

5) Receive your first payment

You’ll get your first payment 5 weeks after you claim and your account will be updated to tell you how much it will be. It will be paid once a month, usually into your bank, building society or credit union account. Your payment can include an amount for housing, which you’ll usually need to pay to your landlord. If you’re not able to open a bank, building society or credit union account, call the Universal Credit helpline to arrange a different way of getting paid.

6) Follow your agreement and report any change of circumstances

You must keep to the Claimant Commitment that you agree at your interview/alternative organised with the DWP (in step 3). If you do not, your payments could stop. You must also update your account if your circumstances change to get the right payment. You do this by signing into your Universal Credit account.

Changes can include amy of the following:

  • finding or finishing a job
  • having a child
  • moving in with your partner
  • starting to care for a child or disabled person
  • moving to a new address
  • changing your bank details
  • your rent going up or down
  • changes to your health condition
  • becoming too ill to work or meet your work coach
  • changes to your earnings (only if you’re self-employed)

As always, we are taking information from HMRC and trying to simplify it for your use. Usually we love helping you via our contact form, however, in this case we strongly recommend that if you have questions about Universal Credit you use the Universal Credit helpline (0800 328 5644) rather than sending your questions to us. If this is your only option, be ready to call as soon as they open (8am-6pm Monday to Friday) as we’ve heard this reduces wait times.

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Love Jo and James x