Universal Credit Frequently Asked Questions

How do I claim Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is claimed online via https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

If you don’t have access to a computer linked to the internet at home then contact us to find out where you can go online. But note that in some places where you can use a computer there might not be anyone available to help you with the claim.

Make sure you have the following information with you when you claim:

  • Your (and any partner’s) National Insurance number
  • Your postcode
  • Your email address
  • Your land line / mobile phone number - if you have one
  • Your landlord's name, address and email address (contact us if not sure)
  • Your eligible rent (this means not counting any service charges you have to pay separately - ask us for a breakdown)
  • Details of anyone who lives with you - their name, date of birth, age, income
  • Account details of where you would like payments to be made - account number and sort code
  • The total amount of any savings you have
  • If you / your partner are working, the estimated gross monthly wage
  • Details of any other benefit income.

Many of the online claim questions have a box next to them saying “What does this mean?” It’s a good idea to click on these even if you think you know what the question means, just to be certain.

If you need any more advice, please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

Part of the claiming process includes verifying your identity online using the government’s ‘Verify’ service.

If your identity cannot be verified using the government’s ‘Verify’ service, you will need to phone 0800 328 5644   to book an appointment for a ‘verification interview’ at your Jobcentre (this is different to the ‘new claim interview’ – see below). You must bring all the evidence and documents you have been asked to provide to this interview.

IMPORTANT: If you do not book or attend the verification interview appointment when required, your claim may be cancelled.
You will probably be notified on your online claim that you are required to attend a ‘new claim interview’.

IMPORTANT:. You will need to book the appointment for your ‘new claim interview’ yourself by ringing 0800 328 5644. If you do not book or attend this appointment when required your claim may be cancelled.
At your new claim interview, your personal “Work Coach” will talk to you about preparing for and/or looking for, work. They will help you draw up a detailed “Claimant Commitment” which sets out what actions you must take to prepare for/look for work. It will explain what will happen if you don’t keep to the terms of your Claimant Commitment.

IMPORTANT: If you (and your partner if you have one) don’t sign the Claimant Commitment/s, you won’t get any Universal Credit.

IMPORTANT: If for any reason you find you can’t do something that is on the Claimant Commitment (for example you are late for a Job Centre interview or you have been too unwell to go to an interview, or you have to look after a sick child) you MUST tell the Job Centre immediately – and keep a record. Otherwise you could have some of your Universal Credit “sanctioned” (not paid) – and this could last for anything between a month and three years!!!

IMPORTANT: If you are told your benefit is to be sanctioned – and you think this is wrong or unjust – you can ask the Job Centre to reconsider their decision - and if they refuse, you can appeal. If you need any more advice, please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

The DWP have produced a short video about making a ‘full’ (digital) service claim.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WgJU8Y_bQg

I’m currently getting Child Tax Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit but my boyfriend is moving in with me. He gets Universal Credit. What difference will this make to our benefits?

You will need to claim Universal Credit as a couple and your Child Tax Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit will stop. The Universal Credit award will be based on both your incomes and circumstances. Make sure your partner tells the DWP about this change, and that you tell the DWP (regarding your Income Support), HMRC (regarding your Child Tax Credit) and your local council (about your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support).

If you need any more advice, please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

I’ve heard that single people who are “Pension Credit Age” won’t have to claim Universal Credit- what age is this?

You’re right that single people who are Pension Credit age will not need to claim Universal Credit – they should claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit instead, and Council Tax Support.

Pension Credit Age is the age at which you would qualify for Pension Credit. It used to be 60 for men and women but is gradually increasing. Anyone, whether a man or woman, who turned 60 before April 2010 will be Pension Credit age already. But if your 60th birthday is after April 2010 you need to check if you have reached Pension Credit age. To check, go to www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension - scroll down to get your Pension Credit age (rather than State Pension age). If you need any more advice, please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

I am working age and my partner is Pension Credit age – will we need to claim Universal Credit?

If you are making a new claim for benefit and one member of a couple is over Pension Credit age and the other one is under, it is still possible to claim Pension Credit instead of Universal Credit. But in the future the rules will change and your only option will be to claim Universal Credit.

If you make a claim for Pension Credit now, and remain entitled to it when the rules change, you will stay on Pension Credit and Housing Benefit.

Pension Credit is more generous than Universal Credit. There can be a big difference between the amount of benefit you would receive through Pension Credit and Housing Benefit compared with how much Universal Credit you would be entitled to receive.

So if you are a mixed age couple not already claiming Pension Credit seek advice about whether you can claim, or what changes in your circumstances may mean you could claim. To claim Pension Credit or make enquiries ring 0800 99 1234 or go to www.gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claim. If you need any more advice, please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

When I claim Universal Credit will this include a claim for help with my Council Tax too, like the Housing Benefit form does?

No! Although the online claim asks if you are intending to claim Council Tax Support – you must make a claim separately, from your local council.

My Housing Benefit is currently paid directly to my landlord and I am happy with this arrangement – can I ask the DWP to pay my rent out of my Universal Credit?

Your claim for Universal Credit will include help with your rent – called a housing costs element. The whole of your Universal Credit award will be paid to you. And it will be your responsibility to budget and pay your rent from your Universal Credit and any other income you may have.

However there is a system called ‘managed payments’ (or ‘APAs’) where the housing costs element included in your Universal Credit assessment can be paid directly to your landlord in limited circumstances. But remember this won’t necessarily cover all your rent so make sure you continue to pay any difference for example due to the Bedroom Tax, or a deduction taken off for a non-dependant living with you, etc.

‘Managed payments’ can be requested by your landlord where your rent account goes into arrears and you owe at least two months’ rent.

Alternatively, you can ask the Job Centre to set you up on ‘managed payments’ if you believe you would struggle to pay the rent yourself because of your circumstances.  You will need to explain what problems you have that make it difficult for you to cope with paying the rent yourself. If you would like the DWP to consider this, you can ask your Job Centre work coach, or you can make the request via your online account.

Note that you do not have a right to a ‘managed payment’ – it is up to the DWP to decide if you need this help, and it will usually only be for a fixed period of time.

I’m currently getting Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit - when will I have to claim Universal Credit?

Certain changes in your circumstances, such as being found fit for work or having your first child, may mean you have to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. But if you do not have a change in circumstances which means you need to claim Universal Credit you may not be moved onto Universal Credit until 2023.

I work and get Working Tax Credit – what do these changes mean to me?

Certain changes in your circumstances, such as finishing work or taking on a new partner may mean you have to make a claim for Universal Credit instead. But if you do not have a change in circumstances which means you need to claim Universal Credit you may not need to move onto Universal Credit until at least 2019.

But if you want to move onto Universal Credit you can do so – you do not need to wait until a change in your circumstances means you have to (unless you have 3 or more children). So, you could get advice to check if you would be better off on Universal Credit – but seek advice before making any decisions!

Universal Credit will be paid to you on a monthly basis and as your earnings change the amount of Universal Credit will also change, so you may get paid different amounts every month. This means you will have to think ahead to manage your bills and rent.

If you are getting help with child care costs these can continue to be supported though Universal Credit although only child care that you pay to enable you to work will be considered (ie not child care for a day you do not normally work).

 

What happens to my Child Benefit when I move onto Universal Credit?

The only benefits Universal Credit is replacing are Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, and Working Tax Credit.

Any other benefits you may be entitled to will continue to be paid to you separately from any Universal Credit payment. This includes Child Benefit and also: Bereavement Allowance, Bereavement Support Payment, Carers Allowance, Contributory Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Maternity Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and so on. (And remember to claim Council Tax Support from your local council as it isn’t included in the Universal Credit claim.)

I’ve been told I will have to have a bank account for my Universal Credit payments – is this true?

If you have a Post Office Card Account, your adviser at the Jobcentre (called your Work Coach) may encourage you to open a bank account or credit union account instead. This is because the government would prefer you to have your Universal Credit payment paid into a bank account and there could be advantages to you to do this.

For example, you can pay your bills by direct debit and often this can work out cheaper. “Basic” bank accounts don’t allow you to overdraw so they are popular with many people. But remember that with any bank account, if you have direct debits or standing orders to pay your bills and there isn’t enough in the account when they come out, you will face bank charges. Some bank accounts and some credit union accounts have a “jam jar” system in which you can ask the bank to put money aside each month for certain bills such as rent, fuel, food etc.

It’s best to get some advice on which bank account is best for you. Have a look at the Money Advice Service website to see what sort of account suits you best, or talk to an adviser about this on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

I’m not sure I will cope with Universal Credit being paid monthly – is there an alternative?

Universal Credit will usually be paid monthly and in arrears.

It is best to start thinking now about how you would manage if the benefits Universal Credit is replacing were paid to you on a monthly basis. (These benefits are Income Support, Income Based JSA, Income Related Employment & Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit.)

At the point you move onto Universal Credit, if you think you are going to struggle with monthly payments explain this to the Work Coach at the Job Centre who will decide whether you could be paid under an “alternative payment arrangement”. This can be where your monthly award can be split into two payments and paid twice monthly (which is almost the same as fortnightly). You will need to explain your circumstances and why you believe you will find monthly payments difficult to manage. You don’t have a right to alternative payment arrangements – it’s up to the DWP – and they will only be paid for a limited time

I’m worried about the time I will have to wait before my first Universal Credit payment comes through: can I get any money to cover this period?

When you make your new claim for Universal Credit you will be notified of when you will receive your first payment. This will be one calendar month and seven days after the date you claim.

If, when you claim Universal Credit you know you will be short of money, you can request a New Claim Advance or a Benefit Transfer Advance. This is a loan which you will need to pay back out of your Universal Credit payments. The maximum amount you can borrow is the amount your first monthly Universal Credit award is expected to be. The maximum repayment period is 12 months.

If you apply for a New Claim Advance, you will need to demonstrate that you need the advance to be able to pay essential bills. However, if you have been claiming one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing in the month before your Universal Credit claim started (eg. your Income-related Employment and Support Allowance claim has ended because you have been found fit for work), you could apply for a Benefit Transfer Advance instead and the DWP should not need evidence that you cannot manage without the advance.

You can apply for an advance online – there is an ‘Advances’ button on your Universal Credit account Home page. Alternatively Ask your Work Coach at the Job Centre to arrange this for you or telephone 0800 328 5644.

You can request a New Claim Advance or Benefit Transfer Advance at any time during your first ‘monthly assessment period’, so if you did not request one when you made your claim, but after a couple of weeks you find you are struggling, you can still request one.

If you claim Universal Credit on or after 11th April 2018 and, immediately before claiming Universal Credit, you were getting Housing Benefit, you may qualify for the Transition to Universal Credit Housing Payment. This covers the first two weeks of your Universal Credit claim and is paid on top of any help you receive towards your rent as part of your new Universal Credit claim for the same two weeks.

The payment will be made to whoever normally receives the Housing Benefit, except if you are claiming Universal Credit because you have moved home. If you have moved, the extra two weeks’ Housing Benefit will not be paid to your old landlord, it will be paid to you, so you may be asked for your bank details.

Will the Benefit Cap and the Bedroom Tax still exist under Universal Credit?

Yes. If you are affected by either of these issues please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 (Parkway Green) or 0800 633 5500 (Willow Park). You might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment.

I get Personal Independence Payment / Disability Living Allowance. What happens to these when I claim Universal Credit?

You will still claim Personal Independence Payment or DLA separately. (If you are 16 or over and under 65 and on DLA however, you will need to claim Personal Independence Payment instead at some point soon. Go to the section on Personal Independence Payment for more information.)

I’m getting Universal Credit because I was a single jobseeker when I claimed, but now I’ve started work / had a child. Will I go back on to the “old” benefit system?

If you are getting Universal Credit and you do start working or have a child you must notify the DWP. Your Universal Credit award will be reassessed and if you still qualify you’ll stay on Universal Credit. However there may be some other benefits you might now qualify for as well. If in doubt please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500 .

I am getting Universal Credit under the non-digital service, what happens to my claim now that my area has the digital service?

When you are notified by the DWP, you will need to set up your claim on the digital service. There will be a strict deadline by which you must do this. If you miss the deadline your Universal Credit claim will be suspended and then may be ended.

You should receive two letters; the first will contain general information about the transfer process and how to prepare for it. The second will be sent to you when it is time for you to take action. If you need assistance or advice about this, speak to your Work Coach as soon as possible. If you need any more advice, please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

I finished work recently. I think I should be entitled to Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, but can I still claim this, or do I have to claim Universal Credit instead?

Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance is a benefit for those who have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions.

Some people have been advised that Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance no longer exists under the Universal Credit system – but that is wrong! Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance does still exist; the only thing that is changing, if you come under the Universal Credit service is the name - Contribution Based Jobseeker’s Allowance is known as ‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance.

This change is causing some confusion and you may be given incorrect advice.

To make a claim for ‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance you must ring 0800 055 6688. You do not have to claim Universal Credit at the same time, you can make a claim for ‘New Style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance without claiming Universal Credit if that is best for you. If you only want to claim New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance and not Universal Credit you will need to ask for form UC JSA1 to be sent to you by email or by post.

It is important to get the right advice because you may be better off if you only claim New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance, for example if you already have an award of Housing Benefit or Child Tax Credit, these can continue (you will need to report your change of circumstances to the relevant departments).

Instead, you may be better off if you claim Universal Credit in addition to New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance. This could be the case if you do not currently get any Housing Benefit. Your New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance will count as income when your Universal Credit entitlement is calculated.

So seek help from a specialist benefits adviser or contact us so we can advise you about your options before you do anything.

Example:

Daniel and Julie have two young daughters. Daniel works full time and Julie was working part time, but has recently been laid off after working for the same company for 5 years, so she is looking for another job. As well as Daniel’s earnings, they also get Tax Credits (which includes a disabled child addition for their youngest daughter).

They live in a 'Full'/Digital UC service area.

Julie wants to claim New Style Jobseekers Allowance. If she goes online to try to claim, rings the call centre or asks at her local jobcentre, it is likely that she will be (incorrectly) advised to make a claim for Universal Credit instead of, or in addition to, making a claim for New Style Jobseekers Allowance. This would mean that their Tax Credits would be brought to an end and they may get less financial help from Universal Credit than they would have done from staying on Tax Credits (and any Housing Benefit where they already had a live claim - ie they will not be able to make a new claim for HB as they live in a 'Full'/Digital service area).

They should be advised to get a 'better off' calculation done, and, if they do not wish to claim Universal Credit, to make the claim for CB-JSA by calling 0800 055 6688 and making it clear that she does not want to claim Universal Credit.

I finished work recently due to health problems. I think I should be entitled to Contribution Based Employment and Support Allowance, but can I still claim this, or do I have to claim Universal Credit instead?

As with Contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance (see previous question), if you live in an area which has the Full, digital Universal Credit Service, you will be making a claim for ‘New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance. To make a claim, you will need to ring the Universal Credit helpline 0800 328 5644 to request form UC ESA1.  It is a good idea to get specialist advice about whether it would be better for you to make a claim for Universal Credit at the same time or not. If you do not wish to also make a claim for Universal Credit, make this clear to the call centre operator. If you need any more advice, please contact the Financial Inclusion Team on 0300 111 000 or 0800 633 5500.

I get Universal Credit as a jobseeker, but I have become unwell, what happens to my Universal Credit?

If your health problems are affecting your ability to look for work, let your Work Coach know about this straight away because they should allow you time off your job search. If you are ill for more than 7 days you will need to provide your Work Coach with medical certificates from your GP, so think about booking an appointment with your doctor now, in case you cannot get one straight away.

If your illness is likely to last a few weeks, ask the Universal Credit department to refer you for a Work Capability Assessment; if you pass this then you will not be expected to look for work or apply for jobs. While you are waiting for this to take place, ask for your work search requirements to be reduced; your Work Coach should consider what is reasonable for you to be doing in the light of your health problems. If you do not ask for your work search requirements to be reduced, you are more at risk of being sanctioned. If your Work Coach refuses, or you think what is being expected is unreasonable, seek advice.

I am getting Universal Credit as a jobseeker; my claimant commitment says I must spend 35 hours every week doing job searching activities, but my elderly mother has become very poorly and I need to look after her – what should I do?

Let your Work Coach know about your situation as soon as possible. They may agree to adjust your claimant commitment as a temporary measure, under the circumstances. If your mother is likely to need your help in the longer term, get advice on when she could claim Attendance Allowance; if she is awarded Attendance Allowance, you could receive Universal Credit as a carer instead of as a jobseeker – so you would not have to look for work.

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