What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a benefit introduced by the Government to help people of working-age with living costs.
It's available to you if you:
- Are on a low income
- Are out of work
- Are unable to work due to illness, disability
- Have childcare commitments
- Care for a disabled person
What does Universal Credit replace?
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
How is Universal Credit different?
- Claims can only be made online
- You will be paid monthly
- It is paid in arrears, so may take up to five weeks to receive your first payment
- You will be responsible for paying rent directly to your landlord
- Couples who both claim Universal Credit will be paid one joint monthly payment
- There is no limit to how many hours you can work. Instead of losing your benefits all at once they will gradually reduce as you earn more
How to apply
Make your application for Universal Credit online.
Help to complete your Universal Credit claim
If you cannot use digital services due to a disability or circumstances or you have a question about your claim:
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8 am to 6 pm
For help from the early stages of your Universal Credit application and up to your first payment:
- Use the Help to Claim service, for free advice and help from Citizen Advice advisors.
- Alternatively, if you rent a property from Rooftop Housing or Fortis Living then you will also be able to access help and support from their specialist teams.
Will I be affected
As Universal Credit is introduced by Jobcentre rather than local authority area, this will affect different areas at different times. For some parts of Malvern Hills District the full Universal Credit service will not be introduced until October or November. You can find out when Universal Credit will arrive in your area by clicking here and entering your postcode. People already claiming any of the six benefits who have a change in their circumstances will have to switch to Universal Credit instead. A change of circumstances can include:
- You change your address
- You become pregnant or have a child (but still have fewer than three children)
- You start work
- Your extended period of sickness ends and you are still unable to work
- You separate from your partner who was in a joint claim with you
- You are claiming Income Support and leave full-time education
- People of Pension Credit age
- People living in supported or temporary accommodation will need to apply for Housing Benefit for help with their rent and Universal Credit for help with living costs.
- If you receive the Severe Disability Premium in the assessment of any of the benefits previously mentioned you will not be eligible to claim Universal Credit and will continue to claim any of these benefits.
I would like to make a claim
Claims can only be made online through the Universal Credit website. If you and your partner live together then you will need to apply as a couple. To apply you will need:
- An active email address
- A mobile phone number
- Details of your bank account, building society or credit union account
- Your rent or mortgage costs
- Your wage details
- Details of any savings or investments
- Your National Insurance Number
- Details of any children and/or your partner
- Details of how much you pay for childcare (if applying for help with childcare costs)
- Driving licence
- Debit or credit card
What if I do not have access to the internet?If you do not have access to the internet then you can use computers for free at the following locations:
- Broadway Library, Leamington Road, Broadway
- Droitwich Library, Victoria Square, Droitwich
- Evesham Library, Oat Street, Evesham
- Pershore Library, Church Street, Pershore
- Civic Centre, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Pershore
Improve your digital skillsCourses and free sessions are available to help you improve your confidence and learn new skills when using a computer and going online. Visit Digital Champion for more information. Learnmyway.com also offers free training.
Advice for the self-employedWhile Universal Credit works in principle in the same way for people who are self-employed, there are some differences in how the amount you receive is calculated. Visit The Money Advice Service - universal credit for the self employed for more information.
Apply for free school meals
You may also be entitled to Free School Meals if you claim Universal Credit, but you’ll need to apply for this separately. Apply for free school meals.
Advice for landlords and employers
Advice for landlordsMost private sector landlords won’t see any change with the introduction of Universal Credit. This is because most working age claimants in the private rented sector are already used to receiving their Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance payments directly from us and are responsible for paying their own rent. Those private sector Landlords who do currently receive a managed payment from us are urged to familiarise themselves with the changes and look at how they can prepare themselves and help their tenants prepare as well. If a tenant cannot manage and gets into arrears then it’s important to note that private landlords no longer need explicit consent from their tenant to apply for rental payments to be made directly to them. The Department for Work and Pensions should start making payments direct to landlords if:
- a claimant is in arrears with their rent for an amount equal to, or more than, two months of their rent.
- a claimant has continually underpaid their rent over a period of time, and they have accrued arrears of an amount equal to or more than one month’s rent.
Advice for employersUniversal Credit can benefit employers as well as individuals by creating a more flexible workforce as there is no upper limit to the number of hours people can work before losing their benefits. Instead, benefits will gradually reduce as people earn more. The Government has produced detailed information to help employers with staff claiming Universal Credit - find out how Universal Credit can help your business. As an employer there are some basic things you can do to help your staff make the move to Universal Credit.
- Report PAYE information accurately and on time to HMRC. Failure to do so can lead to your staff not receiving enough Universal Credit payment or none at all which could lead to financial hardship. If you do not use the Real Time Information (RTI) system then let your employee know as they will need to report their work details themselves.
- Be open and flexible to staff requesting additional hours or ad hoc overtime. Discuss with them how they could earn more by taking on additional responsibility or upskill themselves.
- Universal Credit claimants, particularly when waiting for their first payment, can struggle to meet housing and living costs. Be aware of the financial support on offer and direct staff towards it. Alternatively, you may wish to consider advancing payments or loans to your employees that they pay back over a set period of time in a way they can afford.
- Consider paying staff monthly instead of once every four weeks. Paying staff once every four weeks can mean at certain times of the year they will be assessed as having been paid twice within one Universal Credit period. This could mean their earnings are too high and they drop out of the Universal Credit system. They will then need to reapply to ensure payments continue in the next four-week cycle. This can lead to delays and financial hardship.
Help managing your money
The money management service has developed a free online tool especially for people making a new claim or moving to Universal Credit from existing benefits. You can access it here. Our Housing team will also be offering personal budgeting support to those claiming Universal Credit. Advice includes:
- Understanding the impact of Universal Credit on your finances (e.g. paid monthly and in arrears)
- Help accessing the financial support on offer
- Setting a monthly budget plan
- Understanding the difference between priority and non-priority debt
If you are in financial difficulties then there is a range of financial support on offer to help you.
Advanced PaymentsIf you have little or no money to see you through until your first Universal Credit payment then you can apply for an advance payment by calling the Universal Credit helpline or asking for advice from your local JobCentre Plus.
You can apply for up to one full month’s payment in advance. Please note though, this is a loan and not a grant, you will have to pay it back but will have 12 months to do so.Get an advance first payment.
Alternative Payment ArrangementsIf you are in financial difficulties and fall behind on your rent then you may be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement so your rent is paid directly to your landlord or more frequently than once a month. Speak to your Jobcentre work coach to apply for an APA
Budgeting AdvanceYou can borrow from £100 up to £812 (if you have children) to help with emergency household costs such as replacing a broken cooker or help getting a job or staying in work. This money will be repaid through your regular Universal Credit payments. Eligibility criteria applies and how much you receive depends on your circumstances. Speak to your Jobcentre work coach for more information and to apply.
Help paying your Council TaxCouncil Tax Support (previously Council Tax Benefit) is not including in Universal Credit so you will still need to apply to our Revenues and Benefits service separately for help paying your Council Tax bill. More information on Council Tax Support
Discretionary Welfare AssistanceThe South Worcestershire Discretionary Welfare Assistance Scheme will provide assistance in the form of goods or vouchers to help individuals or families facing exceptionally difficult circumstances or an emergency.
Discretionary Housing PaymentsDiscretionary Housing Payments are paid on top of any Housing Benefit you may receive. They act as additional financial support for those who need extra help with housing costs. They are normally only paid for a short period of time. There is only a limited amount of money available so not everyone who applies will receive payment, it will depend on your circumstances. Visit the Housing Benefit page for more information.
Other supportIf you claim Universal Credit you may also be entitled to:
- Disabled Facilities Grant – to help make adaptations to your home if you are disabled
- Affordable Warmth Obligation – help making your home more energy efficient
- Help paying for childcare
- Free School Meals
Challenging a Universal Credit decision
If you disagree with a decision about your Universal Credit claim then the first thing you should do is contact your local job centre using the details on your decision letter and ask for an explanation of the reasons behind a decision. You should do this as soon as possible. Once you have received an explanation you still believe the decision is wrong then you can ask for the Department of Work and Pensions to look at it again this is known as a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. You will need to do this within 1 month of the date of the decision. Further information is available to help challenging a Universal Credit decision or if you need further advice contact South Worcestershire Citizens Advice Bureau. Please note that Malvern Hills District Council does not hold detailed information regarding Universal Credit claimants and will not be able to advise you as to why or why not a payment decision has been made.
Guides to help homeless people claim and manage Universal Credit
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published guides for homeless people and organisations supporting them when making and managing a Universal Credit claim. The guides give specialised guidance for people experiencing homelessness and have been developed with a range of stakeholders in the homelessness and advice sectors.