The Universal Credit (UC) benefit will replace the current system of earnings replacement means-tested benefits and tax credits. 

The current means-tested benefit schemes and the new system of UC will run alongside each other until 2017. 

Contributory benefits and most non-contributory benefits will exist alongside UC. Pension Credit will remain, with a new element for those with dependent children, to reflect any loss of Child Tax Credit. A housing credit will also be added for rent and mortgage costs. These changes are expected in 2017.

A family counts as couples or lone parents with children. Working families on Universal Credit can receive help with up to 85% of their childcare costs, with a monthly limit for one child of £646 and £1,108 for two or more children. Anyone claiming UC as a family will be entitled to free school meals for their children.

Universal Credit replaces:

Many current benefit-specific rules will transfer with UC, like:

  • Jobseeker claimants will need to sign on.
  • Claimants who can't work because of ill health will have a work capability assessment, if it applies.

Who can claim Universal Credit?

To qualify, you must meet all the following conditions:

  • Be at least 18 years old, with some exceptions
  • Have not reached the qualifying age for state pension credit
  • Live in Great Britain
  • Not be in education, with some exceptions
  • Have accepted a ‘claimant commitment’
  • Meet the financial conditions

For joint claims, both people are claimants and must both meet the criteria. If one person is over qualifying age for pension credit, the couple will have to claim UC.

Financial conditions of Universal Credit

You will only receive Universal Credit if you meet the means test. If you have capital between £6,000 and £16,000, your Universal Credit will reduce by £4.35 for every £250 above £6,000.

Sanctions

If you don't satisfy your requirements, you could face a range of penalties from 40% to 100% of your standard allowance.

Payment of Universal Credit

For most claimants, UC will be paid monthly and in arrears - at the end of each payment period. You'll be responsible for managing your own financial affairs, including making sure you pay rent. Mortgage interest payments will be paid direct to the lender.

In rare cases, you will be able to access alternative payment arrangements, depending on your ability to budget, pay bills and manage a single payment. These alternative arrangements may include:

  • splitting payment between joint claimants
  • more frequent payments
  • paying housing costs direct to the landlord.

How to claim Universal Credit

You can claim Universal Credit online and will have an online UC account.

After making a claim, you will have to attend a face-to-face interview.

You can get help making your claim online at local Jobcentre Plus offices, councils or by calling 0345 600 0723.

Online benefits calculator

Calculate your entitlements online.