What is Universal Credit and why was it introduced?

Universal Credit is a single, monthly payment to help you with your living costs.

It was introduced to simplify the welfare benefits system. To do this, Universal Credit has replaced 6 working-age welfare benefits.

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-Related Employment & Support Allowance
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

How do you claim Universal Credit?

The easiest and preferred way to make a claim is online, but you can make a claim over the phone by calling the Universal Credit helpline at 0800 328 5644

Click on the link below to find out more on ‘how to make a claim’:

Universal Credit payment may include your housing benefit, and it is for you to pay us, your landlord. You may be able to arrange for your housing benefit to be paid directly to us if you have difficulties managing your money.

Important points to note

  • Your claim will take about 5 to 6 weeks to process
  • You will have to use your own funds to pay your bills until your claim has been processed
  • You can ask for an advance payment, but you will have to pay it back
  • Some of your existing benefits may have to stop when you make a claim
  • Your claim will not be backdated

You may be able to have some, or all, of your rent paid for you by claiming Housing Benefit. To find out if you are able to claim benefits, please contact your local council.

The Benefit Cap is the maximum amount of benefit income the government have decided your household can receive if you’re of working age. It only affects people getting housing benefit or Universal Credit. This cap applies to your household income for most benefits, including Child Tax Credit. However, there are some benefits which the cap doesn’t apply to. 

From April 2017, support provided through Child Tax Credit will be limited to two children, any subsequent children born after this date will not be eligible for further support. In addition to the two child limit, the ‘family element’ of £545 per year will be abolished.

If you have more than two children before April 2017, you will not be affected by the changes.

Childcare costs are paid at 85% of fees up to a monthly maximum of £646.35 (1 child) or £1108.04 (2 or more children).

Claimants often have to pay £100s in childcare costs to their childcare provider up front, and this disincentivises work and makes it very difficult to budget and pay rent. The government has confirmed that help in advance is available from the Flexible Support Fund. Claimants should contact their work coach in the Job Centre for further help and advice.

The Flexible Support Fund (FSF)

FSF is a discretionary fund that work coaches can use to support eligible claimants to get closer to or move into work. On 11 January 2019, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced that the FSF could also be used more widely to pay for upfront childcare costs until the claimant receives their first wage. The availability of this fund is actively promoted in jobcentres and to all claimants who might benefit.

Like all household bills, many people will see an increase in their council tax, even if you already receive Council Tax Support/Reduction.

Did you know if you suffer from a severe mental health condition, such as paranoid schizophrenia, Bipolar, dementia, Parkinson’s, etc, you could apply for exemption of council tax?

The criteria to apply is:

  • You must be receiving a certain benefit e.g.: Daily living of PIP, middle or high rate-care part of DLA, Attendance Allowance, ESA or UC equivalent
  • Your doctor must also agree you have a severe mental health condition

Contact your local council to apply.

Visit below for more information:

  • Are you a couple living in a house/flat with an unoccupied bedroom, so incurring bedroom tax? If so, does one of you have a health condition that means the other partner needs to sleep in the spare bedroom?
  • Are you single, living in a house/flat with an unoccupied bedroom, so incurring bedroom tax? If so, do you need someone to stay overnight to watch over you because of your health condition?
  • Do you have a disabled child that requires his/her bedroom due to their health conditions?

If you can answer ‘Yes’ to any of the above, and receiving a qualifying benefit, such as the Daily living of PIP, middle or high rate-care part of DLA, or Attendance Allowance, you can apply to the council for exemption.

If you are claiming housing benefit – write or email your local council explaining your circumstances. Accompany your letter or email with a letter from a health professional stating that they also support your need for that unoccupied bedroom and the reason(s) why i.e: your health conditions and the support you need.

If you are claiming Universal Credit explain your circumstances on your journal with an attached letter from your health professional.

In the year 2019 it was calculated 1.3 million people were not claiming PC. Claiming as little as 50p per week of pension credit can have a positive financial benefit to a person’s household income.

  • If you live alone and receive a sickness benefit e.g: the Daily living of PIP, middle or high rate-care part of DLA, or Attendance Allowance, you could then be entitled to receive another payment of £69.40 per week!
  • If you’re over 75 years old you don’t have to pay for your TV licence

If your household income is less than the maximum state pension, you can apply to top it up.

If you’re not sure whether you qualify to receive pension credit, go to the Government website, and enter your details in the pension credit calculator (see link below). If the calculator shows you have an entitlement, then the quick and easy way to apply is through the Government website (see link below), or phone pension credit claim line on Tel. 0800 99 1234

Find out more about benefits and other support you may be eligible for.

Struggling to pay your rent?

If you’re struggling to afford food, pay essential household bills, or meet other living costs, you may be eligible to receive financial or practical support through our Customer Assistance Pot. You can find more information here.

You can also get in touch and we will do everything we can to help. Whether it’s giving you advice on what benefits you can claim or pointing you to the best place to find the cheapest energy provider. We work with many charities and organisations who are there to provide support, especially in these particularly difficult times.