If you’re on a low income or out of work, then you could be eligible for Universal Credit. We’ve looked at who can apply, what it means, and how to make an application.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a means-tested payment from the government to help towards your living expenses. It’s paid every month you’re eligible, although those in Scotland can choose to receive it in twice-monthly payments. For most people Universal Credit has replaced these six benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit.
How does Universal Credit work?
Once you’ve applied for Universal Credit, your circumstances will be assessed to see if you’re eligible. If you are, then you’ll start receiving it and the first payment will be backdated to the date of your application. It’s paid into your bank account every month that you remain eligible. You’ll need to satisfy certain commitments, such as showing that you’re looking for a job if you’re out of work and having regular meetings with your work coach.
If you need cash for an emergency while you’re waiting for your first payment you could receive what’s known as a Budgeting Advance. This will be paid back gradually through your regular Universal Credit payments once they start.
How much do you get on Universal Credit?
Your circumstances will dictate exactly how much you receive. Each monthly payment will be made up of a standard amount plus anything extra that applies to you. The standard amounts are going to decrease on 6th October 2021:
- Single and under 25 - from £344 to £257.33
- Single and over 25 - from £411.51 to £324.84
- Couples both under 25 - from £490.60 to £403.93
- Couples one or both over 25 - from £596.58 to £509.91.
On top of the standard allowance, you could get more if you’ve got children, a disability or health condition, or you care for a severely disabled person. You may also get extra money to help with your housing costs.
You can use this benefits calculator to see how much you could get.
Receivers of Universal Credit are also entitled to help with other expenses, such as school meals, prescription charges, dental work, and eye tests including money towards a pair of glasses.
It’s also possible to get help with saving through the Help to Save scheme. This is a government-backed savings scheme for people on Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit. It runs over four years, and for every £1 you save, they’ll give you 50p.
Am I entitled to Universal Credit?
You will have to meet certain criteria to be entitled to Universal Credit. You must:
- be on a low income or out of work
- be aged 18 or over and under state pension age
- be living in the UK
- have less than £16,000 in savings.
If you’re 16 or 17 you may still be able to claim Universal Credit if you meet certain conditions.
Can I claim Universal Credit if I work?
Yes, you can still claim Universal Credit if you work, although the amount you receive will decrease depending on how much you earn. It will continue to decrease until you’re earning enough for the payments to stop.
If your hours get reduced or you find yourself out of work again you can reapply for Universal Credit.
Can I get Universal Credit if my partner works?
You can, but if you’re part of a couple (and you live together) you’ll need to make a joint claim. Both of your circumstances will be assessed as part of the application. If only one of you is working, their wage will be taken into account during the assessment. If they earn over a certain amount, then you might not be entitled to the benefit.
How to apply for Universal Credit
You can apply for Universal Credit on the government website. You’ll be asked to send certain documents, such as bank statements or proof of a rental contract, for example. The whole process can be done online although you may have to attend an interview, either on the phone or in-person at your local Jobcentre.
Remember that being eligible for Universal Credit could impact other benefits you’re receiving. If you currently get tax credits this will stop if you get Universal Credit.
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