Universal Credit is a new benefit for people of working age who are on a low income. It is gradually being introduced in stages across England, Scotland and Wales. This means that there are currently only some parts of the country that can access Universal Credit while others are still waiting for it to be introduced.
To find out whether Universal Credit has been introduced in your area, contact your local Jobcentre Plus, or alternatively, you can browse through the listed areas at: www.gov.uk/guidance/jobcentres-where-you-can-claim-universal-credit
Universal Credit replaces the following six benefits if you are currently receiving them:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
Similarly, if you start receiving Universal Credit, you cannot apply for any of the above listed benefits.
Universal Credit conditions and rates
Universal Credit is means tested, so the amount that you get will depend on your financial circumstances such as how much you are earning and any savings that you have. If you are not earning, it will calculate how much you are entitled to based upon how much you need to live on, considering your financial resources. Entitlement will also depend on whether you are living with a partner and if so, whether your partner is also eligible.
There are a number of conditions that make someone ineligible for Universal Credit, for instance if you cannot work at all because of your brain injury. To discuss your eligibility, you can ring the Universal Credit helpline.
Universal Credit offers a standard allowance, the rate of which depends on a number of factors such as how many people per household are claiming. In some circumstances you might be eligible for Universal Credit additional elements, which is an additional payment on top of the standard allowance, such as if there are children in the household or you have a limited capability to work.
Applying for Universal Credit
Universal Credit must be applied for online. If you have difficulties with internet access or using the internet, you can contact your local Jobcentre for support with making an application online.
After making an application you will be invited to a Work Capability Assessment and a face-to-face interview, in which you will be told what you need to do in order to receive Universal Credit. This will be a discussion regarding your circumstances, the rate of Universal Credit you could be entitled to, and what you are expected to do in order to be eligible. Headway's factsheet The Work Capability Assessment and completing the ESA50 form (PDF) may be helpful when making an application.
You will then be required to sign a claimant commitment to show that you understand the expectations that are required. If at any point you fail to meet the agreed expectations, your rate of Universal Credit could be cut. This is called a sanction.
You must report any changes to your circumstances to the Department of Work and Pensions, such as if you stop or start working or if you are unable to meet any of the requirements initially given in your claimant commitment.
Universal Credit is not affected if you need to go into hospital while receiving it.
Challenging a Universal Credit decision
If you disagree with a decision reached regarding your eligibility to Universal Credit, you might wish to apply for a mandatory reconsideration. You can have someone help you with this process, such as a family member or an advocate. Mandatory reconsiderations should be made within a month of receiving the decision letter.
If your reconsideration still states that you are not eligible for Universal Credit, you can appeal this decision in an independent tribunal. If you decide to appeal, you have a month from the date of the DWP mandatory reconsideration letter to make an appeal. This is done with an SSCS1 form; you can either download this or request a copy from your local Citizen’s Advice.
Universal Credit key points
- Universal Credit replaces several benefits in parts of England, Scotland and Wales
- It offers a standard allowance and additional elements depending on your circumstances
- You will need to undertake a Work Capability Assessment as part of your application process and an interview to discuss your eligibility to Universal Credit