Universal Credit is a new welfare benefit that combines and replaces the major working-age income-related benefits.
These are: Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.
As well as combining several benefits into one, Universal Credit is different from existing benefits in a number of ways.
- Universal Credit will be paid monthly rather than weekly.
- You will need to claim Universal Credit online.
- If you have housing costs, you will no longer be able to claim Housing Benefit. Instead, your Universal Credit will contain a housing costs element for your rent. This will be paid directly to you, along with the rest of your Universal Credit, not to your landlord. It will be your responsibility to pay your rent out of this money. However, there are different rules if you live in supported housing or temporary accommodation.
- The Benefit Cap (£441 per week and £296 per week) is incorporated into Universal Credit.
If you are on Universal Credit you can still claim Council Tax Reduction from the Council. The quickest way to claim for benefits is by completing the online Council Tax Reduction form.
Receiving Universal Credit
Once you receive Universal Credit, it is not possible to return to Housing Benefit, until you are pension age.
Universal Credit is being introduced gradually across Great Britain, on a geographical basis.
Postcodes that have Universal Credit
The following postcodes in Kensington and Chelsea now have Universal Credit: W2, W14, SW3, SW5, SW6, SW7, SW10, SW1W and SW1X.
The following postcodes will move on to Universal Credit on 12 December 2018: W8, W10 and W11.
If you already receive benefits that will be replaced by Universal Credit
However, if you are already on one of the benefits that will be replaced by Universal Credit, you will stay on that benefit until:
- You have a change in your circumstances that would mean you would have to make a new claim for an existing benefit (you will have to claim Universal Credit instead), or
- You are moved on to Universal Credit (this is likely to be between 2020 and 2023).
Special rule for families with three or more children
If you have three or more children and you wish to make a new claim for Universal Credit, you will not be able to (even if you live in a Universal Credit area). Instead you will be allowed to claiming existing benefits including Housing Benefit.
18 to 21 year olds
18 to 21 year olds who make a new claim for Universal Credit are not able to get the housing costs element. However, there are a number of exceptions.
People aged 18 to 21 who are:
- working, or were recently working
- former care leavers
- entitled to the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate or the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
- living in temporary accommodation
- unable to live with their parents or whose parents are dead
- victims of domestic violence
- exempt from certain work requirements
You can find more information on Universal Credit on the Government's website or you can call 0800 328 5644 or textphone 0345 6000 743. Lines are open from 8am to 6pm on Monday to Friday and calls are charged at the standard local call charge rate from BT landlines. Call charges from mobiles and other networks may vary. If the call ends suddenly, it is up to you to call back.
The Government has announced that this restriction on eligibility to the Universal Credit housing costs element will be lifted in December 2018.