What is Universal Credit and will it affect me?
Universal Credit is a new benefit for working-age people which aims to make it easier for claimants to move into work.
It applies to people who are in and out of work but does not affect people of pension age.
Universal Credit is a single benefit that will replace the following benefits:
- Income support
- Income-based Jobseekers allowance
- Working tax credit
- Child tax credit
- Housing benefit
- Income-related employment and support allowance
To find out if you are eligible please visit Universal Credit.
If you are already claiming one of these benefits you won't move onto Universal Credit unless you have a change of circumstances or are moved over to Universal Credit as part of the managed migration process which is planned to take place at some point before 2023. However, if you currently claim JSA, Income Support, ESA or Tax Credits and then needed to make a new claim for help with rent you may have to claim Universal Credit.
How does Universal Credit work?
- it is paid once a month into your bank, building society or credit union account
- if you live with a partner and are both eligible to make a claim you will receive one joint payment for the household
- your Universal Credit payment may include an amount for housing which you will need to pay to your landlord
- you must make your claim for Universal Credit online except for limited circumstances where you will be able to make a claim over the phone
- it may take several weeks after you make your first claim for you to receive your first payment
Making a claim for Universal Credit
If you need to make a new claim for any of the benefits listed above you will need to make a claim for Universal Credit.
However, there are exceptions to this and if you are in one of these groups you will need to apply for housing benefit, for example, if you have been placed in temporary accommodation by Bexley.
When you apply you will need a registered ID, a registered UK bank account and internet access.
Check you have everything you need to apply
Before you apply for Universal Credit, you will need to gather some information together. This will help make sure you only have to do the application once, and help you to get Universal Credit as quickly as possible if you are eligible.
Don’t start your application until you have all of the following details for you and your partner with you:
- your postcode
- your National Insurance number - you can find this on a payslip or letter from HMRC - call the helpline on 0300 200 3500 (textphone 0300 200 3519) if you can’t find it
- details of your bank, building society or credit union account (if you don’t have a bank account, you’ll need to open one or use the Payment Exception Service
- the type of accommodation you have, e.g. private rent, council tenant, or housing association tenant - make sure you check this before you apply
- how much rent you pay - this can be found on your rent agreement, ask your landlord for a copy if you don’t have one
- your landlord’s address - this can be found on your rent agreement, ask your landlord for a copy if you don’t have one
- your landlord's phone number
- details of any savings you have and any other ‘capital’ investments, e.g. shares or property that you don’t live in
- details of any income that’s not from work, e.g. from a pension or insurance plan
- details of how much you earn from work, e.g. recent payslips
- how much you pay for childcare (if you want to claim for childcare costs)
- details of any other benefits you’re getting, i.e. what benefit and how much you get
- child benefit reference numbers for any children you have if you get child benefit - this can be found on letters to you about child benefit, it will start with 'CHB' and is made up of 8 numbers and 2 letters, e.g. CHB12345678 AB - phone the Child Benefit Office on 0300 200 3100 (textphone 0300 200 3103) if you need help
You’ll need evidence for all these details for when you go to your interview at the Job Centre, so you’ll need to gather all the documents together, e.g. landlord agreement (or a letter from them with your rent amount on it), payslips, bank statements etc.
To find out more about making a claim visit Understanding Universal Credit.
If you don’t have access to a computer with internet access you can use the internet at any of our libraries or at Bexleyheath Job Centre Plus. If you cannot make a claim online, please contact the Universal Credit helpline, telephone 0800 328 5644 or textphone 0800 328 1344.
How you can get prepared
- open a bank account if you don’t already have one
- make sure you have approved identification documents
- become confident in using a computer/email as claims are managed online
- if you need to make a claim don’t delay
- try and keep some money aside or get ahead with your rent as the first payment can take a minimum of five weeks
Bexleyheath Job Centre will be able to support you with your claim and any queries you have about it. You can also call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.
You can also contact Citizens Advice for support on benefits.
The Money Advice Service has some useful online resources to help you manage your monthly Universal Credit payment and set up a bank account.
If you have any queries or concerns about housing then please visit Housing for more information on how you can get assistance.
Help with your Council Tax
Your Universal Credit claim will not include any help with Council Tax and you will need to apply for this separately through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
Discretionary Housing Payments
Discretionary housing payments are paid from a limited fund provided by central government. They can be paid to people who may need extra help to pay their rent but they are not automatically awarded. You would need to apply and each case is considered individually based on the circumstances. Find out more about Discretionary housing payments.