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What Universal Credit is

This advice applies to England

Universal Credit is being introduced across the UK in stages. It will replace:

  • Housing Benefit
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support

Whether you should apply for Universal Credit instead of one of these benefits depends on where you live and your circumstances - check if you're eligible for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit works differently from other benefits - so if you're moving from another benefit it's important to know the differences.

The biggest differences are:

  • you can get Universal Credit if you're unemployed but also if you're working
  • you'll usually get a single payment each month, rather than weekly or fortnightly
  • instead of getting a separate housing benefit, your rent will usually be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment

How Universal Credit works

You'll usually get one monthly payment to cover your living costs. If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, you and your partner will get one payment between the 2 of you. The payment is made up of a basic 'standard allowance' and extra payments that might apply to you depending on your circumstances.

You might be able to get extra payments if you:

  • look after one or more children
  • work and pay for childcare
  • need help with housing costs
  • are disabled or have a health condition
  • are a carer for a disabled person or you have a disabled child

Check how much you might get on GOV.UK.

If you get help with rent

If your UC payment includes help with rent, you'll usually need to pay your landlord each month from your Universal Credit payment, even if you live in social housing. You can ask the DWP to pay your rent directly to your landlord if you're in debt, have rent arrears or are struggling with money.

If you're working

You can work and still get Universal Credit - your Universal Credit will reduce gradually as you earn more. Your Universal Credit will go up if your job ends or you earn less.

Claiming other benefits if you get Universal Credit

You should apply for Council Tax Reduction - if you get it, it won't reduce the amount of Universal Credit you get.

You can also claim other benefits if you have enough national insurance contributions. For example:

If you get either of these benefits, your Universal Credit will be reduced, but it might still be worth claiming.

Applying for 'new style' JSA

You’ll need to check if you’re in a live service area or a full service area for Universal Credit before you apply for JSA.

If you’re in a live service area

You’ll need to apply for JSA by phone if your postcode is in a live service area - call the UC helpline to claim:

Universal Credit helpline (live service)
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

If you’re in a full service area

It’s free to apply online on GOV.UK. Take a photo or screen-shot of the message that says your claim has been sent - you might need this later to prove when you first claimed.

If you can’t apply online, call the Jobcentre Plus:

Jobcentre Plus claim lines
Freephone: 0800 055 6688 (Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 6.00pm)
Textphone: 0800 023 4888
NGT text relay (if you're unable to hear or speak on the phone): 18001 then 0800 055 6688 
Welsh language telephone: 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.

Applying for 'new style' ESA

How you apply for ESA will depend on where you live. You’ll need to check if you’re in a live service area or a full service area for Universal Credit.

If you’re in a live service area

Call the UC helpline to claim:

Universal Credit helpline (live service)
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

If you’re in a full service area

Call the UC helpline to claim:

Universal Credit helpline (full service)
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls to these number are free. It’s best to call from the phone number you gave the DWP when you set up your Universal Credit account. You'll have a shorter wait and be put through to the same person who handled previous calls you've made.

When you call, choose option 2, then option 6.

It's best to contact your nearest Citizens Advice and speak to an adviser. They can help you work out if it's worth claiming other benefits at the same time as Universal Credit.

Next steps

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