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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 6 ‘means-tested’ benefits - these are benefits you can get if your income and savings are below a certain level.

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

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 get a single payment each month, rather than weekly or fortnightly
  • instead of getting a separate housing benefit, your housing costs will be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment

How Universal Credit works

You’ll get one monthly payment to cover your living costs. If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, you’ll get one payment for you and your partner.

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 have children - you’ll get more if you have childcare costs or have a disabled child
  • you need help with housing costs
  • you’re disabled or have a health condition
  • you care for a disabled person

Check how much you might get on GOV.UK.

If you get help with rent

If you get help with rent, you’ll need to pay your landlord each month from your Universal Credit payment, even if you live in social housing.

If you’re working

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

Claiming other benefits if you get Universal Credit

You can get some other benefits at the same time as 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, including contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

These are benefits you can get if you have enough National Insurance contributions and you’re unemployed or can’t work because of illness or disability.

If you claim contribution-based JSA or ESA and you’re eligible for Universal Credit, your JSA or ESA will be called 'new style' by the government. If you get either of these benefits, your Universal Credit will be reduced, but it might still be worth claiming.

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