If your payment is stopped or reduced
You should be told if there’s been any changes to the amount of Universal Credit you get - either by a letter or when you log in to your Universal Credit account. If you have an online account, you can also sign up for text or email alerts.
Your Universal Credit might be reduced if:
- you’ve reported a change of circumstances that means you’ll get less - for example, you’ve moved home or you’re paying back an advance payment, hardship payment or budgeting advance
- you’ve been sanctioned - find out what to do if you’ve been sanctioned
- you’ve earned more from work - find out how working affects Universal Credit
You’ll also get less Universal Credit if the Jobcentre previously paid you too much - this is called an ‘overpayment’.
If you have certain types of debt, a creditor can also apply to have money taken from your payment - this is called a ‘third party deduction’.
If you’ve had an overpayment
You’ll get less each month until you pay it back. In most cases, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will reduce your payment by between 15% and 25% of your monthly basic ‘standard allowance’.
For example - if your payment is reduced by 15% of your standard allowance and your standard allowance is usually £317.82 a month, your total payment will be reduced by £47.67. If your total payment is £600, you’ll get £552.33 each month until you pay it back.
If the DWP classes the overpayment to have happened as a result of fraud, your Universal Credit can be reduced by up to 40% of your standard allowance.
You should talk to an expert adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice if you think you won’t have enough money to live on because you’re paying back an overpayment. An adviser can help you budget, ask the DWP to change their decision or make an appeal.
If your Universal Credit is reduced to pay off your debts
This is called a ‘third party deduction’. Deductions can only be made for the following debts:
- rent arrears and other housing costs - for example, service charges
- gas, electric or water arrears
- council tax bills arrears
- child support maintenance
- some loans
- some fines
You’ll be told by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) if a creditor has applied for a deduction either by a letter or through your online Universal Credit account if you have one.
The DWP can’t tell a creditor if you’re getting Universal Credit, so a deduction is usually made after you’ve spoken to the creditor and explained the situation. A deduction can help you manage your debt and may be a better option than going to court.
Your Universal Credit will be reduced by 5% of your basic ‘standard allowance’ for most third party deductions - more money can be taken for some debts. For example, for rent arrears a deduction of between 10% and 20% can be taken.
You’ll never get more than 3 third party deductions at a time and in most cases no more than 40% of your standard allowance can be taken.
You should talk to an expert adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice if you think you won’t have enough money to live on because of a deduction. An adviser can help you budget, ask the DWP to change their decision or make an appeal.
If you think your payment is wrong
You should contact the Universal Credit helpline or ask for an explanation using your online account if you have one, if:
- your payment is less than you expected and you haven’t been told why
- you think there's been a mistake with how your Universal Credit has been worked out
It’s a good idea to give them some evidence of the mistake if you can, for example:
- your rental agreement - if you think your housing costs are wrong
- payslips or bank statements - if there’s been an error in your earnings (ask your employer for payslips if you don’t have them)
- childcare bills - if they have your childcare costs wrong
If the DWP give you an explanation and you still disagree with the decision, you can challenge it by asking for ‘mandatory consideration’.
Universal Credit helpline number if you have an online account
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm
Universal Credit helpline number if you don’t have an online account
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm
Calls to these numbers are free.