How Universal Credit is paid - Citizens Advice Scotland
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How Universal Credit is paid

This advice applies to Scotland

You’ll usually get a single Universal Credit payment every month. This will be paid directly into your bank, building society, Post Office or credit union account.

If you don’t have a bank account

If you don’t have a bank account you’ll need to open one. You can read more information about getting a bank account.

If you’ve tried to open an account and had your application refused, you'll need to use the Payment Exception Service. You’ll need to explain why you can’t open a bank account. If you need more advice about opening a bank account, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

How payments work for couples

If you make a joint claim as a couple, you’ll get one payment between the 2 of you.

You should tell the Jobcentre if you want the payments to go to one of you or be split between you. The Jobcentre doesn’t have to agree to do this.

If the payments are split, the amount you’ll each get will depend on your circumstances. You can ask for payments to be split if:

  • it’s in your interest, for example because one of you has trouble managing money and it’s causing financial problems
  • it’s in the interest of a child you’re responsible for
  • you get an amount in your Universal Credit because you care for a severely disabled person and it’s helpful for them to get paid like this

When you’ll be paid

After you apply it’ll usually take 5 weeks to get your first Universal Credit payment.

You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit if you don't think you'll have enough money to live on while you wait for your first payment.

After you’ve got your first payment, you’ll be paid monthly on the same day as the first payment.

If you’re finding it difficult to manage on a monthly Universal Credit payment, you have 2 options for changing how you’re paid, depending on where and when you applied. 

If you're in a full service area, you can ask the Jobcentre to pay you every 2 weeks instead of monthly. You can also ask for the housing costs element of your Universal Credit to be paid directly to your landlord. These are called the 'Universal Credit Scottish choices'. Read more about the Universal Credit Scottish choices.

Everyone else can still ask to be paid more often - this is called an 'alternative payment arrangement'.

Paying your rent or mortgage

Some of your Universal Credit will be for your housing costs - you’ll usually be expected to pay this directly to your landlord yourself. If you have a mortgage, the money for housing costs will be paid directly to your mortgage lender.

In Scotland, you can ask for the money for housing costs to be paid directly to your landlord if you are in a full service area. In a full service area you have an online Universal Credit account and manage your claim online. Read more about changing how your Universal Credit is paid in Scotland.

If you’re already on Housing Benefit when you apply for Universal Credit, you’ll still get Housing Benefit for 2 weeks after you submit your claim. You won’t need to pay this back.

If you think your rent or mortgage payment will be late because you’re waiting for your Universal Credit payment, you should talk to your landlord or mortgage lender. They might agree to wait for payment if you explain the situation to them.

Help with emergency expenses

If you're struggling to get by on Universal Credit, you can get emergency help with things like food or items you need for your house - for example a bed or cooker. 

You can apply for a crisis grant or community care grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund

If you can't get help from the Scottish Welfare Fund, you can apply for food banks in your area.

Backdating your Universal Credit

You can apply to get a Universal Credit payment to cover up to 1 month before you started your claim - this is called 'backdating'. You’ll need a good reason for not claiming earlier - if you’re in a couple, you’ll both need a good reason. This could be, for example because:

  • of an illness - you’ll have to show DWP medical evidence for this
  • of a disability
  • you weren’t told your Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was going to end
  • the online claims system was down, and you claimed as soon as it was working again
  • you've made a new claim as a single person after breaking up with your partner - check what to do if you're in this situation
  • you made a joint claim that ended because your partner didn’t accept the claimant commitment - you should now be claiming as a single person

You might not have claimed in time because the DWP told you the wrong thing. If this happens you can complain and ask for compensation.

Call the Universal Credit helpline if you want to backdate your claim.

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

Calls to this number are free. 

Universal Credit live service helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

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