Change how your Universal Credit is paid in Scotland
In Scotland, you can ask to change the way that your Universal Credit (UC) is paid. You can ask for your UC to be paid twice a month instead of monthly or for some of your UC to be paid directly to your landlord.
Read this page to find out more about the UC choices for people living in Scotland.
What are the Universal Credit choices
If you apply for or are already getting UC in Scotland you can ask for:
- your UC to be paid twice a month rather than monthly, and/or
- some of your UC to be paid directly to your landlord
These are called the Scottish UC choices. You can ask to set up just one or both of these choices.
You can make this request if you are applying as a single person or if you are making a joint claim with your partner.
Alternative payment arrangements
In some circumstances, Jobcentre Plus can change the way that your UC is paid. These are called 'alternative payment arrangements'.
- pay your UC more often than once a month
- pay your UC housing cost element directly to your landlord
- split your UC payments between you and your partner
Jobcentre Plus will only set up an alternative payment arrangement if you are in certain situations, such as being in debt or having rent arrears or because you are vulnerable in some way, such as having mental health problems or you have a disability.
You can have an alternative payment arrangement and a Scottish UC choice at the same time if they are for different things. For example, if you already have an alternative payment arrangement for your rent to be paid directly to your landlord, you will only be offered the Scottish choice of twice monthly payments.
If you have been refused an alternative payment arrangement by Jobcentre Plus, then you can still ask for a Scottish UC choice.
How to ask for a Scottish Universal Credit choice
How you ask for a Universal Credit choice depends on whether you're making a new claim or want to change your existing claim.
If you're not already getting UC and make a new claim
You'll be made an offer of the two different choices in your online account. This will be after your UC claim has been processed and you have had your first payment.
If you accept one or both of the choices, this will be confirmed in the journal in your online account.
If you don’t make a choice, then your UC will be paid once a month directly to you and the offer will be removed from your online account after 60 days. If you change your mind, you can ask to set up or to end a Scottish UC choice by using the journal in your online account.
If you're already claiming UC
You can ask to set up a Scottish UC choice at any time. You can do this by:
- using your online account
- phoning a DWP service centre
- asking your workcoach
Jobcentre Plus must agree to your request for a Scottish UC choice unless they think that your request is unreasonable. If the Jobcentre thinks that your request is unreasonable they must tell you the reasons for this decision.
If you're refused a Scottish UC choice, you can’t appeal against this.
Being paid Universal Credit twice a month
You can ask Jobcentre Plus to pay you your UC twice a month instead of monthly.
Once the UC choice of twice monthly payments is set up, you will only get half your monthly amount in your first twice monthly payment. You will get the other half in the next payment, roughly two weeks later. You need to think whether you will be able to pay your bills and manage financially during this time.
If you accept the choice of twice monthly payments but not payments of your housing costs to your landlord, you will need to make sure that you are able to pay your rent at the end of each month. If you aren't able to do so you will build up rent arrears. Your landlord could take legal action to evict you from your home.
The example below shows how a twice monthly payment of UC works in practice. You have to wait until after the end of your first assessment period and your first payment before you are made the offer of more frequent payments. If you accept the offer, your next payment date won’t change.
Marie makes a new claim for UC on 29 October 2017. There are 7 waiting days and then the first assessment period is from 5 November 2017 to 4 December 2017.
Marie’s gets her first payment of UC on 11 December 2017. This is to cover the assessment period 5 November 2017 to 4 December 2017.
After the end of the first assessment period, Marie is given the option of having her UC paid twice a month and/or having some of her UC paid directly to her landlord. Marie chooses to have her UC paid twice a month.
The next payday doesn’t change. On 11 January 2018, Marie gets her next payment. This is for half of the award for the assessment period 5 December 2017 to 4 January 2018.
On 26 January 2018, 15 days later, Marie gets the second half of the award for the assessment period 5 December 2017 to 4 January 2018.
This pattern of payments then repeats for each further assessment period.
Getting some of your Universal Credit paid directly to your landlord
If you rent your home, you can ask Jobcentre Plus to pay the housing costs element of your UC directly to your landlord. You don’t have to have rent arrears in order to make this request. Anyone who makes a claim for or is already getting UC in Scotland and whose UC award includes a housing cost element, can ask for this to be paid to their landlord. You can set up this payment option if you have a social landlord or a private landlord.
There may be a shortfall between your UC housing costs element and your rent. For example, if you are renting your home from a private landlord, your UC housing costs element may be lower than your actual rent because it is limited to the local housing allowance in your area. It is your responsibility to pay the shortfall to stop the build up of rent arrears.
The Scottish UC choice of paying UC housing costs directly to landlords will work in the same way as the alternative payment arrangement of managed payments to landlords. The Department for Work and Pensions have written guidance about this called 'Universal Credit and rented housing: Guide for landlords'. This is available on the GOV.UK website.
Jobcentre Plus can also make a deduction, known as a third party deduction, from your UC and pay it directly to your landlord. Your landlord will normally receive payment from this deduction every 28 days. The payment will be 28 days in arrears.
The difference between this and a Scottish UC choice is that third party deductions from UC only contribute towards paying rent arrears, not your ongoing housing costs (rent and any applicable service charges). You can only get some of your UC paid directly to your landlord to pay your ongoing housing costs by setting up a Scottish UC choice or an alternative payment arrangement. There are also different rules about when Jobcentre Plus can make third party deductions.
If your award is less than your housing costs element
If your Universal Credit (UC) is paid direct to your landlord and the level of your whole UC entitlement is less than your housing costs element, your landlord will be paid the whole UC award. This might happen, for example, if your earnings are higher than usual one month. When this happens a note is put on your journal showing that the award is £0 and telling you to look at the breakdown under the 'payment' section of the journal.
If you have set up a Scottish UC choice for more frequent payments or for payments direct to your landlord, you can cancel this at any time. You can make the request to cancel by using the journal in your online account.
Scottish Government information
The Scottish Government has produced a Question and Answer leaflet about the UC choices for people living in Scotland. This can be found on the Scottish Government website.
For more about how to budget with monthly Universal Credit payments, see the Money Advice Service website.