Change how your Universal Credit is paid in Scotland
In Scotland, if you apply for or are already getting Universal Credit (UC) in an area where you manage your claim online, you can ask to change the way that your 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.
These choices are available to anyone who is applying for or already getting UC in an area where you manage your claim online. These are sometimes called full service areas. The choices are not restricted to some groups of people in the way that alternative payment arrangements are.
Read this page to find out more about the UC choices for people living in Scotland.
Who is eligible for the Universal Credit choices
If you apply for or are already getting UC in an area of Scotland where you manage your claim online, 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.
An area where you manage your claim online is sometimes called a full service area. You will not be able to take up the UC choices if you get UC but do not live in a full service area. You will have to wait until your area transfers to a full service area and then you can set up a Scottish UC choice.
Scottish Universal Credit choices and alternative payment arrangements
In some circumstances, Jobcentre Plus can change they way that your UC is paid. They can pay you your UC more often than once a month, pay any housing costs element of UC directly to your landlord and also split your UC payments between you and your partner. These are called 'alternative payment arrangements'. 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.
It is only possible to set up an alternative payment arrangement and a Scottish UC choice at the same time if the alternative payment arrangement relates to something different to the Scottish UC choice. For example, if you 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. You will not be offered the Scottish UC choice of having your rent paid to your landlord.
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
If you made a claim for UC on or after 4 October 2017 and you are eligible for a Scottish UC choice, you will 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 made a claim for UC before 4 October 2017 in an area where you manage your claim online, 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 are 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.
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 in a full service area. 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.
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.
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 an area in Scotland where they manage their claim online 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 at www.gov.uk.
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.
Cancelling your Scottish Universal Credit choice
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 at beta.gov.scot.