Universal Credit explained

Universal Credit is a new benefit to support you if you’re working and on a low income or you’re out of work. This page explains how Universal Credit is different from existing benefits, how much you’ll be paid and how to apply for it.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work.

It replaces some of the benefits and tax credits that you might be getting now:

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit.

You may be invited to claim Universal Credit if you live in England, Scotland or Wales.

Universal Credit is due to be introduced in Northern Ireland in September 2017.

Find out more about Universal Credit in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website.

Universal Credit key facts

Did you know?

You might have to wait up to six weeks before your first payment.

  • For now, most new claims are from single, newly-unemployed people, although more job centres are now taking claims from couples and families.
  • However, if you’re in an area which offers a full service and are entitled to the benefits being replaced, you’ll be asked to claim Universal Credit.
  • If you get help with your rent, this will be included in your monthly payment – you’ll then pay your landlord directly.
  • If you live with someone as a couple and you are both entitled to claim Universal Credit, you will get one monthly joint payment paid into a single bank account.
  • Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears so it can take up to six weeks after you make your claim to get your first payment.
  • There are no limits on how many hours a week you can work if you’re claiming Universal Credit. Instead, the amount you get will gradually reduce as you earn more, so you won’t lose all your benefits at once.
  • You have to make your claim online.

When will I be paid Universal Credit?

If you make a new claim for Universal Credit you will not be paid for the first seven days. These days are known as waiting days.

Don’t let this stop you making your claim and apply as soon as you are entitled to do so as it can take up to six weeks after you claim for your first payment to reach your account.

The seventh day after you make your claim is the date of the month on which your Universal Credit Payment will be paid each month. This is called your assessment date.

Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears so you’ll have to wait one calendar month from your assessment date before your first Universal Credit payment is made. This is called your assessment period.

You then have to wait up to seven days for the payment to reach your bank account.

This means it can take up to six weeks before you get your first payment.

Example

  • Ben has lost his job and makes a new claim for Universal Credit on 15 July.
  • He must wait seven days before his claim can start.
  • This makes his assessment date the 22 July. It means he will be paid on the 22nd of each month.
  • He needs to wait one assessment period (that’s a calendar month) to 22 August because Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears.
  • He also needs to leave up to seven days for the money to reach his account.
  • He should expect his first payment of Universal Credit no later than 29 August.
  • If 29 August is a bank holiday Monday, he should receive payment on the last working day (Friday) before the holiday.

When the seven-day waiting period won’t apply

The seven-day waiting period won’t apply if, for example you:

  • Have claimed Universal Credit within the past six months
  • Are splitting up from or moving in with someone who’s already claiming Universal Credit
  • Are moving on to Universal Credit from another benefit
  • Are terminally ill
  • Are vulnerable, for example you’ve recently been a victim of domestic violence or are leaving care or prison

Your first payment should go into your account no later than five weeks after you make your claim.