The Government has started to replace a number of existing benefits with a single benefit called Universal Credit - find out what Universal Credit replaces, when and where it is being introduced, plus how to claim it and what to do if you are unhappy with the result of your claim.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a new means-tested benefit for people of working age that the Government hopes will make claiming benefits simpler. It attempts to make sure you will always be better off in work than on benefits.
Universal Credit replaces the following means-tested benefits:
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
- budgeting loans and crisis loan alignment payments.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) administers all Universal Credit claims.
The programme for introducing Universal Credit
The DWP is introducing Universal Credit slowly. So far it has only trialled new claims for Universal Credit in a select number of areas: Ashton-under-Lyne, Wigan, Warrington, Oldham, Bath, Hammersmith, Harrogate, Inverness, Rugby and Shotton. In these areas, the DWP is only accepting simple claims – claims from newly unemployed claimants with no dependents or disabilities. This means that because of your sight loss it is highly unlikely that the DWP will invite you to claim Universal Credit, even if you live in one of these areas.
In June 2014, twelve more local authority areas in north west England joined the rollout. These were:
- Salford City Council
- Wirral Borough Council
- Preston City Council
- St Helens Borough Council
- Cheshire East Council
- Cheshire West and Chester Council
- Trafford Borough Council
- Bolton Borough Council
- Bury Borough Council
- South Ribble Borough Council
- Sefton Borough Council
- Knowsley Borough Council
In June, the DWP also began to accept applications from couples, as well as single people, from these same areas.
It is only much later – during 2016 – that the DWP plans to take on new claims across the country and therefore end claims for the existing means-tested benefits.
If you already receive one of the benefits that Universal Credit replaces, it is only from around 2016 that the DWP will begin to move you over to Universal Credit. The DWP aims to move everyone over by the end of 2017, however their plan for doing this has already changed a number of times, so this date could change. We shall update this page if this happens.
How much is Universal Credit worth?
The DWP pays Universal Credit monthly and makes one payment for each household directly into a bank account. If your claim is successful, the DWP will pay you a standard allowance plus any additional elements that apply to you. You should receive your first payment around five weeks after your claim.
The standard allowances from April 2014 are:
- single claimant aged under 25: £249.28 a month
- single claimant aged 25 or over: £314.67 a month
- joint claimants, both aged under 25: £391.29 a month
- joint claimants, either aged 25 or over: £493.95 a month.
Additional elements depend on your household's circumstances. They include a:
- child element and disabled child addition
- childcare element
- carer element
- limited capability for work element.
We give more information on specific amounts available for each element in our Universal Credit factsheet:
The DWP has recognised that, in exceptional cases, a single monthly payment may not be suitable for some people. For these people, the DWP will make split payments. You might belong to this group if you are a vulnerable tenant who will have your housing element of Universal Credit paid direct to your landlord, for example. For all other claimants, the monthly payment will include your housing costs.
How to claim Universal Credit
The DWP is encouraging as many people as possible to make and manage their claim for Universal Credit online. They have confirmed that their online system will meet guidelines for accessibility and so should work with magnification and screen reading technology on computers and other devices.
If you cannot access the internet and make your claim online, or feel that you need more support to do this, there are other ways for you to make your claim:
- a DWP adviser will be able to complete the online form for you as you talk through the application over the phone. Call the Universal Credit helpline for more information: 0845 600 0723 (textphone: 0845 600 0743).
- you can visit a local DWP office or Jobcentre and an adviser can complete the form for you
- the DWP are also working with other organisations (called "Local Service Support") who will be able to provide support to you. In exceptional circumstances, they may even be able to visit you at home to complete the form. Call the Universal Credit Helpline (0845 600 0723 or textphone 0845 600 0743) for more information on any Local Service Support teams available to help you.
How to appeal a decision on your Universal Credit claim
If you dispute the decision made on your Universal Credit claim and would like the DWP to look at their decision again, you can ask for a reconsideration.
If, after the DWP have reconsidered their decision, you are still unhappy, you can then lodge an appeal with HM Courts & Tribunal Service.
Find out more about the process and timescales for benefits appeals.
Use our benefits calculator to check which benefits you are entitled to. Our calculator will ask you some questions about your circumstances and then tell you how exactly much you could be missing out on.Use the benefits calculator