Universal Credit Explained – How it Differs From Existing Benefits? 

Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit aimed at supporting UK citizens who are either out of work or receiving a low income. UC replaces; Housing Benefit, Income support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Jobseekers allowance and income related employment & support allowance. You can get Universal Credit if you live in; England, Wales or Scotland. The benefit was introduced in Northern Ireland just recently (in September 2017).

Key UC facts

As of now, most claims are arising from newly-unemployed single individuals. Couples and families also make claims. If you usually receive assistance with your rent, you will continue getting the same assistance. If you have a spouse and you are all entitled to Universal Credit, you will receive one joint payment monthly paid directly into one bank account.

It’s also worth noting UC is paid every month in arrears. For this reason, it can take 6 weeks for you to receive your first payment after you launch your claim. Also, there are no limits on working hours when you are claiming UC. However, the amount you receive reduces as you earn more. Lastly, UC benefit claims can be made online.

When will you be paid?

There is a waiting period after making a new UC claim. Typically, you won’t be paid for the first week (7 days). This should stop you from claiming. You should apply immediately because it takes 6 weeks for you to get your first payment. The 7th day after making a claim becomes your assessment date i.e. the date you will be receiving your UC payment every month.

How much is UC?

UC is comprised of a standard allowance as well as an element for; housing, being a carer, childcare costs as well as elements for disabled children and an ill/disabled adults. A person’s maximum UC award is composed of one standard household allowance plus elements covering your family circumstances. Individuals get the most if their household has no other income and savings or capital is £6,000 or less.

How working affects universal credit

UC doesn’t put restrictions on working hours as is the case with benefits like Income Support and Working Tax Credits. Individuals who are in paid work can be entitled to receive a work allowance.

Work allowance

Work allowance is simply the money you are allowed to make before your UC payment is affected. You are entitled to receive a work allowance if you are responsible for a dependent child/children or you can’t work normally due to disability or illness. If you qualify for a work allowance, your earnings are restricted by the threshold present in relation to your circumstance. Your UC payment then goes down 63p for every extra pound you earn above the threshold.

How other income affects Universal Credit

Income that you don’t get from working can be deducted. This income is known as unearned income. Examples of such income taken off UC payments include; pension income, statutory sick pay, statutory maternity/paternity/adoption pay as well as some benefits which are not replaced by UC. Typically, a pound is deducted for every pound of unearned income. Examples of unearned income that isn’t taken from a person’s UC payment include; maintenance payments, child benefit, personal independence payment, disability living allowance as well as income from lodgers and boarders.

Effects of savings on Universal Credit

Having capital (from investments or shares) and savings can affect the amount of UC you get. Household savings or capital amounting to £6,000 or less is ignored when calculating UC payment. If you/your spouse have savings falling between £6,000 and £16,000, £6,000 is deducted, and then the remainder is considered as an investment which provides a return of £4.35 for every £250. Households with savings or capital exceeding £16,000 aren’t entitled to UC.

The effect on savings when moving from Tax credits to UC

Under Tax credit rules, savings or capital over £6,000 was ignored although some income i.e. from savings was considered. Moving to UC when you have capital or savings exceeding £6,000 won’t make you worse off since you will still be entitled to receive transitional protection (a top-up payment) meant to make sure you are not worse off.

Applying for Universal Credit

You can claim UC online by visiting the official Universal Credit Website:


Here is a link to all the information you need to start your claim:


Couples can make a joint claim. In such a case, you or your partner should complete the claim form although you/your partner’s details have to be provided.

From more information, call the Universal Credit helpline: 0345 600 0723

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