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What is Universal Credit (UC)? 

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit for people of  working age who are on a low income. 

It replaces six means-tested benefits: 

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

These six benefits are also known as legacy benefits. 

Universal Credit is paid monthly and includes an element for rent. Claimants are expected to pay their rent from the monthly Universal Credit they receive. 

 

Being prepared for change

The six legacy benefits will be replaced by Universal Credit by 2024.

You can apply for Universal Credit now. If you choose to apply sooner, it’s important to get independent advice before you do as you will not be able to go back to your old benefits that Universal Credit replaces. Many claimants could be financially better off on Universal Credit. You could take advantage of this by choosing to apply for Universal Credit sooner if you think it’s right for you. Otherwise, you will be moved across by the Department for Work and Pensions by 2024.

Do be aware, if you move over to Universal Credit this cannot be undone. If you are not sure you will be better off, get advice in the first instance. 

What information do I need to collect before I use the benefits calculator?

Before you start to use the calculator, there are a few things you will need to know. It will be easier for you to work through all the questions if you have gathered this information for you and your partner, if you have one.

  • Details of all your income, e.g. earnings, state pension, occupational pension, disability benefit, attendance allowance or other state benefits.
  • If you are married, in a civil partnership, or living with someone as a couple, what is your partner’s income, including any benefits? We need to know this as you will be assessed as a couple. If you have anyone else living with you, we need to know about that too – see below.
  • How much money do you have in savings, investments and other capital?
  •  How much is your annual council tax bill and do you get any discounts?
  • Do you pay rent, service charges or mortgage? How much?
  • Do you have anyone else, eg grown-up children, living with you? Are they in employment or on benefits? What is their income?
  • Does anyone receive Carer's Allowance or a Universal Credit carer element for looking after you or anyone in your household?

You may be asked to enter your income from benefits. If you don’t know how much you get, your most recent award letter will tell you. 

If you don’t have the exact information that you need, it is possible to complete the process using estimates, but please be aware that the results may not be correct for you.

Using the benefits calculator

These calculators use information about your benefits and calculate if you are better off on Universal Credit or not. You will need to have your benefits information to hand when using either of these calculators. It should take around 15-30 minutes. There are 2 options from Entitled to and Turn2us. 

Who can claim UC?

To get Universal Credit you must: 

  • Be 18 years old or over - or in some cases 16 or 17 
  • Be under State Pension age  
  • Live in the UK - there are extra rules if you’re not a British citizen 
  • Have less than £16,000 in savings 

If you live with a partner, their income and savings will be taken into account. 

You can get Universal Credit if you’re living with other people but it might affect how much you get. For example, living with parents might mean you get less help with housing costs. 

You can get Universal Credit if you’re self-employed - the application process is the same. 

Whether you’ll be able to get Universal Credit depends on your situation. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I stay on the benefits I get now instead of applying for UC?

Yes.

Eventually the government will move all working age benefit claimants on to Universal Credit but for now you only need to claim it if you have a change in circumstances. Examples could be: 

  • Lost your job and have no income 
  • Income has dropped but you’re still working 
  • You have a disability or illness that stops you working 
  • Expensive childcare costs 
  • You’re caring for someone
  • You move into the area, rent a property and need help to pay your rent
  • You stop being a carer for someone 

Can I apply for UC to replace the benefits I’m on now? How can I find out if I’ll be better off?

Yes.

Some people on the old ‘legacy benefits’ may be better off claiming Universal Credit instead. 

People who are likely to be better off: 

  • Tenants with adult non-dependants living with some, eg a grown up child or family member 
  • Joint tenants affected by the bedroom tax 
  • Working low hours and/or paying for childcare 
  • Fluctuating hours at work 
  • Working carers  

People who are likely to be worse off: 

  • People affected by the benefit cap 
  • Have a disability or disabled children 
  • Sight impaired
  • Single, under 25 and claiming Employment Support Allowance
  • Couples both aged under 25
  • Someone doing ‘permitted work’
  • Disabled and a carer 

Try this calculator for more support.

WARNING - once you apply for Universal Credit, you cannot undo this. If you're not sure whether you will be better off, get advice first.

I’m worried about being paid monthly and getting into arrears with my rent.

You can ask for the ‘rent element’ of your Universal Credit to be paid directly to your landlord. Aspire Housing can help process this for you, you can ask for this when you become a tenant or at any time during your tenancy by contacting our rent team. 

Can I get help with council tax in my UC?

No.

Help with your council tax is still processed by the council. Contact your local council and apply for a council tax reduction. 

I don’t have a bank account, how do I get one if I have a poor credit rating?

Click here for up to date information on getting a basic bank account where you don’t need a good credit rating and you can’t go overdrawn. 

What about free school meals, prescriptions, etc?

Click here for information on help with free school meals.

Click here for useful information on help with health costs.

Who can help me if I’m struggling to make a UC claim?

Citizens Advice has a helpline specifically to help people making a claim for Universal Credit. Click here for more information. 

 

Where is the best place to get advice on Universal credit, benefits, budgeting and debt?

Our award-winning Money Advice Team can help you with all issues relating to money. You can speak to them on the phone, have a meeting using Microsoft Teams, chat with them on our website or visit one of our face to face surgeries in the Newcastle borough – click here for more information.

We also recommend these websites:

Money Helper – click here

Citizens Advice – click here

Is there a leaflet that explains this? I prefer information in writing compared to online.

Click here for a 'Understand Universal – Get The Facts' leaflet.

Want to know more?

If you have more questions about Universal Credit or benefits, head over to our FAQ's for more support.