A quick guide to Universal Credit

2 min read
April 09, 2020

Universal Credit has not – let’s be honest – got the best of reputations. The implementation of the ambitious plan to incorporate all the benefits in to one didn’t go to plan. Many people, particularly those with disabilities, have told us that errors and poor decisions have caused much distress.

However, as the UK faces longer on coronavirus lockdown and people struggle without work because of the coronavirus, Universal Credit is a vital lifeline. For many people who have never claimed benefits – or haven’t done for years – it’ll come as a big surprise.

Over a million people applied for Universal Credit in just the first two weeks of coronavirus lockdown, so lots of people are in the same boat.

The nature of the benefits system is such that there are too many allowances to go in to here. Instead, here is our quick guide to claiming.

How to claim

First things first, here’s the official Gov.uk guidance.

As with anything bureaucratic, applying can be a little frustrating. We understand phone waiting times have come down but there’s still likely to be delays if you call.

You can start the whole process online, but you’ll need the following information:

  • Bank account details (the benefit has to be paid on to an account)
  • An email address
  • Information about your housing situation if you’re claiming for rent.
  • Details of your income like payslips.
  • Details of savings and any investments.
  • Childcare costs if you’re applying for this to be paid too.

You need ID too, like:

  • driving licence
  • passport
  • debit or credit card

If you haven’t got this information, don’t worry. Think about what you might have that could be appropriate and call. The same goes for you if you’re away from home, for example helping a relative.

Telephone number

0800 328 5644

Who can claim?

You can generally claim if you are:

  • Out of work or on a low income. If you’ve been furloughed you can’t claim but if you’re on reduced hours you might be able to.
  • Under state pension age.
  • Have less than £16,000 in savings
  • Based in the UK
  • Over 18 (some exceptions exist if you’re 16 or 17 but check with your support worker who can also help you)

How much do I get?

It varies depending on your age, marital status and:

  • If you’re claiming mortgage support or rent
  • If you have children
  • If you have a sickness or disability
  • If you are a carer

How much can I earn?

If you are on low pay, reduced hours, have an income like a small pension, have savings or investments, all of these things can reduce your payment. The rules are very complicated, so tell the UC people what your situation is and they’ll explain what you’re entitled to.

MoneySavingExpert has a benefits calculator here:  https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/benefits-check/

I’m in dire financial straits

Call and hold on the line for as long as it takes. You may be able to get an advance, but be prepared to give a lot of information about your situation.

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