Universal Credit will only affect you if you or your partner is below State Pension age. There are also other benefits you may be able to claim if you're on a low income.
Cost of Living Payments
The government has announced Cost of Living Payments for people on low income benefits. You may be entitled to up to three payments:
- a payment of £301 paid between 25 April 2023 and 17 May 2023
- a payment of £300 paid in autumn 2023
- a payment of £299 paid in spring 2024
This applies to you if you get any of the following benefits or tax credits on certain dates:
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit.
To get the first payment of £301, you must have been receiving the benefit (or be able to show that you were eligible for it) between 26 January to 25 February 2023. Visit the government’s page on Cost of Living Payments for more information.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a means-tested payment that could help if you're on a low income or out of work. You must meet some extra criteria to qualify for it - for example, you usually have to be looking for work, although this can depend on your circumstances.
Universal Credit replaces the following benefits (called legacy benefits):
- Housing Benefit (unless you are in supported, sheltered or temporary housing)
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit.
If you're getting legacy benefits
If you're currently claiming any of the legacy benefits listed above, you'll eventually be moved to Universal Credit. You don't need to do anything now. It is usually better to wait to be moved over to Universal Credit, instead of claiming Universal Credit yourself. This is because once you claim Universal Credit, you can’t go back to claiming legacy benefits. You cannot make a new claim for any of the legacy benefits.
However, if your circumstances change, you might have to claim Universal Credit. It’s best to get advice for your situation from an organisation such as Citizens Advice, and report any changes to the relevant benefit office.
Benefits not replaced by Universal Credit
Contribution-based ESA and Contribution-based JSA were not replaced by Universal Credit and are not included in these legacy benefits. You can't make new claims for them. However, if you’re already receiving them, they’ll carry on until either their end date or until your circumstances change.
You may be able to make a new claim for New Style ESA and New Style JSA. These have replaced Contribution-based ESA and Contribution based JSA and you can claim them if you have enough National Insurance contributions and National Insurance credits from the two previous tax years. These benefits can be paid alongside Universal Credit if you qualify for them. However, if you get them, they’ll be considered when calculating how much Universal Credit you’re entitled to.
Who can claim Universal Credit?
To qualify for Universal Credit, you must:
- live in England, Wales or Scotland
- have less than £16,000 in money and savings, including your partner's savings, if you have one
- be below State Pension age, or have a partner who's below State Pension age.
Check if you should be applying for Universal Credit by using the Citizens Advice eligibility checker.
What happens when you reach State Pension age?
If you and your partner (if you have one) are over State Pension age, you may qualify for Pension Credit. See our guide Pension Credit.
If you want to claim Pension Credit or pension-age Housing Benefit but your partner is under State Pension age, you may have to claim working-age benefits even if you are above State Pension age.
Once you both reach State Pension age, your Universal Credit will stop and you may be able to claim Pension Credit or other benefits. Find out what you could be entitled to by using our Benefits calculator or calling our Helpline to arrange a benefits check.
How to apply for Universal Credit
You usually need to apply online for Universal Credit. You can also apply by phone, by calling the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644. You may also be able to get someone to visit you at home if you:
- have complex needs
- have a long-term physical disability or mental health condition
- have nobody else to support you
- cannot claim benefits in any other way.
If you're worried that you cannot apply for Universal Credit without help, Citizens Advice has a Help to Claim service that you can use.
Remember that if you’re receiving any of the legacy benefits, it’s best to check whether or not you’ll be better off on Universal Credit before applying.
To apply you need to prove your identity, and your partner's identity, if you have one. To do this, you will usually be asked to provide two of the following:
- your National Insurance number
- your last payslip
- a valid passport
- your last P60
- a valid driving licence with your photo on it
- information on your tax credits.
You'll also need to provide information about your income and assets, such as savings or investments, your housing costs and any disability or health condition that affects your work.
Find out more about Universal Credit online or by calling the Universal Credit helpline.
If you're under State Pension age, contact your local Citizens Advice for more information, or call our Helpline if you or your partner are over State Pension age.