If you are out of work or are on a low income, you are entitled to make a claim for Universal Credit which will help support you financially.
It is really important that if you think you’re eligible, you apply as soon as possible as it can take up to five weeks to receive your first payment.
Universal Credit can be backdated by one month before the application date but this usually requires a good reason to be submitted for why the application was not made sooner and is decided on a case-by-case basis.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a benefit for people who are out of work or on a low income. It has replaced six other benefits:
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
If you’re claiming any of these benefits just now, you will need to move onto Universal Credit at some point before March 2023.
The benefit is paid monthly but in Scotland you can ask to be paid every two weeks.
It is paid in arrears; this means you are paid for a period of time at the end of that period.
Your first payment can take up to 5 weeks to be paid. This is because you need to wait a month after submitting your claim, this is your “assessment month”, after this your payment can take up to seven days to be paid into your account.
If you live with a partner who is also eligible to apply, you can make a joint application and will get a joint payment. If they are not eligible you still need to include their earnings and savings in your own application and this will be taken into account when deciding how much you receive.
Am I eligible?
To claim Universal Credit, you need to:
- Be out of work or on a low income
- Be aged 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 or 17)
- Be under state pension age (67), or have a partner who lives with you and is
- Have less than £16,000 in savings, this is combined savings if making a joint claim
- Live in the UK
There are some situations where you can claim Universal Credit if you’re 16 or 17-years-old or when you’re studying.
If you are 16 or 17, you can make a claim if any of these apply to you:
- You have limited capability for work or you have medical evidence and are waiting for a Work Capability Assessment
- You’re caring for a severely disabled person
- You’re responsible for a child
- You’re in a couple with responsibility for at least one child and your partner is eligible for Universal Credit
- You’re pregnant and it’s 11 weeks or less before your expected week of childbirth
- You’ve had a child in the last 15 weeks
- You do not have parental support, for example you’re estranged from your parents and you’re not under local authority care
If you are studying full time, you can claim if any of these apply to you:
- You do not have parental support
- You have limited capacity for work and you’re entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- You’re responsible for a child
- You’re in a couple with responsibility for a child and your partner is eligible for Universal Credit
How much will I get?
Universal Credit is made up of a basic allowance plus different elements for things like housing costs, bringing up children, caring or sickness and disability.
The amount you get in Universal Credit can go down or up depending on what income you get from:
- A pension
- Other benefits
- Savings and capital above £6,000
Citizen’s Advice Scotland have more information about how the amount you’ll receive is calculated, to help give you an idea.
How do I apply?
An online application form has to be submitted for Universal Credit.
You can apply for Universal Credit on the Gov.UK website.
If you don’t have a computer or internet access to do this, speak to your local Jobcentre, library, Citizens Advice branch or council who should be able to help you.
Before you apply it’s a good idea to look out all the information that you may need, this includes:
- Your bank, building society or credit union account details (call the Universal Credit helpline if you do not have one)
- An email address
- Information about your housing, for example how much rent you pay
- Details of your income, for example payslips
- Details of savings and any investments, like shares or a property that you rent out
- Details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs
It’s important to put all the right information in when you apply so being prepared helps. If anything is missed out or incorrect it might affect when you get paid or how much you get.
You will also have to verify who you are online. You’ll need some proof of identity for this, for example your:
- Driving licence
- Debit or credit card
Where can I get help with my application?
The online application form takes you through the process step by step, however there are a couple of handy resources you can use if you want some help applying.
You can contact the Universal Credit helpline if you cannot use digital services at all, this might be due to disability or your circumstances, or if you have a question about your claim and cannot access your online claim.
You can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
Citizens Advice Scotland also have a ‘Help to Claim’ service, there’s more information on their website as well as an online chat service or you can call them on 0800 023 2581.