What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit (UC) is a benefit for people of working age to help with their everyday living costs. It is a means tested benefit whereby your income, savings and any other capital will be reviewed to confirm your eligibility and if eligible, the number of benefits you qualify for.
Why was Universal Credit introduced?
The introduction of UC began in 2013 as part of the government’s welfare reforms initiative. Their aim was for UC to bring together a range of existing working age benefits under a single umbrella, therefore simplifying the benefits system, making it easier for people to understand and in turn more cost effective for the government to administer.
What legacy benefits does Universal Credit replace?
UC replaces the following benefits
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Income Support
- Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
You do not necessarily need to be unemployed to qualify for UC. You can also claim if you are working but on a low income, so long as you and your partner (if co-habiting) do not hold more than £16,000 in savings, are under Stage Pension age, and are a UK resident. Find out more about UC eligibility here.
Making a new claim
New UC claims are made via an online process with assistance available for people who need support with their claims. Those residing in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) can obtain support via the UK government’s own Universal Credit Helpline.
If you live in Northern Ireland, support is available from the NI Direct Universal Credit Service Centre.
How much money you will receive if eligible for Universal Credit
The amount of benefit you will receive is dependent upon your financial circumstances and if applicable, that of your household members. Bear in mind that a ‘Benefits Cap’ was introduced in April 2013 and may apply depending upon your circumstances.
Due to the make-up of UC working out what you are entitled to can be complex. You can use a benefits calculator to work out what you may be entitled to more clearly, taking into account your individual and household circumstances.
You can find out more about UC via the DWP’s dedicated website www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/
For people residing in Northern Ireland, NI Direct provide their own online information hub www.nidirect.gov.uk/universal-credit
You can seek independent advice about claiming UC from Citizens Advice and in Northern Ireland via Advice NI.