Who can get it, how much you can get and how to apply
Universal Credit is a monthly benefit to support those on low incomes (or no income) with living and housing costs. With the cost of living spiralling, millions of people are struggling financially, yet around a million people aren't claiming Universal Credit when they could be. Have a read of this guide and use our Benefits Calculator to check how much you could get.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a monthly payment for working-age people who are struggling financially. It's designed to help you meet your basic living costs.
Key features of Universal Credit are...
- It's a household benefit – If you live with your partner (whether married or not), both of your incomes and savings will be taken into account when you apply. And, if you're eligible, your Universal Credit will be paid into a single bank account.
- Broad eligibility – There's no specific 'type' of person that Universal Credit is meant for. It's designed to help bridge the gap for those struggling financially, whether that's due to unemployment, a low income, caring for young children, or a health condition.
- Be aware: it comes with obligations – Depending on your circumstances, you'll usually be expected to do a certain amount of work or 'work-related activity' each month to qualify for your Universal Credit payment. This is laid out in a document called a 'claimant commitment', which you'll sign when you apply. If you don't do an action included in this, your amount will be reduced.
- There's no set amount you'll get – The Government first looks at what you need to live on given your circumstances. The amount you'll get in Universal Credit is then adjusted based on what you've got coming in each month (from work and other benefits), and your savings.
- There's no set amount you can earn before you stop getting Universal Credit – Because Universal Credit is tailored to your circumstances, there's no hard 'cut-off' point for eligibility. A single person living with their parents may only be able to earn up to £18,000 before they stop being eligible, whereas a single parent of two children, renting in an expensive city, may be able to earn up to £50,000 before they are no longer eligible.
Claiming Universal Credit also opens up access to other forms of support, including increased free childcare hours, and reduced tariffs for certain utilities. We cover these on the 'extra help' page, later in this guide.
We'll also go on to explain exactly how Universal Credit works, and how to apply. But if you simply want to do a quick check of what you might be entitled to, see our 10-minute Benefits Calculator.
England, Wales and Scotland all follow the same guidelines. Scotland has some extra flexibility when it comes to receiving the payments, known as 'Scottish choices'. Here, you can choose to be paid monthly or twice monthly, and if you get an extra housing payment you can choose to get it in your bank account or paid directly to your landlord.In Northern Ireland, there's a slightly different system and Universal Credit is normally paid twice a month – though you can choose to be paid monthly. Find out more on the NIdirect website.
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