Am I eligible for Universal Credit?

About a million people who qualify for Universal Credit aren't claiming it. On this page we run through who can claim, and some frequently asked questions about who's eligible.

If you're unemployed, have been made redundant, are off work due to sickness, or are in work on a low income (including if you're self-employed), you could be entitled to Universal Credit to help you meet your basic living costs.

Important: Universal Credit is a household benefit, so if you live with a partner, you'll both have to meet the eligibility criteria to qualify. 

Think you might be eligible? Some FAQs...

  • How much can I earn on Universal Credit?

    There's no set amount you can earn while claiming Universal Credit. But earnings from work will affect the amount you get. 

    The Department for Work and Pensions will look at how much you earn over a month-long period called your 'assessment period', and use this amount to figure out how much Universal Credit you are entitled to. Currently, every £1 you earn (after tax and pension contributions) from a job or self-employment will reduce your Universal Credit payment by 55p.

    If you have children or are disabled, you can earn up to a particular amount before your payment starts to be reduced. This is called a 'work allowance'. This work allowance is currently £404 a month if you get help towards paying your housing costs, or £673 a month if you don't.

  • How much can I have in savings and still get Universal Credit?

    If you have more than £16,000, you won't qualify for Universal Credit. And if you live with your partner, their savings will count towards this total, even if they don't qualify for Universal Credit.

    As Universal Credit's a means-tested benefit, your level of income and savings will affect your eligibility and how much you might be entitled to.

    Here's how it breaks down:

    • Less than £6,000 in savings? It won't count. If you have less than £6,000 in savings you'll have to declare it, but it won't affect how much Universal Credit you'll get.

    • Between £6,001 and £16,000? This WILL affect your Universal Credit amount. Savings above £6,000 are treated as if they give you a monthly income of £4.35 for each £250, or part of £250, regardless of whether it does or not. So if you have £6,300 in a savings account, £6,000 of it will be ignored and the other £300 will be treated as if it gives you a monthly income of £8.70.

    • More than £16,000? You won't qualify. If you have more than £16,000 saved, you'll stop getting Universal Credit.

    Quick question

    What counts as savings or capital?

    The following DO count as savings or capital

    • Regular savings in your bank account
    • Fixed-term savings
    • ISAs – including LISAs, stocks & shares ISAs
    • If you've taken your private pension as a lump sum before state pension age
    • Redundancy pay
    • Stocks or shares
    • Property you don't live in

    The following DOESN'T count as savings or capital:

    • A pension pot that hasn't yet been drawn down
    • Pension income – this counts as income
    • Junior ISAs – money you have already given to your children
  • I'm self-employed – am I eligible for Universal Credit?

    If you are or become self-employed, you may be eligible for Universal Credit. You will need to meet the general Universal Credit eligibility criteria and show that you are "gainfully" self-employed. This means that:

    • Your self-employment is your main job or source of income.
    • You're getting regular work from self-employment.
    • Your work is "organised and developed".
    • You expect to make a profit.

    If you fit these criteria, you'll be supported towards the goal of becoming financially independent. You won't have to look for other work, and you'll have to report 'cash-in' and 'cash-out' payments to the Department for Work and Pensions each month. If you fail to supply these figures, your Universal Credit payment will be paused. 

    If you aren't considered to be "gainfully self-employed", you'll be required to look for additional employment, or undertake job-related activities such as training days, to qualify for your Universal Credit payment.

    The 'minimum income floor'

    The main difference with claiming Universal Credit as a self-employed person is that you'll be subject to the 'minimum income floor'. This is the minimum amount which the Government assumes you'll earn.

    Your 'minimum income floor' is calculated based on the national minimum wage for someone in your age group, multiplied by the number of hours you're expected to be available for work.

    • Earn less than the minimum income floor? You'll usually have to find additional work to top up your income, as Universal Credit won't make up the difference.

    • Earn more than the minimum income floor? Your Universal Credit payments will be based on your actual earnings.

    Quick questions

    How is the minimum income floor calculated?

    To calculate your minimum income floor, your expected working hours are multiplied by the hourly national living wage or national minimum wage for your age group, and then calculated as a monthly salary.

    If you're aged 21 or over and in employment, you must be paid a legal minimum of £11.44 an hour (for the 2023/24 tax year) – though it'll be less than this if you're younger.

    The Department for Work and Pensions then deducts tax and national insurance to work out your minimum income floor. This is deducted at an amount "the Secretary of State deems appropriate", so can differ from case to case.

    Who does the minimum income floor apply to?

    It doesn't apply to everybody.

    You're exempt from it if:

    • You look after a child under the age of three.
    • You're pregnant or gave birth in the past 15 weeks.
    • You're caring for a severely disabled person.
    • You've been assessed as having 'limited capacity for work', or 'limited capacity for work-related activity'.
    • You're in full-time education.
    • You're temporarily too sick to work.

    If you start a business while claiming Universal Credit, the minimum income floor won't apply to you for the first 12 months.

  • My partner is above state pension age, can I still get Universal Credit?

    Universal Credit is only available for those under state pension age, but if you're part of a "mixed age" couple (where one of you is younger than state pension age), you can still claim Universal Credit. 

    Remember, though, the amount of Universal Credit you receive is based on your household income. If your partner is claiming their state pension, these payments will be counted as "income" when it comes to working out how much Universal Credit you'll get.

If you already claim benefits you can still get Universal Credit... 

You can claim Universal Credit alongside many benefits, such as new-style employment and support allowance and Child Benefit.

For every £1 you get from these benefits (or a private pension), your Universal Credit payment will reduce by £1:

  • Bereavement allowance
  • Carer's allowance
  • Employment and support allowance (new style)
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Jobseeker's allowance (new style)
  • Maternity allowance

You can claim these benefits without it affecting the amount you get in Universal Credit: 

  • Child Benefit
  • Disability living allowance
  • Income from boarders and lodgers
  • Maintenance payments
  • Personal independence payment

If you get more than £22,020 a year in total from benefits

If your household gets more than £22,020 (£14,753 for single people without children) in benefits and you live outside of London, you might be subject to the benefits cap. This is the total amount of benefits (some are excluded) your household can receive in a year. 

In London, the benefits cap is currently up to £25,323 for couples and families (or £16,967 for single people without children).

If you're currently claiming another low-income benefit, Universal Credit may replace it

Universal Credit is replacing six older benefits. If you're currently claiming one of the following, you'll eventually be moved over to Universal Credit:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income-based jobseeker's allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit

You'll be moved over to Universal Credit if you have a change in circumstances (such as moving in with a new partner, or changing job), or as part of a process called 'managed migration', where the Government moves you over automatically. This process is expected to be completed for most by the end of 2025, and for all by 2028.

I'm on working tax credit – would I be better off switching to Universal Credit early? 

Some people will be better off, but others won't. So before you do anything, check to see whether you'll actually be better off. If you switch from an older benefit to Universal Credit, you CAN'T switch back.

We cover the full pros & cons of switching in our Should I switch to Universal Credit? guide. 

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