Read about what Universal Credit is and how you can claim it.
Published: 25 January 2021
Last updated: 21 April 2021
Universal Credit is a means tested benefit for working age people. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) administers Universal Credit, which replaces the following six benefits:
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
For more information about Universal Credit at GOV.UK.
How does Universal Credit affect me
Anyone making a new claim for one of the six benefits listed above will instead have to apply for Universal Credit. Universal Credit includes a housing element to help with rent. The housing element of Universal Credit replaces Housing Benefit.
If you are receiving one of the six benefits listed above and do not have a change in your circumstances, Universal Credit will generally not affect you for the time being. DWP will start the process of moving people who do not have changes on to Universal Credit towards the end of 2020. DWP expect it will take until 2023 to transfer everyone of working age on to Universal Credit.
Exceptions to having to apply for Universal Credit
There are exceptions when Universal Credit will not be available.
From 27 January 2021, working age customers who are currently in receipt of Severe Disability Premium or who have been entitled to a Severe Disability Premium in the previous month will be required make a new claim for Universal Credit instead of Housing Benefit. However, if you are currently in receipt of Housing Benefit and you qualify for the Severe Disability Premium in the assessment of your existing benefits you will continue to receive Housing Benefit until a change of circumstances prompts you to claim Universal Credit. For more information about Severe Disability Premium and the qualifying conditions at GOV.UK.
There is also no change for single pensioners and couples where both members have reached State Pension age. This is because Universal Credit is a benefit for people of working age only.
However, starting from 15 May 2019, couples where one member is State Pension age and the other member is working age will have to stop claiming existing benefits and apply for Universal Credit instead. The change happens when the older member of the couple has a birthday after 15 May 2019 that means they have reached State Pension age. Either the DWP or the Council will contact couples who are affected in advance to advise when a new application for Universal Credit should be made.
Exceptions when a person on Universal Credit can also receive Housing Benefit
For most tenants, Universal Credit will include a housing element to provide help with rent. But there are two exceptions to this.
Tenants of supported housing and temporary accommodation provided because of homelessness will claim Universal Credit from the DWP for their living costs and Housing Benefit from Westminster City Council for their rent.
Key features of Universal Credit
DWP administers Universal Credit and their website provides detailed information about how Universal Credit is claimed, decided and awarded. But here is a summary of some of the key features of Universal Credit:
You claim online – this means you will need an email account.
It takes 5 weeks to decide a claim – you can request an advance payment from DWP if this will cause hardship.
Payments are made monthly and you will need to have a bank, building society or Post Office account to receive them.
You will receive a single monthly payment that will include an amount to live on and a housing element to assist with rent. You can ask DWP to pay the housing element to your landlord if this will cause you problems.
Help and support from us
We continue to deal with Council Tax Support and Discretionary Housing Payment applications and awards.
Extra housing benefit for 2 weeks
If you transfer from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit, the Council will award you Housing Benefit for the first 2 weeks of the period Universal Credit covers. This is to give extra help with rent because it takes 5 weeks to award Universal Credit.
Council Tax Support
To receive help with paying your Council Tax you will need to claim Council Tax Support from us. Find out more information about Council Tax Support.
Discretionary Housing Payment
When either the housing element of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit is less than the rent you have to pay, you can claim Discretionary Housing Payment from us. Find out more information about Discretionary Housing Payment.
Assistance with budgeting
Universal Credit is a single monthly payment to provide help with living costs and rent. Westminster Citizens Advice can provide money advice if you need help budgeting for all your outgoings from a single monthly payment.
Westminster Employment Service
Universal Credit makes it easier for people to move from benefits into work. We have coaches trained to support people into employment. Find out more information about our service.
Telephone: 0207 641 3460