Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

What Universal Credit is

This advice applies to England

Universal Credit is being introduced across the UK in stages. It will replace:

  • Housing Benefit
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support

Whether you should apply for Universal Credit instead of one of these benefits depends on where you live and your circumstances - check if you're eligible for Universal Credit.

Test here for page How universal credit works if you're self employed

Universal Credit works differently from other benefits - so if you're moving from another benefit it's important to know the differences.

The biggest differences are:

  • you can get Universal Credit if you're unemployed but also if you're working
  • you'll usually get a single payment each month, rather than weekly or fortnightly
  • instead of getting a separate housing benefit, your rent will usually be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment

How Universal Credit works

You'll usually get one monthly payment to cover your living costs. If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, you and your partner will get one payment between the 2 of you. The payment is made up of a basic 'standard allowance' and extra payments that might apply to you depending on your circumstances.

You might be able to get extra payments if:

  • you work and have childcare costs
  • you need help with housing costs
  • you're disabled or have a health condition
  • you're a carer for a disabled person or you have a disabled child

Check how much you might get on GOV.UK.

If you get help with rent

If your UC payment includes help with rent, you'll usually need to pay your landlord each month from your Universal Credit payment, even if you live in social housing. You can ask the DWP to pay your rent directly to your landlord if you're in debt, have rent arrears or are struggling with money.

If you're working

You can work and still get Universal Credit - your Universal Credit will reduce gradually as you earn more. Your Universal Credit will go up if your job ends or you earn less.

Claiming other benefits if you get Universal Credit

You should apply for Council Tax Reduction - if you get it, it won't reduce the amount of Universal Credit you get.

You can also claim other benefits, including contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

These are benefits you can get if you have enough National Insurance contributions and you're unemployed or if you can't work because of illness or disability.

If you claim contribution-based JSA or ESA and you're eligible for Universal Credit, your JSA or ESA will be called 'new style' by the government. If you get either of these benefits, your Universal Credit will be reduced, but it might still be worth claiming.

It's best to contact your nearest Citizens Advice and speak to an adviser. They can help you work out if it's worth claiming other benefits at the same time as Universal Credit.

Next steps

Did this advice help?
Why wasn't this advice helpful?

Please tell us more about why our advice didn't help.

Did this advice help?

Thank you, your feedback has been submitted.

UAT (Release)