- Coronavirus (COVID-19) update:The Department of Work and Pensions has published advice on its Understanding Universal Creditwebsite in relation to coronavirus.
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a single benefit that affects most people of working age who have no or low income. It replaces five existing legacy benefits with one monthly payment.
Universal Credit replaces the following legacy benefits:
- Income Support
- Employment and Support Allowance (income related)
- Job Seeker’s Allowance (income based)
- Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits
- Housing Benefits
As of 11 October 2017 Eastbourne became a Universal Credit Full Service area.
As of 26 September 2018 Lewes became a Universal Credit Full Service area.
This means there are no new working age claims for legacy benefits (with some exceptions).
You may still be able to claim Contribution-based Job Seeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance depending on your National Insurance contributions. However, for help with your housing costs you will need to apply for Universal Credit.
This also means that if there is a change in your circumstances, you may need to make an application for Universal Credit.
Unless you are in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium as part of your legacy benefit or are in Specified Accommodation, if you apply for Universal Credits whilst in receipt of Housing Benefit your Housing Benefit will stop. This will happen even if your application is unsuccessful, you withdraw your Universal Credit application or apply by accident.
Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit
How Universal Credit is different from other benefits
- You can only apply for Universal Credit online. There are no paper applications;
- Your Universal Credit will be paid on the same day of each month;
- There will be an average wait of one month plus one week before you receive the money for your first claim. During this time you can apply to get an advance on the payment;
- It is important to claim as soon as you know you need help. Payments may not be backdated if you don’t claim as soon as you need help;
- Payments are made monthly, directly into your bank account. You will then be responsible for using this money to pay for your housing;
- Therefore, it is important that you set up an email address and bank account before you need to claim and ideally as soon as possible;
- You will also need to apply separately for Council Tax Reduction
How to get an advance on your first payment
If you need help to pay your bills or cover other costs while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can apply to get an advance which you pay back out of your Universal Credit payments. You will need to pay this back over a 12 month period or sooner. This will mean you receive less each month until it is paid off. You won’t pay back more than the amount of your advance.
Sign up for an advance payment - GOV.UK
How to prepare for Universal Credit
- Find somewhere to access the internet regularly as Universal Credit claims can only be made online.
- Set up your own email address as you can’t use a friend’s or relative’s email address.
- Set up a bank account as payments are made monthly and can only be paid directly to your bank account. You will need a bank account that can set up Direct Debits.
- Verify your identity on GOV.UK
Before you begin your claim, you will need the following information:
- An email address;
- Your national insurance number;
- Your bank account details;
- Details of any savings and earnings;
- Details of other benefits including child benefit references;
- If you are part of a couple a code will be issued allowing the other partner to enter details on their own account;
- If you are a private tenant you will need proof of rent.
Where to go if you need help
- If you need help making an online claim contact the Citizens Advice Bureau on 03444 111 444.
- If you need help opening a bank account contact the East Sussex Credit Union on 0300 303 3188.
- If you need help setting up an email account or completing the online identity verification, ‘IT for You’ volunteers at East Sussex County Council libraries can help. You will need to book an appointment in person at the library or by calling 0345 6080196 ESCC - Computers and Internet in libraries