Coronavirus: Read the latest updates if you need help, advice or information from the councils on Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Universal Credit

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: The Department of Work and Pensions has published advice on its Understanding Universal Credit website in relation to coronavirus.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new single benefit which will affect most people of working age who have no or low income. It will eventually replace several unemployment and low-income benefits and tax credits with a single monthly payment. Universal Credit, what it is and how it's different from other benefit, is explained in a simple way in this universal credit video.

If you claim from Eastbourne Borough Council, Universal Credit has already been rolled out, if you claim from Lewes District Council the full roll started on 26 September 2018. You might need to apply but only when you have a change in your circumstances or when the DWP contact you and ask you to apply.

Universal Credit replaces:

  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income related Jobseekers' Allowance
  • Income related Employment Support Allowance

If you currently receive any of the above benefits you cannot claim Universal Credit at the same time. 

If you're unsure of what benefits you are able to claim, use our online benefits calculator to work out what you are entitled to.

Can I claim?

Find full details about who is eligible on the Citizen's Advice website. Most people of working age can claim for but there are some exceptions:

  • You receive only one form of tax credit
  • You are part of a couple where one of you is of pension age
  • You are in receipt of a Severe Disability Premium (SDP) in your Housing Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support

How Universal Credit is different from other benefits

  • You can only apply for Universal Credit online – there are no paper applications
  • There will be an average five week wait before you receive the money for your first claim. During this time you can apply to get an advance on the payment
  • From the day you make your first claim you will not receive Universal Credit for the first 7 days. There will then be an average six week wait 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 get less each month until it’s 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

  1. Find somewhere to access the internet regularly as Universal Credit claims can only be made online
  2. Set up your own email address as you can’t use a friend or relative’s email address
  3. 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
  4. 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 Lewes, Newhaven or Seaford libraries can help. You will need to book an appointment in person at the library or by calling 01323 463759


If you claim from Lewes District Council the full roll out was 26 September 2018.

Apply for universal credit

If you claim from Eastbourne Borough Council, the full roll out was in October 2017

Apply for Universal Credit

We are also asking tenants in council properties in Eastbourne to let us know if they are ready for Universal Credit by completing a short online survey, which only takes a few minutes to fill out.

Additional support and help:

There are lots of different ways the council and other organisations can help you with your Universal Credit application.

If you have found it hard getting a bank account you can contact the East Sussex Credit Union or by phoning 0300 303 3188.

You can get online free of charge at most libraries. You can also ask the library for help with using the internet and setting up an email address by booking a session with a Computer Buddy.

East Sussex benefits helpline 

For advice about benefits including how Universal Credit could affect you:

Call: 0333 344 0681

Universal Credit Helpline 

You can call this helpline to request an advance payment.

Call: 0345 600 0723
Text: 0345 600 0743

Eastbourne Citizens Advice Bureau

Lots of useful information on their Citizens Advice Bureau website including a list of what you need before you can apply and a fact sheet on preparing for your first Universal Credit interview.

Call: 0344 411 1444

Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme (DESSS)

Crisis support for those in need of household goods, food and other essentials. This scheme does not provide money or cash loans. Full information can be found on the DESSS website.

Call: 0300 330 9494