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Universal Credit - what you need to know

Universal Credit is completely different to other benefits, from how you claim to how it is paid. This page lists what you need to know and what you have to have in place before you can make a claim.

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people in or out of work. It is issued by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Universal Credit works differently from other benefits - it's important to know the differences:

  • You'll get a single payment each month, rather than weekly or fortnightly.
  • It will be paid direct into a single bank account, as a single household payment.
  • Instead of getting a separate Housing Benefit payment, your housing costs will be paid as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment. It will be your responsibility to pay your rent to your landlord.

Changes from tax credits to Universal Credit

If you live in County Durham and receive Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, you will receive a Managed Migration Notice from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from July 2023 onwards. The letter will tell you that your Tax Credits will end and that you need to claim Universal Credit.

You can carry on receiving Tax Credits as normal (including your annual renewal) until you receive this letter. The letter will give a deadline date giving you at least 3 months - you are not automatically transferred onto Universal Credit. If you need a time extension because of your personal circumstances or to arrange some advice, you can phone the telephone number on the letter to request more time.

If the amount of Universal Credit would be less than your Tax Credits you can get a top-up which means you are not worse off at the point of transfer.

If you get Tax Credits and have savings over £16,000, you should still apply for Universal Credit if you get a Managed Migration Notice because your savings over £16,000 will be ignored for 12 months.

If you need further advice about a Universal Credit Managed Migration Notice contact Welfare Rights 03000 268968 or for help making a claim contact Citizens Advice Help to Claim 0800 144 8444.

Who can claim

To get Universal Credit you must:

  • be 18 or over
  • be under state pension age
  • live in the UK
  • not savings of less than £16,000

Sanctioned while on Universal Credit

If you have not done one of the activities in your claimant commitment, you could be sanctioned. This means your Universal Credit payments will be temporarily reduced.

Apply for a hardship payment

If you're struggling with money because of a sanction, you can:

If you think you've been unfairly sanctioned

You can ask the DWP to rethink their decision, this is called 'mandatory reconsideration' - the contact details will be on the letter sent to you about your sanction.

You'll need to tell them why you think the sanction was wrong. You can prepare by:

Your nearest Citizens Advice can help you.

Claiming other benefits

You may be able to get other benefits and support if you are claiming Universal Credit. This includes Child Benefit, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you are receiving these now and move onto Universal Credit, these benefits will continue to be paid as usual.

If you currently receive Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-related Employment Support Allowance or income-based Jobseekers Allowance, these benefits will end if you make a claim for Universal Credit.

If you need help paying your council tax, we have a local council tax reduction scheme, with support available of up to a 100% reduction on your council tax bill. These payments are not included in Universal Credit - you need to claim this from us. Please visit our Council Tax Reduction scheme page to make a claim.

For help with childcare, you  may also be entitled to free play and learn sessions if you have a two year old child.

If you get help to pay your rent

When you receive Universal Credit, it is your responsibility to pay your rent, rather than having it paid directly to your landlord or social housing provider.

The best way to do this is to set up a direct debit from your bank account. If you have any concerns, contact your landlord directly or discuss alternative payment arrangements with Job Centre Plus.

Universal Credit payments

You need an account for Universal Credit to be paid into. The best type of account depends on how you wish to use it - if you want to ensure your rent is paid and you have access to your money at any time of the day but don't want to risk going overdrawn, then it may be best to have a basic bank account. However Universal Credit can be paid into different types of accounts.

For more information, visit Money Helper: choosing a bank account for your benefit payments.

Your first Universal Credit Payment

Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears. You will receive your first payment one calendar month and 7 days after you make your claim, but you can apply for an advance payment to help you through this period, which is repayable by deductions from your future monthly payments. Make your claim as soon as you are entitled to do so.

If you pay rent or have a mortgage and you think a payment will be late because you're waiting to be paid, talk to your landlord or mortgage lender and explain.

After your first Universal Credit payment, you'll be paid monthly.

Managing your money

Receiving a single monthly payment may change how you manage your money. For more advice on managing your money, visit Money Helper: how to budget for a monthly benefit payment.

Contact us
Welfare Rights
03000 268 968
Our address is:
  • Revenues and Benefits
  • PO Box 254
  • Stanley
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH8 1GG