Welfare Support & Advice

Universal Credit

What is Universal Credit?

Universal is the new low-income benefit which will replace:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Job Seekers Allowance JSA (Income based)
  • Employment Support Allowance ESA (Income based)
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credits

It will be one benefit that will cover all those payments. But remember if you get Child Benefit, DLA, PIP, Carer’s Allowance, or Pension Credit they will still be paid to you separately.

What else will Universal Credit change?

  • Normally you will apply for it ONLINE.
  • It can only be paid into a BANK ACCOUNT.
  • It will be paid to you late and MONTHLY like a wage.
  • A single person or a couple will get ONE payment.
  • Universal Credits is CAPPED.
    You will get no more than £2166 per month.
  • YOU will have to pay your RENT and other bills from it.
  • You can WORK and get Universal Credit.

What else do I need to know?

Unlike current benefits Universal Credit does not stop at 16 hours worked (JSA, ESA) and you don’t have to work a minimum number of hours to get it, for example 24 or 30 hours (Working Tax Credits). So if you start work and build up your hours slowly, or if your hours drop, you keep your wage and your Universal Credit adjusts without stopping. Your Universal Credit just reduces as you earn more.

All claimants will have to sign a claim commitment and will have to do their best to find work or increase their earnings. Regular contact with the JobCentre will be expected, even if you are in work.

If you make a joint claim, both joint claimants will have to sign the claim commitment even if one of you is already working. If either of you are already working you will be expected to increase your earnings if it is reasonable.

If you are vulnerable, have trouble budgeting, have debts, or can not manage your money without advice, you may be able to get support when applying for Universal Credit, including having your Universal Credit split up, or paid more frequently. In some cases your landlord can temporarily get the rent paid directly from your Universal Credit. You must inform the JobCentre when you apply if you feel you need this help.

What should I do to get ready?

Get a BASIC BANK ACCOUNT if you don’t already have one, as you can’t be paid Universal Credit without one. Most banks have one but they are called different names. Look for accounts with ‘Cash’ or ‘Basic’ in the name. These accounts should NOT offer overdraft facilities and you should not pay for the account. Unity’s Financial Inclusion Officer can assist you to do this.

If you have any outstanding DEBTS, GET HELP NOW. When Universal Credit pays you in a big amount once per month, your debts will want to take it all and leave you with nothing for essentials and rent. Unity’s Financial Inclusion Officer can guide you through getting help step by step.

REDUCE OR CLEAR ANY RENT ARREARS as soon as you can. Universal Credit will take over a month to pay you, and if you miss a month’s rent for any reason you may very quickly be taken to court for the old and new arrears. Unity’s Income Support Officers can help you arrange to do this.

SAVE FOR EMERGENCIES, even open a savings account if you can for any spare money to go in to. Universal Credit is first paid five weeks after you apply, and you don’t want to have no money at that time.

Get an EMAIL ADDRESS and get on a course about computers and the internet if you are not good at using them. Unity’s Employment Services and the library offer courses that can help you.

Can you BUDGET MONTHLY? Imagine your benefits now came together once each month, rather than separately weekly, fortnightly and monthly. Would you be able to work out what to buy, when to buy it, which bills to pay and when to pay them, so you don’t run out of money? Unity’s Financial Inclusion Officer can help if you think you will struggle.

Be ready to pay for rent, utilities and other priorities such as Council Tax by STANDING ORDER or DIRECT DEBIT in line with your Universal Credit payment. You won’t risk missing payments and will know what you have left in your budget for food and other spending for the month. Our Customer Services Team can set these up for you.

Useful Contacts

For help and advice, please call Unity’s Income Management Team Leader, Clive on 0113 200 7753. You could also try:

  • Step Change Debt Charity Step Change gives free confidential advice and support over the telephone. Call 0800 138 1111 or visit their website
  • Leeds City Credit Union: Advice about getting access to fair-interest loans and help budgeting with a Budget Account. Call 0113 214 5252, or visit their website
  • Leeds Citizens Advice Bureau: Leeds CAB has five bureaux in five sites across Leeds. they can offer appointments to advise on a range of issues. Call 0844 477 4788, or visit their website
  • Christians Against Poverty: A debt counselling charity that offers help to anyone regardless of religion. They also offer home visits. Call 0800 328 0006 or visit their website