Author -

Rachel Coates Penrith
07 April 2020

What’s the difference?

Universal Credit

The following information is intended to help you understand if you can claim benefits under Universal Credit.  These payments could be of significant help during the coronavirus period, especially if you are not able to take advantage of any of the other measures that have been introduced so far:-

So, what exactly is Universal Credit (UC)?

UC was first introduced in 2013 with the aim being to completely simplify the existing welfare and benefits system.  UC was introduced with the intention being that it would fully replace Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support.  Whilst this has already happened in a significant part of the country, in some areas individuals are still able to claim Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit based on their historical claims prior to 2013 and in some instances it may be better sticking to your existing tax credits claim (if you have one) rather than making a new claim for universal credit (see further info on this later).

Basically, UC is a monthly payment from the government intended to help with your living costs.  You will qualify to receive it both if you are working and on low income or if you are out of work.


You may be able to claim UC if:

  • You are on a low income or out of work
  • You are 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you are 16 or 17 – see link below)
  • You are under state pension age (or your partner is)
  • You and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you (savings are defined as bank/building society accounts/stocks & shares/premium bonds/National certificates/most properties that you own but do not live in and are not exempt or disregarded)
  • You live in the UK

The number of children you have does not affect your eligibility for UC but it will affect how much you receive.

There are benefits calculators available online that you can use to check if you are likely to qualify:-

When using the calculator you will need accurate information about the following so it would be useful to get all of this information ready before starting to use the benefits calculator:-

  • Amount of your savings
  • Your income details, including your partner’s income details (from your monthly payslips for example)
  • Details of any existing benefits and pensions you receive (including payments for anyone living with you)
  • Current outgoings (such as rent, mortgage, childcare payments etc)
  • Your council tax bill

Once you have answered all of the questions using the benefit calculator, it will provide some commentary on the benefits you will be entitled to and the estimated amounts, based on the information you have entered.

You can then proceed to make a claim for UC if the guidance indicates you will be eligible (please note – if you are currently receiving Child Tax Credits and /or Working Tax Credits and you apply for Universal Credit, then your tax credits claim will cease and you will move across to the UC system.  So you need to take extra care at this stage to check which system gives you the most financial assistance before taking any action.)

You can apply for UC here:-

Please note that you will need to make the claim for UC yourself.  Unfortunately we cannot make the claims on your behalf as a lot of the questions/information will be details only you know the answers to!

There is a lot of additional information on this website, as it contains a step by step guide on UC, how to claim, how much you may qualify for and how you get paid.

How much might you receive?

There is no set amount for the payment you will receive, it very much depends on your own circumstances.  The payment consists of the basic ‘standard allowance’ plus additional elements that are dependant on your circumstances.  The ‘standard allowance’ for a single UC claimant aged 25 or over for example, is normally £317.82 per month.  However, last week Rishi Sunak announced this standard allowance will increase by £1,000 per annum, increasing the monthly payment from £317.82 per month to £409.89 per month, an increase of £80 per month to help during covid-19.  Any additional elements you qualify for, will be added to your ‘standard allowance’ depending on your circumstances.  You can find out more about the additional elements you may qualify for on the above UC website.

Help for the self employed too ?

Crucially for the self employed, Rishi Sunak announced last week that he was temporarily removing the deemed ‘minimum income floor’ for the self employed when looking at UC applications and payments.

Since the introduction of UC in 2013, the government has been widely criticised for the way in which the deemed minimum income floor works and how it is particularly punitive on the self employed.  Up until now, UC assumes that people have regular earnings and that the income is stable and does not vary from week to week.  It is not at all favourable when looking at households with low and fluctuating income.  UC assumes that an individual is deemed to work at least 35 hours per week and earn at the level of the national minimum wage. For someone aged over 25, this amounts to £8.21 per hour, so £287.35 a week.  For the self employed, who may have no income at all in one particular month or for several months in the year, the UC claim will “deem” them to have earned this amount each month.  Then at the point at when income is received in the year, they may not receive any UC at all in those months because their income will be too high.  In addition to this, there has previously been no relief at all under UC for any businesses where trading losses are incurred.

A temporary removal of the minimum income floor during this period of uncertainty will provide some measure of reassurance to UC claimants because their claims will be assessed without taking into account the deemed minimum income floor.  This will result in higher payments being made in many cases and will now mean that many self employed people are now eligible to claim who would not have been eligible previously.

What happens after you’ve claimed?

Normally, you need to attend a jobcentre plus to progress your application after your have completed the online application form but this is not necessary at present due to the current situation with covid-19.  You are likely to receive a follow up telephone call instead once your application is in progress..

You normally receive your first payment 5 weeks after you apply online, but you can currently ask for an advance payment to help with the payment of bills.  You need to ask for the advance payment when you are contacted regarding your application.

The telephone number for UC if you have any queries or are struggling with your online application is 0800 328 5644.  Please note at the time of writing, it is currently extremely difficult to get through on this number due to the tens of thousands of applications being made  but phonelines are open 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday.    If you can’t get through and just need some support/advice you can use for assistance.