Universal Credit is a working-age benefit being introduced across the country as part of the government's welfare reforms.
Universal Credit is replacing:
- Income Based Jobseekers Allowance
- Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
You can no longer make a new clam for any of the above benefits except in limited circumstances.
If your circumstances do not change, you'll continue to get your current benefits and tax credits for the time being.
The Department for Work and Pensions will let you know when you need to transfer onto Universal Credit.
If you need help to pay council tax, you will still need to claim Council Tax Reduction from Bristol City Council, even if you are getting Universal Credit.
You will still need to claim Housing Benefit from Bristol City Council for help with your rent if you:
- live in temporary or supported accommodation
- are old enough to get State Pension Credit (pension checker)
You can no longer make a new claim for State Pension Credit as a couple unless both of you are over state pension age. You will need to make a claim for Universal Credit instead.
Applying for Universal Credit
For most applications you can apply for Universal Credit online.
Citizens Advice can help you to apply for universal credit under the governments Help to Claim support.
Once you have made your claim for Universal Credit, you will need to arrange an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus where you will meet your workcoach.
You will be asked to provide any supporting documents and evidence as well as discussing what you will be required to do in order to get your Universal Credit payments.
Advice if you already get or have applied for Universal Credit
How you'll be paid
You will receive your first payment for Universal Credit between five and six weeks after you make your claim.
Then you will receive a payment every month after that. This will usually be paid directly your bank account.
Where applicable the payment will include money to help with your rent, though in some circumstances this part can be paid directly to your landlord.
If you do not have a bank account you will need to open one. You can get a basic account for free from most high street banks. You'll need to take some ID and proof of address.
Find out more about basic bank accounts on the Money Helper website.
In addition, Bristol Credit Union may be able to help you to open an account with them.
If you're entitled to Universal Credit you may be able to get an advance payment. This is to help you manage while waiting for your first payment or after a change in circumstances that increases your entitlement.
This advance payment will need to be repaid over 24 months for new claims and 6 months if you're already receiving Universal Credit and apply due to a change in circumstances.
You'll be advised about an advance payment at your interview. If you've already had your interview, you can phone the Universal Credit helpline:
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays)
Keep track of your spending
Find out about the free tools available to help you manage your money on the Money Helper website.
The Money Helper website also has a Universal Credit questionnaire that provides practical advice depending on your circumstances.
You can also talk to your job coach who can refer you for free personal budget support.
Local advice centres
- Avon and Bristol Law Centre Go to http://www.ablc.org.uk/ (opens new window)
- Bristol Citizens Advice Go to http://www.bristolcab.org.uk/ (opens new window)
- North Bristol Advice Centre Go to http://www.northbristoladvice.org.uk/ (opens new window)
- St Pauls Advice Centre Go to http://www.stpaulsadvice.org.uk/ (opens new window)
- South Bristol Advice Service Go to https://www.southbristoladvice.co.uk/ (opens new window)
- Talking Money Go to http://www.talkingmoney.org.uk/ (opens new window)
If you're a housing association tenant your landlord may also be able to help.
Get money off your Council Tax
If you're on a low income, you may be able to get a Council Tax Reduction.
Money in an emergency
If you're struggling to pay for essentials like food, gas and electricity, you may be able to get short term help from the local crisis and prevention fund.