Changes to benefits - Universal Credit

Content owner : housing@knh.org.uk Last updated : 01/11/17

What is the change?

Universal Credit is a new benefit for working age people aged from 18 to state pension age. It replaces 6 existing benefits:


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

If you receive any of these benefits you will be affected by this change.



When will this affect me?

In future you will have to claim universal credit if you are aged 18-64 and you are either:


  • a new benefit claimant or
  • an existing benefit claimant and your circumstances change

You can still claim housing benefit if you are making a new claim and have 3 or more children, live in supported/exempt accommodation or live with someone over state pension credit age.



What's new about Universal Credit?

It must be claimed and managed online

To claim universal credit you will need an e-mail address and access to the internet. Universal credit must be claimed online via a government website - http://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit During the application process you will set up an online universal credit account that you will need to access on a regular basis to manage your claim. If you need help to make a universal credit claim please contact Jobcentre Plus to make an appointment.


Free internet access is available at a number of places across Kirklees, including local libraries and Kirklees Council customer service centres. Some organisations also provide support and training to build your skills and confidence online.


It is paid monthly in arrears

Whereas many existing benefits are paid weekly or fortnightly, universal credit will be paid once a month in arrears. Your benefits may end before your universal credit starts. The amount of universal credit you will receive is based on an assessment period. An assessment period starts on the day that you submit your claim and runs for a period of a month. At the end of each assessment period the government will assess your income and calculate how much universal credit you will receive. You will receive your payment 7 days after the end of each assessment period. For example, if you submit your claim on 7 March your assessment period will run until 6 April and you would receive a universal credit payment a week later on 13 April.


If you were employed immediately prior to claiming universal credit then your assessment period will not start until 7 days after submitting your claim. These are called waiting days. You will not be receive any universal credit for these days as it is expected that you will have your final pay to support you during this period.


If the initial 6 week wait for your first universal credit payment will put you in hardship then you should discuss an advance payment with your work coach.

It is paid direct into your bank account

Universal credit will be paid to you once a month direct into your bank, building society or credit union account. This is because the government wants people to be more responsible for managing their income and be prepared for how they will receive their wages when they move into employment.


If you do not have a bank account then you will need to get one. Most high street banks now provide basic bank accounts that are fee-free, provide a debit card and do not allow you to go overdrawn. You can also set up direct debits and will not be charged if they are returned as unpaid. Most allow you to bank online, by telephone or in branch. These accounts are specifically designed for people who don’t have a bank account, have a poor credit score or can’t use their current bank account due to financial difficulties including CCJs and bankruptcy. More information, including a list of basic bank accounts, is available at: Money Advice Service. Alternatively speak to a member of staff or call us for more information.

It is your responsibility to pay your rent

Universal credit is different to housing benefit as it is paid direct into your bank account rather than to your landlord. It will include any amount you are due in relation to your housing costs. You will be responsible for paying this to KNH to keep your rent account up-to-date. The easiest way to do this is to set up a direct debit for your rent to be paid just after you receive your universal credit payment each month.


If you require budgeting advice or would like to set up a direct debit then please contact us. Your home is at risk if you do not keep your rent account up-to-date.

You'll receive a single payment for your household

Couples will receive one payment of universal credit. You will need to decide which bank account you wish to receive payments into.


Advance payments


If you feel that you will suffer hardship during the 6 week wait for your first universal credit payment then you can request an advance payment. You must be able to demonstrate that you are in urgent financial need. An advance payment can cover up to 50% of your expected first universal credit payment and must be paid back within 6 months. It will be deducted from your universal credit payment in six equal instalments, commencing with your first payment.


Housing costs can only be paid direct to KNH for a limited time whilst you receive support to be able to manage your money independently.


Can I have my rent paid direct to KNH?


The government wants people to be responsible for managing their own income so most people will be expected to pay the rent themselves. There are two exceptions to this:


  1. People who are classed as vulnerable
  2. Some people who fall behind on their rent payments. This can be avoided by setting up a Direct Debit

You can request an advance payment during the first interview with your Work Coach following submission of your universal credit claim or by calling the universal credit helpline on0345 600 0723(text phone0345 600 0743).


Can I get universal credit if I work?


Universal credit is withdrawn gradually as your income from work increases. If you have limited capability to work or have responsibility for a child or qualifying young person then you will have a work allowance. This is the amount that you are able to earn before universal credit starts to be withdrawn.


For every extra pound that you earn, you will lose 63p of your universal credit payment. More information on work allowances and the taper rate is available on the universal credit website which can be found at: www.gov.uk/universal-credit


Joint tenancies


If you have a joint tenancy agreement you will need to check that this is up to date. Under universal credit the responsibility for rent payment is split equally between joint tenants. If one tenant moves out then the amount of Universal Credit that you receive will only cover up to 50% of your rent. You will be responsible for making up any shortfall. This can be avoided by telling KNH about changes to your household so that your tenancy agreement can be kept up-to-date.


Council tax reduction


Universal credit does not include help towards your council tax. If you need help with your council tax payments you can claim council tax reduction.

What you can do?

If you have internet access you can complete an online survey that will assess whether you are prepared for universal credit. It will only take five minutes and will provide you with links to support and advice based on your individual circumstances. Alternatively, see the checklist below:

  • Do you have access to the internet?
  • If you are a joint tenant, is your tenancy agreement up-to-date?
  • Do you or your partner have an active bank account?
  • Could you live for six weeks without any benefits?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, please get in touch with us so we can help you prepare for the change.

Get a bank account

If you do not have a bank account then you will need to open one. Most high street banks now provide basic bank accounts that are fee-free, provide a debit card and do not allow you to go overdrawn. You can also set up direct debits and there are no charges if they are returned as unpaid. Most allow you to bank online, by telephone or in branch. Basic bank accounts are specifically designed for people who have not had a bank account before or have a poor credit rating including bankruptcy and CCJs. See the useful links below for more information on where to get an account and which one to ask for.

Get online

There are a number of places across Kirklees where you can get free internet access such as local libraries and Kirklees Council customer service centres in Huddersfield and Dewsbury. Some organisations also provide support and training to be confident online. A list of places where you can get free internet access and/or support online is available

If you need help to make a universal credit claim please contact Jobcentre Plus to make an appointment.

Budget on a monthly basis

If you are concerned about budgeting on a monthly basis the KNH Money Advice Unit can help by providing one-to-one support.

To get more information on universal credit and how you can prepare, see: Department for Work & Pensionsa>


Useful links

Universal Credit:


  • Universal Credit full service overview video - about the applying for universal credit and managing your online journal
  • The Money Advice Service - information on universal credit and basic bank accounts
  • Turn2us - a national charity that helps people in financial hardship gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services.
  • GOV.UK - information on eligibility to claim universal credit and what you will get

Internet access:


Basic bank accounts: