Changes to benefits - Universal Credit

Content owner : housing@knh.org.uk Last updated : 11/01/18

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 speak to your local Jobcebtre Plus or contact the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644


Free internet access is available at a number of places across Kirklees, including Jobcentre Plus, local libraries and Kirklees Council customer service centres. Some organisations also provide support and training to build your skills and confidence online. More information on where to access these services and opening times. If you don't know how to use a computer or the internet, you can learn how by taking a beginners course at a UK Online centre. To find a centre near you, visit UK Online or phone 0800 77 1234


If you can use a computer a little but aren't confident using the internet, try the Online Basics course at Learn My Way You can do this free course online straight away.

If you're concerned about interenet security, go to the Get Safe Online for information and advice.



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. 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 the initial 5 week wait for your first universal credit payment will put you in hardship then you should discuss an advance payment with your work coach.

If you receive housing benegit and make a new claim for universal credit on or after 11 April 2018 you will recieve and additional two weeks' housing benefit. This is non-recoverable and will not be deducted from your universal credit payments. The additional 2 weeks' housing benegit will be paid direct to your landlord if you already have this arrangement in place. If you are moving to a property owned by a different landlord the additional two weeks' housing benefit will be paid direct to you. Please contact the housing benefit team in the area you are moving from to provide your bank details and arrange for payment.



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 do not have a bank account, have a poor credit score or cannot use their current bank account due to financial difficulties including CCJs and bankruptcy. More information, including a list of basic bank accounts, is available from the: 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 100% of your expected first universal credit payment and must be paid back within 12 months. It will be deducted from your universal credit payment in up to twelve equal instalments, commencing with your first payment. If your advance includes an amount to help with your housing costs please rememeber that it is your responsibility to pay this to your landlord. Please contact KNH 01484 414886 to make a 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

Housing costs can only be paid direct to KNH on a temporary basis whilst you receive support to be able to manage independently. It is your responsibility to accept the budgeting support offered and to work towards paying the rent yourself.


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 paying rent 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.


How can I prepare for Universal Credit?

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 up to five 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 Jobcentre Plus, local libraries and Kirklees Council customer service centres in Huddersfield and Dewsbury. Some organisations also provide support and training to be confident online. For a list of places where you can get free internet access and/or support online, please see our free wifi access document

If you need help to make a universal credit claim, please visit your local Jobcentre Plus or call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644



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. Please contact them on 01484 414975 or email mau@knh.org.uk

To get more information on universal credit and how you can prepare, see: www.gov.uk/universal-credit


Useful links

Universal Credit:


  • Universal Credit full service overview video - a video explaining how to apply for universal credit and manage 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: