This is who is eligible for Universal Credit - and how to apply

All new Universal Credit claimants have to wait five weeks to receive their first payment (Photo: Shutterstock)

Universal Credit is a payment that is made to help support those who are on a low income, or out of work, with their living costs.

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The benefit is paid in monthly installments, or twice a month for some people in Scotland, and was introduced to replace Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Working Tax Credit.

Who is eligible for Universal Credit?

To be eligible to claim Universal Credit, you need to meet one of the following criteria:

- you’re on a low income or unemployed

- you’re 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)

- you’re under State Pension age (or your partner is)

- you and your partner have £16,000 or less in savings between you

- you live in the UK

The number of children you have does not affect your eligibility for Universal Credit, but it may affect how much you get.

If you live with your partner, their income and savings will be taken into account - even if they are not eligible for Universal Credit.

You cannot claim Universal Credit if you receive, or are entitled to, the severe disability premium.

Can I apply for Universal Credit if I've been furloughed?

If your salary is reduced as a result of being furloughed, you may be eligible for support through the welfare system, including Universal Credit.

To check your eligibility for Universal Credit, visit gov.uk.

How much money do you get?

All working age benefits were given a 1.7 per cent rise from 6 April 2020, benefitting around 2.5 million households after a five year freeze on payments.

For 12 months, the government is increasing Universal Credit payments by £1,000, amounting to around £80 extra per month.

This increase will apply to all new and existing claimants.

Universal Credit payments are made up of a standard allowance, plus any extra amounts that may apply to you, such as if you have children, a disability or health condition which prevents you from working, or you need help paying your rent.

Single Universal Credit claimants aged under 25 will receive a monthly allowance of £342.72, while those aged over 25 will receive £409.89.

Joint claimants who are both aged under 25 will get a monthly allowance of £488.59 between them, while couples over 25 will get £594.04.

Is the UK lockdown affecting payments?

All new Universal Credit claimants have to wait five weeks to receive their first payment, or apply for an advance, which must be repaid at a later date.

The five week period is still being upheld, despite the current hardship many are facing amid the coronavirus pandemic, with almost half a million new people applying for the benefit since the outbreak began.

Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa Coffey said the Government wouldn’t scrap the delay, in spite of calls from Labour and charities to do so.

She told MPs on the work and pensions select committee: “The underlying principles of Universal Credit would remain. By that, I mean the design is meant to be based on your general income, we need a month to assess what your monthly income is likely to be.

“But, as I keep reiterating, the advances can be made to people pretty quickly. We will be sticking with that advance.”

Many claimants have been left frustrated after trying to apply for the benefit, with the increased demand forcing people to wait four hours in phone queues, or leaving some unable to complete the verification process.

Financial journalist Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, has encouraged claimants to try and be patient as the Department for Work and Pensions work to manage the surge in demand.

How do I apply for Universal Credit?

To apply for Universal Credit, you will need to complete an application form online.

To do this, you will require:

- your bank, building society or credit union account details (call the Universal Credit helpline if you do not have one on 0800 328 5644)

- an email address

- information about your housing, such as how much rent you pay

- details of your income, such as payslips

- details of savings and any investments, like shares or a property that you rent out

- details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs

You will also have to verify your identity online, either via a driving licence, passport, or a debit or credit card.

If you and your partner live together, you will have to apply as a couple, even if you are not married.

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