Coins icon

Universal Credit

Help with living costs for those on a low income, out of work or who cannot work.

Universal Credit is a government benefit paid monthly by the Department for Work and Pensions. Universal Credit: What Universal Credit is - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

It replaces these six benefits which are also known as legacy benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit

You might be able to get Universal Credit if you or your partner are working age and you are not working or are on a low income.

Citizens Advice can help you see if you are eligible for Universal Credit. You can also find out more about how Universal Credit can help you on the government website.

If you are eligible you will usually have to apply for Universal Credit online on GOV.UK.

How Universal Credit works

Universal Credit works differently from the legacy benefits. The biggest differences are:

  • you can get Universal Credit if you are unemployed but also if you are working
  • you will usually get a single payment each month, rather than weekly or fortnightly
  • instead of getting separate housing benefit, your rent will usually be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment.

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment paid into a credit union, bank or building society account, and includes any money for your rent. You will need to pay rent to your landlord directly, and you will also need to pay any bills.

There is at least a five-week delay between applying for Universal Credit and getting your first payment, so plan what you need to pay for in advance. The delay will be longer if your claim is incomplete.

You will need to apply separately for council tax support.

Applying for Universal Credit

You can claim Universal Credit on the Government portal.

  • You will need to verify your ID online and get a bank account. Here is information on fee-free basic bank accounts.
  • You will need some proof of identity to do this, like a credit or debit card, driving license or passport.

You will need to get online.

  • Most people will be expected to manage their Universal Credit claim online, so you will need internet access. You will also need an email address.
  • You can use computers at our libraries, and there are also facilities to make your claim at your local job centre and at 222 Upper Street.
  • Citizens Advice can help you set up an email address and bank account. Call them on 0800 144 8444 or speak to one of their local advisers at Finsbury Park and Barnsbury Job Centres.
  • The Islington Computer Skills Centre offers free training for Islington residents aged 19 and above who are unemployed or low waged and receiving benefits.
  • You will need to keep the DWP updated about your circumstances – you are responsible for this and it can affect your payments.

You will need to budget

  • You will need to budget so you can pay your rent and council tax and your other living costs every month.
  • There is at least a five-week delay between applying for Universal Credit and getting your first payment. The delay will be longer if your claim is incomplete.
  • You can apply for an advance payment, which is repayable over 12 months and it means your monthly payments will be lower. • Some claimants’ money will go up when they move to Universal Credit, and some will go down.
  • If you need help with budgeting speak to your work coach at the job centre who can help you get independent advice.

People who are reaching pension age

If you are reaching state pension age you will no longer qualify for Universal Credit. You will need to make a new claim for Housing Benefit by completing a claim form and sending it to our benefits service as soon as possible.

You may also be eligible for Pension Credit which helps with the cost of living and is paid separately from your State Pension.

Couples of both pension and working age

From 15 May 2019, couples where one member of the couple is receiving a pension and the other is under pension age will usually need to claim Universal Credit. Those already in receipt of Pension Credit or Housing Benefit on and before 14 May 2019 will continue to receive those benefits.

People who were already in receipt of benefits

If you already received one of the benefits that Universal Credit replaced from 20 June 2018, you will stay on that benefit until something about your circumstances change which means you need to claim Universal Credit. Find out more about moving to Universal Credit from other benefits.

If your circumstances stay the same, you may not be moved to Universal Credit until either you decide that you will be better off on Universal Credit and make a claim yourself, or the Department for Work and Pensions decide to move your legacy benefit over to Universal Credit. This may occur between now and late 2024. The Department of Work and Pensions will write to you with details about this if you are going to be affected. There's more information about moving to Universal Credit at GOV.UK.

Help claiming Universal Credit

Extra help with rent

If your Universal Credit includes housing costs and you have a shortfall in rent because of Benefit Cap you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment. Our IMAX team will be able to help you, please call 020 7527 4990 (option 4) or email claimit@islington.gov.uk.

Help with your council tax bill

If you need help paying for council tax and you have claimed or are in receipt of Universal Credit you will need to claim Council Tax Support separately. Find more information about council tax support.

Financial help and support

If you are worried about paying your rent or support with your living costs visit our money advice pages or free independent advice organisations. If you are facing extreme hardship the Resident Support Scheme may be able to help you.

Was this information helpful?



  1. Data protection: We will handle your personal information in line with the Data Protection Act 1998 and in accordance with the council’s Fair Processing Notice.