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Universal Credit is a benefit you can claim if you’re on a low income or unemployed. 

It might be worth claiming Universal Credit if:

  • you’re struggling to pay the bills

  • you’ve lost your job and have no income

  • your income has dropped but you’re still working

  • you have a disability or illness that stops you working

  • you have expensive childcare costs

  • you’re caring for someone

There’s no set level of income where you stop being eligible for Universal Credit - it depends on your situation. 

Read our advice to check if you can get Universal Credit. If you’re still not sure, you can talk to an adviser.

Who can get Universal Credit

To get Universal Credit you must:   

If you live with a partner, their income and savings will be taken into account. 

You can get Universal Credit if you’re living with other people but it might affect how much you get. For example, living with parents might mean you get less help with housing costs.

You can get Universal Credit if you’re self-employed - the application process is the same.

Whether you’ll be able to get Universal Credit depends on your situation.

If you’re already claiming benefits 

Universal Credit is gradually replacing these benefits:

  • Housing Benefit

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

  • Child Tax Credit

  • Working Tax Credit

  • Income Support

You can usually stay on one of these benefits unless something about your situation has changed - this is called a ‘change of circumstance’. Not every change of circumstance means you need to claim Universal Credit. 

Find out more about moving to Universal Credit from other benefits

If you got a severe disability premium (SDP)

You can claim Universal Credit even if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP).

You might get an extra amount in your Universal Credit - this is called the ‘transitional element’. 

You’ll get the extra amount if you apply for Universal Credit within a month after you stop getting the benefit with the SDP.

You can’t get the extra amount if you: 

  • were only getting the SDP with Housing Benefit

  • move in with a partner who is claiming Universal Credit

Before 27 January 2021, you couldn’t claim Universal Credit if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with an SDP.

If you applied for Universal Credit before 27 January 2021, talk to an adviser to check what you’re entitled to.

If you’re appealing a benefit decision

It might be worth waiting for a decision on your appeal or mandatory reconsideration before claiming Universal Credit. If you make a claim for Universal Credit, you might not be able to go back to your other benefit even if your appeal succeeds. 

You can talk to an adviser if you’re not sure whether to claim Universal Credit or wait for your appeal.

If you're in full-time education or training

You can only get Universal Credit if at least one of the following applies: 

  • you’ve reached State Pension age and you live with a partner who’s below State Pension age - check your State Pension age on GOV.UK
  • you’re under 21 (or you turned 21 during your course), not in higher education, and your parents have died or you can’t live with them
  • you’re waiting to return to a course after taking time off because of illness or caring responsibilities
  • you get Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment and the DWP have said you have ‘limited capability for work’
  • you look after a child under 16, or under 20 if they’re also in full-time education or training
  • you’re a foster parent and have a child living with you

If you live with your partner

You can get Universal Credit during full-time education if you live with your partner and they:

  • aren’t in full-time education
  • are also in full-time education, but they’re entitled to Universal Credit while studying
  • are also in full-time education, and one of you is responsible for a child or is a foster parent

Check if you’re in full-time education or training

You count as in full-time education or training if for example:

  • you’re under 20 and you’re in school or college
  • you’re under 20 and you’re doing full-time training - unless the training is part of your job
  • you’re in full-time higher education - this includes anything above A level
  • you’re doing any full-time course where you get a loan or maintenance grant

If you’re aged 16 to 25 and you’re doing a traineeship that lasts less than 6 months, this doesn’t count as full-time education or training.

If you’re not a UK citizen

If you're from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

To apply for Universal Credit you need to show:

  • you have settled status or a right to claim benefits in the UK - this is called a ‘right to reside’
  • the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man is your main home and you plan to stay - this is known as being ‘habitually resident’

Your right to reside depends on things like your work, family and personal situation. You can check if you have a right to reside.

You can only claim Universal Credit if you have:

  • British citizenship and can prove you are ‘habitually resident’

  • pre-settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme and another right to reside

  • indefinite leave to remain or settled status from the EU Settlement Scheme

If none of these apply to you, you might be able to make a late application to the EU Settlement Scheme. You’ll need to have a good reason for missing the deadline of 30 June 2021. Find out more about claiming benefits if you’re from the EU.

Exemptions from the right to reside and habitual residence test

Your client might be exempt - for example, if they were the victim of trafficking. 

You can check if your client is exempt from the right to reside and habitual residence test.

Find out more about staying in the UK if you're from the EU.

Applying as a couple

If you and your partner are making a joint claim for Universal Credit then you both need to be eligible. You’ll both need to be habitually resident, and have either settled status or a right to reside.

If one of you isn’t eligible, the other person can still apply for Universal Credit. They should make a joint claim because the DWP need to know about both your incomes. 

When the DWP process the claim, they’ll change it to a single claim. This means you or your partner will be paid as if you’re a single person.

If you’re from a country outside Europe

You can’t apply for Universal Credit if you’re subject to immigration control.

You’ll also need to meet or be exempt from the ‘habitual residence test’

Applying as a couple

If you and your partner are making a joint claim for Universal Credit you both need to be eligible.

If one of you isn’t eligible, the other person can still claim Universal Credit. They should make a joint claim because the DWP need to know about both your incomes. 

The DWP will change your claim to a single claim when they process your application. This means you or your partner will be paid as if you’re a single person. 

If you rent with your partner

Claiming Universal Credit if one of you isn’t eligible could affect your immigration status.

Contact your local Citizens Advice before making an application.

If you’re an asylum seeker

You can claim Universal Credit if your asylum application has succeeded.

You can’t claim Universal Credit if you’re waiting for a decision on an asylum application. You might be eligible for asylum support instead.

If you or your partner have reached State Pension age

If you've both reached State Pension age, it's usually best for you to claim Pension Credit. You can check what your State Pension age is on GOV.UK.

You can talk to an adviser if you’re not sure which benefit to claim - they can help you work out when you’ll be better off.

If you’re paying rent

If you’ve both reached State Pension age and you’re paying rent, you might be able to get Housing Benefit. You should check if you can get Housing Benefit.

If only one of you has reached State Pension age

If only one of you has reached State Pension age, you usually can’t make a new claim for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit. You’ll often need to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you turned State Pension age before 15 May 2019 and you’re getting Pension Credit or Housing Benefit, you can keep getting it unless your circumstances change.  

You can make a new claim for Pension Credit even if only one of you has reached State Pension age if both of the following apply:

  • you reached State Pension age before 15 May 2019

  • you’ve been claiming Housing Benefit or Pension Credit as part of the same couple since before 15 May 2019

You should also check if you can claim Housing Benefit if you’re paying rent. 

You don’t need to claim Universal Credit if the person who hasn’t reached State Pension age is claiming:

  • Income Support

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance

You can carry on getting the benefit you’re currently on. 

If you’re 16 or 17 years old

You might be able to claim Universal Credit if you meet all the other conditions and also one of these: 

  • you can’t work because you’re disabled or ill - you’ll need to give the DWP medical evidence showing this
  • you have a child - or are expecting a baby in the next 11 weeks
  • you care for a severely disabled person
  • your parents have died or you can't live with them - for example if your relationship has broken down or your health would be at risk      

You won’t need to look for work as part of your Universal Credit claim if both of the following apply:

  • you're in full time education or training
  • you don’t have a parent, foster parent or local authority looking after you

If you're a British citizen and you've recently returned to the UK

You’ll need to give evidence to show how the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man is your main home and that you plan to stay. This is known as being ‘habitually resident’.

Check how to prove you’re habitually resident.

Apply for Universal Credit

If you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you’ll usually have to apply online.

Find out how to get started with your Universal Credit application.  

Get help

If you’re not sure if you can get Universal Credit, you can talk to an adviser.

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