Yes, you can claim Universal Credit so long as you are meet the basic rules (see below). Whether you're entitled will depend on your personal circumstances and your income - but it's not just for those on a low income.
It’s surprising just how many people can get some Universal Credit – it’s not just for those who have lost their job, or who hours have dropped dramatically - see the examples below.
But before you claim it’s always best checking out that it is your best option – this is particularly true if you are already getting some Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit.
Michael and Linda
Michael and Linda live with their 2 children, Thomas age 10 and Millie age 8 in a privately rented 3 bedroom house. Michael normally works 35 hours a week with a gross annual salary of £30,000. Linda doesn’t work as she is a carer for her mother, who lives locally, and she receives Carer’s Allowance for looking after her.
But Michael was furloughed in May and June 2020. He went back to full time work but the business was struggling so in November he was put back* on part time furlough, working just 10 hours a week. He was very worried as he was already finding it difficult to pay his bills and debts.
Michael and Linda didn't think they would be entitled to Universal Credit but made a claim anyway and were surprised to find they were entitled to £666.70 per month (the assessment includes an amount of £145 a week in respect of their rent).
*Employers can only claim for employees who have previously had a claim submitted for them for a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June.
Jaz is 30 and normally works full time. Her normal salary is £28,000 gross a year but she has been furloughed, meaning her take home pay has dropped from £1,788 to £1,430.40 per month (paid through the Job Retention Scheme).
Jaz thought that she’d just about manage on this – to support herself, her 5 year old daughter Ella and pay the rent (£95 a week) on their 2-bed council house.
But her friend persuaded her to make a claim for Universal Credit – and she’s glad she did as she’s just received her first monthly payment of £340.19.
Dan is single, age 24 and lives in a one bedroom housing association flat with a rent of £110 per week. He normally works full time in a call centre and is on £18,000 gross a year.
However he has been furloughed and his monthly net pay is dropping from £1,255 to £966.35 a month because of the Job Retention Scheme). If Dan makes a claim for Universal Credit he’ll be entitled to £277.76 per month.
So who's eligible to claim Universal Credit?
To qualify for Universal Credit you must:
- Be under Pension age, (if both you and your partner are pension age you can claim Pension Credit)
- Not have savings / capital of £16,000 or more
- Be age 18 or over (though some 16/17 year olds can claim)
- Not be a prisoner
- Be “in Great Britain” – this means you’re physically present, and you are “habitually resident” – you don’t have “no recourse to public funds” on your visa or a passport, and if you are an EEA national you’ve passed the “habitual residence test”. Ask a benefits adviser if you’re not sure.
- Not be a full time student (though there are some students who can claim UC)
- Not be getting or registered to receive Tax Free Childcare.
WARNING 1: If you’re already getting one or more of the benefits that Universal Credit is replacing*, check that you wouldn’t be worse off by moving onto UC. Once you’ve claimed UC you can’t go back onto these benefits. Ask a benefits adviser if you’re not sure.
*Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income Based JSA, Income Related ESA,
WARNING 2: You have to be careful of timing when you make a claim for UC, when you’re on a wage. If you’re expecting a large payment from work or from the Job Retention Scheme (for example if your employer plans to pay the 3 months' furlough pay in one lump) then it may be best to claim just after you’ve been paid, otherwise this higher wage will all be taken into account when your UC amount is worked out.