That’s a question many people are asking.
And the answer is: 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. Many furloughed workers who are now receiving the maximum £2,500 per month will be able to receive some help – 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
When Michael was furloughed they were worried how they were going to pay their bills. So they made a claim for Universal Credit and were surprised to find they were entitled.
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 full time with a gross annual salary of £38,000. 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.
Now that Michael’s been furloughed he’s only getting a gross wage of £2,500 a month so his net earnings have dropped to £1903 per month.
But they made a claim for UC and were surprised to find that they’ll be entitled to £596.02 per month (the assessment includes an amount of £145 a week in respect of their rent)
Jaz is 30 and normally works full time. Her normal salary is £28,000 gross a year but she has been furloughed, so her take home pay has dropped from £1,788 to £1,498 per month.
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 £343.03.
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 £1,071 a month. If Dan makes a claim for Universal Credit he’ll be entitled to £144.66 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.