Common questions about Universal Credit

Date last updated: 4 January 2022

ImportantMoving to Universal Credit

Sometimes the jobcentre or DWP may encourage you to move over to Universal Credit before you need to, which could cause you to receive less money in benefits. If you’ve been asked to stop claiming an older benefit and to claim Universal Credit instead, we encourage you to call our helpline for advice first.

Autumn 2021 changes

What Universal Credit changes were made in the Autumn 2021?

The Autumn budget introduced two key changes, which came into effect from 1st Decemeber 2021.

  • The taper rate was reduced from 63% to 55%.
  • The work allowance was increased.

These changes effectively mean that if you’re a single working and claiming Universal Credit, your payments will go up.

If you’re not working, these changes to Universal Credit won’t make a difference to you.

What is the taper rate?

The taper rate reduces your Universal Credit payments as you earn money. The previous taper rate was 63%, meaning that for every pound you earn, you lost 63p in benefits. From 1st December 2021, onward the taper rate is reduced to 55%, meaning that for every pound you earn, you lose 55p in benefits.

This mean you will see an increase to Universal Credit payments if you are in work.

What does the work allowance increase mean?

As a parent there is an amount you can earn before the taper rate kicks in. This is called your work allowance.

From 1st December 2021, the work allowance was increased to £335 per month (inc. housing support) and £557 per month (without housing support). Again, this essentially means that your Universal Credit payments should be higher from 1st December 2021 onward, if you are in work.

Your benefit amount

What will happen if I get less money under Universal Credit than I do now?

If your current benefits are more than you are entitled to under Universal Credit and you are transferred on to the new scheme, there will be a period of time when you will get a payment to compensate for this. This is known as ‘transitional protection’ and will last until the amount of Universal Credit you are entitled to is more than the amount of your previous benefits, or until your circumstances change, whichever is sooner.

Before transferring to Universal Credit from existing benefits, we encourage you to call our helpline for advice first.

Will there be a limit on the amount of Universal Credit that I can claim?

Yes. There is a cap on the amount of benefits that individuals of working age can claim. This is called the benefit cap and will apply to Universal Credit. There is more information on the benefit cap on our website, and also an interactive guide to check whether the cap affects you.

Will child maintenance payments affect Universal Credit?

No, this isn’t changing. Any child maintenance payments you receive will not affect the amount of Universal Credit you are entitled to.

Can I appeal if I don’t agree with the amount of my benefit?

If you think your benefit is wrong, there is a process by which you can appeal.

Moving to Universal Credit

What changes in my circumstances will be significant enough to trigger the change to Universal Credit from my existing benefits?

The general rule is that you will be moved onto Universal Credit only if you fulfil certain criteria. You must also live in an area where Jobcentres can take claims for Universal Credit from people with children.

At the moment, the criteria are that you must have no more than two children and the change in circumstances must involve you claiming a new type of benefit.

For example: you claim income support, and your child reaches their fifth birthday, and you live in an area where Universal Credit has been introduced for families. You wouldn’t move from income support to Jobseeker’s Allowance –  you would be transferred into the Universal Credit instead. You would receive Universal Credit instead of Jobseekers Allowance, and benefits such as child tax credit and housing benefit.

Whether you would be transferred onto Universal Credit will depend on your individual circumstances, so you should call our Helpline to get one-to-one advice if you think you may be affected.

How long will I have to wait for my first Universal Credit payment?

When you first claim Universal Credit, you will have to wait over a month before you receive your money.

You can apply for an advance payment in order to get money sooner, but this won’t cover the whole amount and you’ll have to pay it back.

Childcare costs

Will I get help for my childcare costs under the new system?

Yes – under Universal Credit, you will be able to get help with your childcare costs if you are in work. The system is similar to how it currently works under the working tax credits system, but there are some differences.

A major change is that as a single parent you can claim help with your childcare costs if you are working for any amount of hours; it doesn’t have to be a minimum of 16 hours a week as under tax credits.

If you are claiming Universal Credit and work for one hour a week or more, you can claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs. You can claim up to £646 a month for one child or £1,108 for 2 or more children.

Work and Universal Credit

Will I need to look for work to receive Universal Credit?

This will depend on your circumstances.

  • If you have a child who is under the age of three, you won’t have to find a job, but you will have to prepare for work, which means having regular meetings at the Jobcentre, and possibly doing some training
  • If you are a carer, or you have an illness or disability that means you can’t work, then you don’t have to look for work
  • If you have a child under the age of 13, you can limit your availability for work around their schooling and childcare. If your youngest child is 13 or older, then the number of hours you need to be available for work will depend on your individual circumstances, but should take into account your responsibilities as a carer
  • Under Universal Credit, if you’re working for fewer hours than your circumstances allow, you will be expected to try to increase your hours.

I’m self-employed. Can I claim Universal Credit to top up my income?

The rules around self-employment and Universal Credit are complicated. There is a ‘minimum income floor’ which self-employed people will be expected to reach. This figure will affect the amount you can receive through Universal Credit. For more information on self-employment and Universal Credit, visit the gov.uk website.

Get more help through the Gingerbread helpline

Universal Credit can be complex and a lot depends on your personal circumstances. For help tailored to you, please call our free single parent helpline.

Call the Gingerbread helpline

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