Universal Credit: What’s it all about?

Introduced nearly 10 years ago, there are still many of us who scratch our heads when it comes to understanding exactly what Universal Credit is. But if you find yourself in a situation where you wish to claim benefits, or you just want to understand what’s often being spoken about on the news, it is important that you understand the basics!

What is it?

Universal Credit is a relatively new system which replaces the main income benefits – Employment and Support Allowance, Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Tax Credits. It was implemented to reform the Welfare system to bring it up to speed with the modern world that increasingly relies on computers and technology.

How is it paid?

Universal Credit is paid monthly in a single payment instead of numerous payments from Department of Work and Pensions, HMRC and the local authority and mirrors being in work where you must budget your money from month to month.

Despite what some people may believe, Universal Credit can be paid whether you are in or out of work and automatically adjusts if your earnings change, making the benefits system somewhat easier to navigate in comparison to the old ‘legacy’ system. Some people in the UK will still be receiving the old style of benefits as Universal Credit continues to be rolled out across the country, bit by bit.

How to apply

One of the major and at times controversial changes that Universal Credit has made to benefits system is that it’s now all online. Previously claims would be managed by telephone whereas claims and any changes of circumstance will all need to be processed over the internet. This requires any person wishing to claim Universal Credit to have access to the Internet with a reasonable level of computer literacy. You can apply for Universal Credit here

Other benefits

It is important to know that Universal Credit is not to replace ALL benefits. Payments such as Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance will remain outside the Universal Credit system as will Council Tax Reduction where claims will continue to be made via local authorities.


The switch over to Universal Credit will continue to take time to make the full transition. It is expected that the government will start to move all people over to Universal Credit between 2019 and 2022. But don’t worry – anyone that is going to be moved on to the new benefits system will be contacted in advance of it happening and will be told of the next steps.

For more information on Universal Credit, visit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit