Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens After I Claim Online?

You will be contacted by email or text and given an appointment for a new claim interview at your local Job Centre.

WARNING - You must go to this appointment – if you definitely can’t, you must ring 0800 328 9344 (or any other number you are given) and arrange another date. You may not get any money or may delay your first payment if you do not attend.

At this interview, you must bring all the evidence and documents you have been asked to provide. If you can’t, you must let the Job Centre know why.

You will probably meet your personal Work Coach who will talk to you about preparing for and/or looking for, work. They will help you draw up a Claimant Commitment which sets out what actions you must take to prepare/look for work. It will explain what will happen if you don’t keep to the terms of your Claimant Commitment.

IMPORTANT: If you (and your partner if you have one) don’t sign the Claimant Commitment/s, you won’t get any Universal Credit.

IMPORTANT: If for any reason you find you can’t do something on the Commitment (for example you are late for a Job Centre interview or you have been too unwell to go to an interview, or you have to look after a sick child) you MUST tell the Job Centre immediately – and keep a record. Otherwise you could lose some of your Universal Credit, which is call being sanctioned – and this could last for anything between a month and three years.

IMPORTANT: If you are told your benefit is to be sanctioned and you think this is wrong or unjust, you can ask the Job Centre to reconsider their decision - and if they refuse, you can appeal. If you need any help or advice call us on 0300 304 5000 or welfare@estuary.co.uk

I’ve Been Told I Have To Have A Bank Account For My Universal Credit Payments. is This True?

Yes. This is because the government would prefer you to have your Universal Credit payment paid into a bank account and there could be advantages to you to do this. 

For example, you can pay your bills by direct debit and often this can work out cheaper. “Basic” bank accounts don’t allow you to overdraw so they are popular with many people. But remember that with any bank account, if you have direct debits or standing orders to pay your bills and there isn’t enough in the account when they come out, you will face bank charges. Some bank accounts and some credit union accounts have a “jam jar” system in which you can ask the bank to put money aside each month for certain bills such as rent, fuel, food etc.

It’s best to get some advice on which bank account is best for you. Have a look at the Money Advice Service website to see what sort of account suits you best, or call us on 0300 304 5000

I’m Not Sure I Will Cope With Universal Credit Being Paid Monthly. Is There An Alternative?

Universal Credit will usually be paid monthly and in arrears.

It is best to start thinking now about how you would manage When you move onto Universal Credit. If you think you are going to struggle with monthly payments, explain this to the Work Coach at the Job Centre who will decide whether you could be paid differently. Your monthly award can be split into two payments and paid twice monthly (which is almost the same as fortnightly). You will need to explain your circumstances and why you believe you will find monthly payments difficult to manage. You don’t have a right to alternative payment arrangements – it’s up to the DWP – and they will only be paid for a limited time. You can also ask for your housing costs to be paid direct to Estuary. If you need any help or advice call us on 0300 304 5000 or email welfare@estuary.co.uk

I’m Worried About The Time I Have To Wait Before My First Universal Credit Payment Comes Through: Can I Get Any Money To Cover This Period?

When you make your new claim for Universal Credit you will be notified of when you will receive your first payment. This will either be one calendar month and seven days, or if the waiting days rules apply to you, one calendar month and fourteen days after the date you claim.

In February 2018 the government will remove the seven-day waiting period so that entitlement to Universal Credit starts on the first day of application.

The waiting days rules generally apply to people who are making a new claim for Universal Credit because they have finished work. There are many circumstances where these extra seven waiting days should not apply, so if you are informed by the DWP that your first payment of Universal Credit will be one month and fourteen days after you made your claim, it is worth checking to make sure that is correct. Contact us for advice - call 0300 304 5000 or email welfare@estuary.co.uk 

When you claim Universal Credit you can telephone the DWP for a New Claim Advance, or ask your Work Coach at the Job Centre to arrange this for you. If the DWP agree that you risk being unable to pay essential bills they can pay you up to half of your expected monthly Universal Credit as a loan in advance, which you must pay off out of your future payments (up to six months or from Jan 2018 twelve months). You’ll need to explain your circumstances fully.

From January 2018 those who need it, and who have an underlying entitlement to Universal Credit, will be able to access up to a month’s worth of Universal Credit within five days via an interest free advance.

If you have been claiming one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing in the month before your Universal Credit claim started (e.g. your income related Employment and Support Allowance claim has ended because you have been found fit for work), instead of a New Claim Advance, you could apply for a Benefit Transfer Advance, which can have a longer repayment period (up to twelve months).

You can request a New Claim Advance or Benefit Transfer Advance at any time during your first monthly assessment period, so if you did not request one when you made your claim, but after a couple of weeks you find you are struggling, you can still request one. Contact us - call 0300 304 5000 or email welfare@estuary.co.uk

My Housing Benefit Is Currently Paid Directly To My Landlord And I Am Happy With This Arrangement. Can I Ask The DWP To Pay My Rent Out Of My Universal Credit?

Your claim for Universal Credit will include help with your rent – called a housing costs element. The whole of your Universal Credit award will be paid to you. It will be your responsibility to budget and pay your rent from your Universal Credit and any other income you may have.

  • From April 2018 those already on Housing Benefit will continue to receive their award for the first two weeks of their Universal Credit claim.

However there is a system where the housing costs element included in your Universal Credit assessment can be paid directly to your landlord in limited circumstances. Remember this won’t necessarily cover all your rent so make sure you continue to pay any difference for example due to the Bedroom Tax, or a deduction taken off for a non-dependent living with you, etc.

  • From February 2018 Alternative payment arrangements and Managed payments can be requested by your landlord where your rent account goes into arrears and you owe at least two months’ rent. the government will also make it easier for claimants to have the housing element of their award paid directly to their landlord.

Alternatively, you can ask the Job Centre to set you up on managed payments if you believe you would struggle to pay the rent yourself because of your circumstances.  You will need to explain what problems you have that make it difficult for you to cope with paying the rent yourself. If you would like the DWP to consider this, you can ask your Job Centre work coach at your first appointment after your claim for Universal Credit, or at any time after this. You can ring the UC helpline on 0345 600 0723 to make an appointment at the Job Centre.

Note that you do not have a right to a managed payment – it is up to the DWP to decide if you need this help, and it will usually only be for a fixed period of time. Contact us for advice - call 0300 304 5000 or email welfare@estuary.co.uk

Will The Benefit Cap And The Bedroom Tax Still Exist Under Universal Credit?

Yes. If you are affected by either of these issues please contact us on 0300 304 5000. You might be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment.

I’m Currently Getting Child Tax Credit, Income Support And Housing Benefit But My Boyfriend Is Moving In With Me. He Gets Universal Credit. What Difference Will This Make To Our Benefits?

From the day you claim Universal Credit as a couple, your Child Tax Credit, Income Support and Housing Benefit will stop. The Universal Credit award will be based on both your incomes and circumstances. Make sure your partner tells the DWP about this change, and that you tell the DWP (regarding your Income Support), HMRC (regarding your Child Tax Credit) and your local council (about your Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support). If you need any more advice, ask us. Please call us on 0300 304 5000 or email welfare@estuary.co.uk.

I’ve Heard That Single People Who Are Pension Credit Age Won’t Have To Claim Universal Credit. What Age Is This?

You’re right that single people who are Pension Credit age will not need to claim Universal Credit – they should claim Pension Credit and Housing Benefit instead, and Council Tax Support.

Pension Credit Age is the age at which you would qualify for Pension Credit. It used to be 60 for men and women but is gradually increasing. Anyone, male or female, who turned 60 before April 2010 will be Pension Credit age already. However, if your 60th birthday is after April 2010 you need to check if you have reached Pension Credit age.

To check, go to this page and scroll down to get your Pension Credit age (rather than State Pension age). If you need any more advice, please call us on 0300 304 5000 or email welfare@estuary.co.uk