Universal Credit Glossary

Are you struggling to understand Universal Credit? Read our Universal Credit glossary and find out the common terms used by Jobcentre advisors and on the Gov.uk website and what they mean.

Advance Payment

Your first Universal Credit payment will usually come 5 weeks after you apply. If you have no savings and find yourself struggling to wait that long, you can apply for an ‘advance payment’. This is an advance of some, or all, of your first Universal Credit payment.

The advance payment also works like a loan. You’ll pay it back each month from your Universal Credit payment.

You can apply through your work coach at the Jobcentre. You will need to tell them why you need an advance payment and show ID. Don’t forget to bring along your bank details showing where you’d like to receive the money.

Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA)

An Alternative Payment Arrangement just means getting paid in a different way.

This could mean that your Universal Credit payment goes straight to your landlord. It could also mean you and your partner get separate payments.

If an Alternative Payment Arrangement would suit you better, speak to your work coach.

Budgeting Advance

A budgeting advance helps with emergency costs that you didn’t budget for. This could be your heater breaking in your house or last minute costs to prepare to start a job.

A budgeting advance works like a loan, which you will pay back through payments. If you stop claiming Universal Credit, you will still need to pay this money back somehow.

Change in Circumstances

This is anything that happens in your life that changes your circumstances and how much you get.

Claimant Commitment

This document will lay out what you’re expected to do to keep receiving Universal Credit. For example, if you’re fit to work, these could be things such as working on a CV or applying for a job.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

A benefit given to those who are suffering from a severe illness or disability. It will not affect your Universal Credit payments.

Discretionary Housing Payment

A payment from your local council to help you make rent or mortgage payments. Contact your local council to find out about their particular eligibility requirements.

Discretionary Support Payment

A discretionary support payment is available to residents of Northern Ireland. It is like the ‘budgeting advance’ available to people in the rest of Britain.

Full Service Area

An area where Universal Credit has been completely rolled out. You should make all new applications and changes online using your account.

Hardship Payment

Hardship payments are available if you find yourself struggling to afford basic things. This works like a loan, which you will pay back through future Universal Credit payments.

To apply, you have to be at least 18 years of age and prove that you tried every other option to support yourself.

Legacy Benefits

These are the older six benefits which Universal Credit is replacing:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Live Service Area

This is an area where Universal Credit has not been fully rolled out. You cannot make new applications online or by the phone.

Online Journal

A part of your Universal Credit online account where you can communicate with an adviser. Use this to ask questions or to report a change in circumstances.


If you don’t meet the responsibilities, you may get a sanction. This can reduce your Universal Credit payment or stop it completely. ‘Sanctions’ depend on your personal circumstances, what you did and how many times you did it.


If you receive Universal Credit but also have a job, the ‘Surplus Earnings’ rule might come into effect.

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