Universal Credit is generally available to anyone out of work or on a low income. Certain things will affect your eligibility and how much you get, like where you live or your income.
To be eligible to receive Universal Credit, you must:
- Be aged between 18 and the state pension age (exceptions apply).
- Be unemployed or on a low income.
- Have savings lower than £16,000.
- Not be studying full time, like in university or doing a training course (exceptions apply).
Live in an area where Universal Credit has started replacing the older benefits. Citizens Advice has a useful postcode checker, which will tell you if it is available in your area:
16 and 17 year olds
If you are 16 or 17, this doesn’t automatically mean you can’t receive Universal Credit. You may be still be able to get it if you meet one of the points below suits your circumstances:
- You don’t have any support from your mum or dad, and you’re not in care.
- You are unable to work because you are sick or have a disability.
- You are a carer for someone with a serious illness or disability.
- You have a had a baby within the past 15 weeks or are expecting to give birth within the next 11 weeks.
- You or your partner look after a child. If this applies, both you and your partner need to be eligible for Universal Credit.
If you are 16 or 17, you won’t have to look for work while getting Universal Credit. Most people over 18 have to apply for jobs and prepare for work to keep receiving Universal Credit.
Once you turn 18 and you are fit for work, you will need to prove you are looking for a job to keep getting payments.
Does your partner get a pension?
If you live with your partner who gets a pension, you have a choice to make. You can either claim Pension Credit or Universal Credit. Pension Credit is a top-up of your income and pension, and is available for everyone over 66 years old. The government use your income, savings and pension to calculate how much you’ll get.
You don’t actually have to be pension age to receive this, as long as your partner is eligible, you will be too. If you fit the description above, you should consider Pension Credit. In some circumstances, you’ll be better off on Pension Credit than Universal Credit.
Citizens Advice has a useful calculator to check if you’re eligible for Pension Credit or not. You can use this for you or your partner:
Still studying or training full time?
As a general rule, you are not eligible for Universal Credit if you are still studying full-time.
But you might still be able to apply for Universal Credit if you fit one of the exceptions below:
- You have a serious illness or disability. You can also claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- You’re under 21 and have no support from your parents. You can claim Universal Credit while in ‘further education’ like A Levels or BTEC
- You or your partner are students and responsible for a child
- You live with a partner/spouse who can claim Universal Credit
Universal Credit for Couples
Universal Credit will be a big change for couples who live together. Rather than you getting individual payments, you will receive your payments together. On the same date each month, the amount you both receive will be paid into one bank account.
Once you make a joint claim, both of your other benefits will stop. If they don’t, you will need to tell the government you’re receiving Universal Credit. If you fail to do this, you might have to pay the money back later.
To be eligible to claim with your partner:
- You must both share the same address
- Be in a civil partnership, marriage, or serious relationship
- Not have combined savings of £16,000 (this includes any property or other things you may own)
- Both be eligible for Universal Credit
If your partner is not claim Universal Credit then their income and savings might affect you. The Department for Work and Pensions will base the amount you get off your partner’s finances.
In certain situations you should apply as a single adult, even if you live with your partner. This happens when:
- You and your partner have been living apart for six months
- Your partner is currently outside of the United Kingdom for an extended period
- Your partner is in prison
- Your partner is below 18 and so not eligible for Universal Credit
- Part of the Church or other religious group which pays for their house and daily spending
- Your partner does not have a permanent residency visa
You must contact the Universal Credit helpline if anything changes in the relationship. This might be splitting up, getting married or deciding to live separately. Your payments might be affected or stop if you do not inform the helpline of a change in circumstances.