Universal Credit problems

If you’re applying for Universal Credit for the first time, perhaps because you’ve lost your job or your circumstances have changed, here are some common problems people experience and what to do about them.

Your Universal Credit payment is late

It usually takes five weeks to get your first Universal Credit payment. After that, you should receive your payment on the same date every month.

If your payment is late, log in to your online account and leave a message for your work coach in your journal.

Ask them to check whether anything is missing from your claim that might be causing the delay.

If this is your first payment of Universal Credit you can ask for an advance payment. This is a loan that you will have to repay from your future Universal Credit payments.

You can ask for an advance even if your payment is not yet classed as late.

You’ve been paid the wrong amount of Universal Credit

Universal Credit Helpline

Call the Universal Credit Helpline free on:

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday (closed on bank and public holidays).

The helpline is very busy because of the current crisis. It’s best to use your online account if you can.

The amount of Universal Credit you receive can change from month to month and it’s hard to work out exactly how much you’re going to get.

Check your payment using the Citizens Advice Universal Credit calculator.

If there’s been a mistake with your Universal Credit payment you need to call the helpline or log in to your online account and leave a message for your work coach in your journal.

Ask them to explain the amount to you.

Provide evidence, if you can, to show why you think they’ve made a mistake. This might include bank statements or payslips, invoices from your childcare provider or proof of your rent.

If you still think the payment is wrong, you can take it further.

You’ve been turned down for Universal Credit

Your household earnings are too high

If your earnings (and your partner’s if you’re making a joint claim) are high enough to mean you receive no Universal Credit in a month, your Universal Credit claim will be closed.

This might be, for example, because you lost your job but received your final wages after you submitted your claim for Universal Credit.

If your earnings are likely to fall, you should restart your claim as soon as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on any future payments.

You have ‘no recourse to public funds’

If your immigration status means you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ you won’t be able to get Universal Credit.

If you’ve been working and paying National Insurance contributions, you might be able to claim new-style Jobseeker’s Allowance or new-style Employment and Support Allowance instead.

Find out whether you qualify using the calculator on the Policy in Practice website.

If you haven’t paid enough National Insurance contributions to qualify, contact your local authority to ask about foodbanks and other local welfare assistance.

You want to challenge the decision

If you disagree with the decision to reject your claim for Universal Credit you can ask for it to be looked at again and then appeal.

You’re worse off on Universal Credit

If you’ve moved to Universal Credit from any of the benefits it’s replacing, such as Working Tax Credit or Housing Benefit, it’s possible that you will find you have less income from before – or that you don’t qualify at all.

This could be, for example, if you live with someone and your joint income and savings mean you don’t qualify.

For this reason, it’s important to check very carefully before making a claim for Universal Credit.

If you’ve already made a claim for Universal Credit and this has happened to you, ask for an explanation through your online account. If you disagree with the findings you can challenge the decision.

Once you have moved to Universal Credit you can’t go back to your old benefits.

Your Universal Credit doesn’t cover your outgoings

If your Universal Credit payment doesn’t cover your outgoings, you’ll need to act quickly to avoid getting into debt.

Make sure you’ve done an up-to-date budget of all your income and outgoings.

Use our Budget planner tool to help you.

Check you’re getting everything you’re entitled to, for example free school meals and help with your Council Tax.

Reduce your outgoings

If you’ve lost income as a result of coronavirus (Covid-19), you might be able to temporarily reduce your outgoings, for example with payment holidays on loans and credit cards, or payment deferrals on your insurance premiums.

Find out more about the help available Coronavirus and your money.

Get the best possible deal on your bills.

You might be able to get a cheaper deal on your phone or TV package. Or you might find you’re paying more than you need to for your gas and electricity.

Your Universal Credit doesn’t cover your rent or mortgage

You pay rent

If you pay rent to a local authority, council or housing association you will get your full rent as part of your Universal Credit payment.

However, the amount you get will be reduced by:

  • 14% for 1 spare bedroom
  • 25% for 2 or more spare bedrooms

If you rent privately, your housing costs are based on the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for your area. For example, if you’re single and have no dependent children, the LHA will be based on the cost of renting a one bedroom flat locally.

If you’re going to struggle to pay your rent as a result of a shortfall in the amount you get versus the amount you have to pay, you can apply to your local council for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

You have a mortgage

The help you get with your mortgage is called Support for Mortgage Interest. It’s a loan which you’ll have to pay back when you sell the property.

You can only get Support for Mortgage Interest after you’ve been claiming Universal Credit for 39 weeks.

If your income has been affected by coronavirus (Covid-19) and you’re struggling to keep up with your mortgage repayments, you can apply for a payment holiday.

Other sources of help

Find your local welfare scheme

If you need help with heating, fuel or food bills or have an emergency expense, you can see if your local welfare scheme can help.

In England this scheme is run by your local council.

The other countries in the United Kingdom run their own schemes.

If you live in England, see this interactive map on the Children’s Society website to find your local welfare assistance scheme.

If you live in Scotland, find out more about the Scottish Welfare Fund on the Scottish Government website.
If you live in Wales, find out more about the Discretionary Assistance Fund on the Welsh Government website.
If you live in Northern Ireland, find out more about extra financial support on the nidirect websiteopens in new window.

Get help with budgeting

If you need help with personal budgeting, ask at the Jobcentre and they will be able to tell you where face-to-face support is available.

Alternatively, read our page on How to budget for a monthly benefit payment.

Get free debt advice

If you’re struggling to pay off existing debts, seek advice from a debt advice charity straight away.

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