Universal Credit - information for bank staff

Universal Credit is a new type of support that is replacing certain benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, and all tax credits. It’s being introduced gradually. If you’re working in a bank or building society we’ve summarised what we think you might need to know about it.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new monthly payment for people who are either unemployed, or working but on a low income.

It will eventually replace all of the following benefits and tax credits:

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

What is different about Universal Credit?

How Universal Credit is paid

Universal Credit is paid directly into the customer’s bank account. They get a single monthly payment and that includes the money they need to use to pay their rent.

  Current benefits and tax credits Universal Credit
How it’s paid If a customer doesn’t have a bank, building society or credit union account, their payment can go into a Post Office card account or - in some circumstances - onto a Simple Payment card. Directly into the customer’s bank, building society or credit union account.
How often it’s paid Benefits are normally paid fortnightly and tax credits are normally paid weekly or every four weeks. Universal Credit is paid monthly.
Number of payments Each benefit is paid separately. A single Universal Credit payment.
Help with rent Housing Benefit can be paid straight to the landlord. The housing element of Universal Credit (help with rent) goes direct to the customer who has to arrange their own rent payments to their landlord.
Who receives the money Some of the benefits and tax credits being phased out can be paid to either partner in a couple and some go to the partner who does most of the childcare. Universal Credit is a single payment per household into a nominated bank account. If a couple are claiming Universal Credit the bank account can be in the name of either partner or a joint account in both names.

Other differences with Universal Credit

The claims process and what happens to someone’s payments when they start working (or increase their hours) are also different under Universal Credit.

  Current benefits Universal Credit
How to claim People can claim benefits and tax credits by completing paper forms, over the phone or sometimes by filling in forms online. Most customers will make their claim for Universal Credit online, although anyone who needs it will be able to get face-to-face advice or help over the phone.
Working and claiming If someone is working 16 hours or more per week they will no longer qualify for some benefits. There are no limits on how many hours a week someone can work if they’re claiming Universal Credit. Instead the amount of Universal Credit they get will gradually reduce as they earn more.

The Money Advice Service leaflet ‘Get ready for Universal Credit explains what people need to do to prepare for the changes. It’s ideal for handing out to your customers.

When does Universal Credit start?

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages. Most people won’t be affected to start with. Right now, Universal Credit mostly affects newly unemployed people in certain areas of the country.

You can find out where it’s currently possible to claim Universal Credit on the GOV.UK website.