Benefit advice

It’s important to learn about what Universal Credit is and how it will affect you. We can help you set up the right payments and get the help you need.

Universal Credit


What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s normally paid monthly but some claimants can have it paid more frequently. You may be able to get it if you’re on a low income, out of work or you cannot work.

Universal Credit will replace the following benefits by the end of 2024:

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

If you currently get any of these benefits, you do not need to do anything at the moment unless:

  • you have a change of circumstance that you need to report
  • you get a letter entitled ‘Migration Notice’ telling you that you must start to claim Universal Credit (see Managed Migration section below)

If you get tax credits, they will stop when you or your partner applies for Universal Credit.

If you have a change of circumstances that means you have to move to Universal Credit, this is called ‘Natural Migration’.


You may be able to get Universal Credit if you’re on a low income or need help with your living costs. You could be working (including self-employed or part time) or be out of work.

To claim you must:

  • live in the UK
  • be aged 18 or over (there are some exceptions if you’re 16 to 17)
  • be under State Pension Age
  • have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments
  • Claimants moving to Universal Credit will receive a two-week run-on of their Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance. Those moving from Housing Benefit will receive a two-week Transition to Universal Credit Housing Payment.

Managed migration

Why is it happening?
The government is looking to move all ‘working age’ benefit claimants on to Universal Credit. It is often referred to as ‘managed migration’. The original plan was for this to happen by 2024 but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Who is affected?
Working age claimants who currently claim Tax Credits / Jobseekers Allowance / Employment Support Allowance and Housing Benefit.

What if someone is not claiming any benefit?
If a you aren’t claiming any benefits you won’t be affected. However. if you are struggling financially, you may be entitled to Universal Credit and should have a benefit check.

Are pensioners affected?
No. Managed migration affects those of ‘working age. If you are close to retirement age and receive a notification, it may be possible for them to stay on other benefits. If you are part of a couple and only one is pension age, you may need to claim Universal Credit.     

Making the claim

How are people being moved to Universal Credit?
Customers in receipt of certain benefits will receive a letter from the DWP inviting them to make claim for Universal Credit. If this applies to you, you have three months and one day to make the claim.

How do you make the claim?
Claims for Universal Credit are made online. You will need an email address and access to the internet.

What do you need to make a claim?
Universal Credit will be paid into a bank account and so you will need a bank account to get their claim paid. Also, customers will normally have to have ID to prove their identity. Documents can be uploaded online, or people may be asked to go in to the Job Centre with proofs.

How do you apply for help with their rent?
If you are claiming Universal Credit for the first time, you can apply for help towards their rent and will need to declare your housing details as part of their claim. In most cases the system will recognise that Riverside is the landlord and the DWP will contact Riverside to confirm that you are a tenant and all of the details you give are correct. You will receive a further notification asking them to agree the details.

What if you can’t get online?
If you cannot get online the DWP can accept a phone claim in some cases.

What if you need help with the Universal Credit claim?
The DWP website has details of support available. The ‘help to claim’ scheme is available via Citizens Advice Bureau who can assist with claims. Our Let’s Talk Money team can provide advice on when to claim and how to complete the claim.

Can someone visit to help a customer with a claim?
The DWP visiting service can, in some circumstances visit you if you need assistance. Our Let’s Talk Money team are mainly phone based but may be able to help if you are struggling to make the claim.

What if?

What happens if you don’t make the claim for Universal Credit?
If you have had a letter asking you to claim and don’t do this within the time limit, certain benefits they receive will stop. This will likely include any Housing Benefit that gets paid towards your rent.

Should I make the claim for Universal Credit now?
Some people can be worse off if they make the claim too early so we recommend you always get advice before starting a claim.

Will I be worse off on Universal Credit?
Depending on circumstances some people are better off on Universal Credit than other benefits and some people are significantly worse off. If you are moved to Universal Credit because of ‘managed migration’ you should receive an additional payment to make sure you are not worse off. This is called ‘transitional protection’.

Will everybody who claims Universal Credit get ‘transitional protection’? Only those who are being moved due to ‘managed migration’ are entitled to ‘transitional protection’. This is why it is important you make your claim at the right time. If you make a claim before you receive the letter from the DWP, you won’t be eligible. Also, if you make a claim after the three month deadline, you may also miss out.

How much is ‘transitional protection’?
The amount of transitional protection is the difference between what someone ‘used’ to receive on benefits, and what Universal Credit will pay. Therefore, the amount can be different for everyone. Any change in circumstances which means Universal Credit will go up, will reduce the amount of ‘transitional protection’. It is important for people to get advice before making a claim, as if someone knows there is going to be a change in their circumstances, they could be better off waiting until the change before they claim. 

When will Universal Credit be paid?
Once you make a claim it is normally five weeks before your first payment. You should get 2 weeks run on of Housing Benefit.

What if someone will struggle while waiting for the first payment?
You can ask for an advance payment from the DWP but remember this has to paid back and will be deducted from future payments. If the advance payment includes a ‘housing element’ this is to cover rent and should be paid towards the rent.

If someone who gets Housing Benefit moves over to Universal Credit what happens to the rent payments?
Universal Credit includes a ‘housing element’ and you can get an amount towards your rent that is calculated in a similar way to Housing Benefit. However, most Universal Credit claimants will get this paid direct to themselves and they need to pay their rent. If you would struggle to pay your rent in this way, you can enquire about an ‘alternative payment arrangement’ (APA.)

What is an APA?
Universal Credit is paid monthly and paid direct to you. An APA is an agreed change to how Universal Credit is paid. It can be that people are paid fortnightly rather than monthly and more commonly it is a change so that the ‘housing element’ is paid direct to the landlord. A claimant must have a reason why they want to be paid in that way. For example, you might struggle with budgeting.

Do customers need to pay their rent or will Universal Credit take over the payments?
When you are moved on to Universal Credit due to managed migration you need to declare your housing costs on the claim. Universal Credit is paid in arrears and so there will be a gap between any Housing Benefit you receive and when you receive your first payment of Universal Credit. This means you will need to ensure that your rent is up-to-date by making sure your rent is paid and that the DWP have the correct rent details.

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