Universal credit: Payments

How is Universal Credit paid?
When will the first Universal Credit payment be paid?
What are waiting days?
Advance payments
How often are the payments after the first assessment period?
Impact of earnings on payments
Budgeting support

How is Universal Credit paid?

Universal credit, including any part of the award which is an amount included for housing, is paid directly to the claimant. In a joint claim, both claimants nominate which claimant is to receive the payment (in some cases DWP can split the payment or decide which of the joint claimants will receive the payment). Claimants are responsible for ensuring they pay their rent to their landlord, although in exceptional cases, DWP will consider paying the housing amount of the award separately and directly to the landlord.

Payments are made by automatic transfer to the claimant’s bank account. Bank account details are completed as part of the claim process and any subsequent changes to those details should be notified to DWP. DWP have arrangements to make payment by a separate service for those unable to make use of mainstream bank, building society or credit union account and this method of payment should be discussed with the claimants work coach.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland are planning to introduce payment flexibilities. In January 2017, the Scottish Government launched a consultation seeking views on the option for payments of UC twice monthly and housing element payments direct to the landlord (rather than to the claimant).

In Northern Ireland, various flexibilities were agreed as part of discussions on the implementation of UC in Northern Ireland. It was agreed that:

When will the first payment of Universal Credit be paid?

For new claims, payments can take up to 6 weeks. This is because once a claim is submitted there is:

This makes a total of 6 weeks and this is likely to cause hardship for many claimants. If waiting for this first payment will cause a claimant financial difficulties they can request an advance payment and personal budgeting support. A discretionary housing payment from the claimant’s Local Authority may also be available.

What are waiting days?

UC claimants who are in the all-work requirements group won’t be paid for the first 7 days after they make their claim – these are waiting days. There are some exceptions to the waiting days policy which are explained on GOV.UK.

Advance payments

DWP can award an advance payment of Universal Credit for new claimants who expect to struggle meeting essential expenditure whilst waiting for their first payment and claimants in this situation should be encouraged to discuss their request for an advance payment at their Universal Credit claim interview. Advance payments will only be granted where DWP consider the Universal Credit claim looks likely to result in an award. The advance payment is a loan from DWP and must be repaid, usually by deducting the agreed repayment amount from subsequent payments of Universal Credit.

There is little information published about UC advances by DWP, however CPAG have written an excellent guide explaining advances and linking to the latest DWP guidance.

How often are payments after the first assessment period?

Universal credit payments are paid monthly, in arrears. Each monthly payment should be credited to the claimant within 7 days of the end of the assessment period that it covers. DWP expects claimants to be responsible for budgeting their finances accordingly, although they do have some flexibility to alter payments in exceptional circumstances and claimant should discuss this with their work-coach.

Impact of earnings on payments

Depending on the frequency of a claimant’s employed earnings, their UC may vary even if they receive the same pay.

If they are paid once a month and the amount is static, then their UC should be the same each month (unless there are any other changes of circumstances that might affect entitlement).

However, if they are paid four weekly or fortnightly, it is possible that they will receive more earnings in some assessment periods than others. This could mean their income in one assessment period may be too high to qualify or they may receive a reduced amount and will have to budget carefully.

The DWP have produced some guidance showing how different payment frequencies can impact on UC.

Budgeting support

DWP can arrange to pay Universal Credit payments fortnightly, pay the housing part of the award direct to the claimant’s landlord and also split the Universal Credit payment between joint claimants. These are known as alternative payment arrangements and are designed to offer some flexibility in budgeting support for claimants who either need their payments to be paid in any of these ways permanently or just temporarily.

DWP have published a guide explaining personal budgeting support and alternative payment arrangements including when they are available and how to ask for them.

Claimants can ask for alternative payment arrangements either at their Universal Credit claim interview or by calling the Universal Credit helpline (0345 600 0723; textphone: 0345 600 0743, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).

Various organisations offer information and advice for Universal Credit claimants about budgeting. DWP work closely with Local Authorities to provide suitable budgeting support arrangements.

Other information

Updated 20 April 2017