Universal credit: Payments
How is Universal Credit paid?
Housing Benefit transitional payment
When will the first Universal Credit payment be paid?
What are waiting days?
Alternative payment arrangements
Scotland - flexible payments
Northern Ireland - flexible payments
How often are the payments after the first assessment period?
Impact of earnings on payments (including impact of different earning patterns)
Third party deductions
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 (see alternative payment arrangements below).
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.
The Autumn Budget 2017 introduced a Housing Benefit transitional payment for UC claimants from April 2018. This means that from April 2018, claimants who have been receiving Housing Benefit immediately prior to claiming UC will receive a transitional payment of two weeks Housing Benefit payment run-on when they claim UC. This will be unrecoverable, should not count as income for UC purposes and should be received in the first assessment period.
To start with, there was an initial 7-day waiting period before entitlement to UC began. This 7 day waiting period was removed from 14 February 2018. Even so, for new claims, payments can take up to 5 weeks. This is because once a claim is submitted there is:
- First monthly assessment period (1 calendar month)
- Payment made 7 days after end of the assessment period
This makes a total of 5 weeks and can cause hardship for many claimants. If there is a delay in processing the payment, the wait could be longer. If waiting for this first payment will cause a claimant financial difficulties they can request an advance payment and personal budgeting support. From Spring 2018, claimants should also be able to request an advance through their online UC account. A discretionary housing payment from the claimant’s Local Authority may also be available.
Before the changes were introduced on 14 February 2018, UC claimants in the all-work requirements group weren’t paid for the first 7 days after they made their claim – these were waiting days.
Since the changes announced in the Autumn Budget 2017 were introduced from 14 February 2018, 'waiting days' have been removed.
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. DWP staff should offer an advance payment, but regardless of whether the advance is offered, claimants should be encouraged to discuss their request for an advance payment at their Universal Credit claim interview. From Spring 2018, DWP have said they expect that claimants will be able to request an advance through their online account. 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.
Claimants can ask for an advance payment at their UC interview, which will be booked after the online application is completed. This will take place at a local Jobcentre. If the claimant has already had their interview, they should contact the UC helpline on 0345 600 0723 (Textphone 0345 600 0743).
Claimants only get one advance payment and will have to explain how getting an advance payment will prevent damage to them or their family’s health or safety.
During his comments at the Conservative Party conference in September 2017, the Secretary of State for the DWP confirmed that staff guidance regarding advance payments would be refreshed. The revised guidance was provided to the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee. The revised guidance states:
‘Claimants should be made aware that advances are available to them if they are in financial need. To establish if the claimant has a financial need and requires an advance they should then be asked if they have enough money to live on until the first payment of Universal Credit is due. This might be money from savings, earnings, redundancy payments or support from the claimant or partner’s parents, family or friends. If the answer is no, then a claimant should be offered an advance.'
The rules around advance payments are to be further enhanced following the Autumn Budget 2017 announcements so that from January 2018, new UC claimants will be offered an advance of up to 100%. The effect of this change should be available fairly quickly, for example, new claimants in December 2017 who could already receive an advance of up to 50% of their overall entitlement, could then receive a second advance to take it up to 100% in the New Year.
Payments of advances will be made recoverable over 12 months, rather than over 6 months.
Advances are also available where financial need occurs after reporting a change of circumstances.
UC is normally paid monthly in arrears to one member of a couple and housing costs are not paid directly to the landlord. Where a UC award includes the housing element, claimants themselves are responsible for paying their housing costs to the landlord (for flexible payments in Scotland and NI, see below). These arrangements are not suitable for everyone and so DWP have legal powers to pay UC in other ways including:
- Paying the housing costs directly to the landlord (called managed payments)
- Twice monthly payments (or exceptionally four payments per month)
- Split payments to each member of a couple
DWP can make these arrangements without an application from the claimant if they feel it is appropriate. Otherwise claimants can request an APA by speaking to their Workcoach at the Jobcentre, calling the UC helpline on 0345 600 0723 (textphone 0345 600 0743) or by applying on form UC129 (which does not appear to be available online).
Landlords can also request payment of rent directly from a tenant’s UC by filling in form UC47.
From December 2017, claimants living in the private rented sector and whose Housing Benefit was previously paid directly to their landlord should be automatically offered this payment option when they join Universal Credit.
From 4 October 2017, people living in Scotland who make a claim for UC in a full service area have had some additional choices in relation their claim and from 31 January 2018, these choices are also available to anyone whose claim for UC in a full service area was made before 4 October 2017. They can choose to:
- Be paid monthly or twice monthly
- Have their housing costs paid to themselves or their landlord
These flexibilities are available to full service claimants only (not live service claimants).
According to the Scottish Government website, eligible claimants will be offered the choice after they have received their first payment of UC. This means the offer will be made at the start of the second assessment period, when the expected UC award is known. The offer should be made in the claimant’s online account.
If an Alternative Payment Arrangement has been applied for prior to the start of the second assessment period, then the corresponding choice will not be offered.
If the claimant does not make a choice within 60 days of the offer being presented, it will be removed from their online account, but they will still be able to request it at any time using their journal online.
From 31 January 2018 the Universal Credit Scottish choices are also available to people who:
- were already receiving UC in a full service area prior to 4 October 2017; and
- transfer from a live to full service area after 31 January 2018.
More information for advisers is available on the Scottish Government website.
In Northern Ireland, UC is normally paid twice a month to a household, but a request can be made to have it paid monthly.
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.
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 because they have more than one pay-day in an assessment period. This could mean their income in one assessment period may be too high to qualify or they may receive a reduced amount of UC and will have to budget carefully. If they do not qualify for UC in an assessment period where they have more than one pay-day, they may need to re-claim UC in the following assessment period.
The DWP have produced some guidance showing how different payment frequencies can impact on UC.
Various organisations offer information and advice for Universal Credit claimants about budgeting. DWP work closely with Local Authorities to provide suitable budgeting support arrangements.
DWP have worked with Money Advice Service on a money manager tool for UC claimants.
Third party deductions, sanctions and alternative payment arrangements can all affect the amount of payment from a UC award. Conditionality sanctions are deducted from the UC Adjusted Award and then amounts for Third Party Deductions (TPDs) and Alternative Payment Arrangements (APA) are deducted from the overall UC Award, not from individual elements that have been used as part of the process to calculate that Award. If the level UC payment remaining after deduction of sanctions and then the TPDs is less than the total value of the housing costs element, any remaining amount of UC will be paid out to a landlord as an APA.
The principle of how deductions are taken from a UC award is outlined below:
Calculation of UC entitlement
An entitlement to UC is decided as follows
- Stage 1 - Calculate the "UC Maximum Amount" by adding up the sums of money which are attached to the various UC elements (see Calculating section).
- Stage 2a - Take the UC Maximum Amount and then calculate the "UC Adjusted Award" by taking the UC Adjusted Award and then (a) making any necessary reductions in light of the capital, income and earnings available to the assessment unit and then (b) making any necessary adjustments in light of the Benefit Cap and Transitional Protection requirements (see Calculating section).
- Stage 2b - Take the UC Adjusted Award and then calculate actual "UC Award" by taking the UC Adjusted Award and making any reductions necessary for conditionality sanctions (i.e. imposed for non-compliance with conditionality requirements) attributed to the benefit unit. This then represents the UC Award for the benefit unit.
- Stage 3 - Take the UC Award and calculate the actual "UC Payment" by taking account of any other penalties and then any Third Party Deductions, sums for overpayment recovery and (repayments of) any finally short-term/budgeting advances and APA. This is the actual amount of UC that will be physically paid in the assessment period.
Regulation 2 (1) of the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 confirms that the Secretary of State may deduct an amount from a claimant's UC award and pay that amount to a third party to discharge (in whole or part) a liability of the claimant to that third party. As illustrated, deductions are made from the UC Award and not from any 'element'.
- DWP Advice for Decision Making: Staff guide B1
- DWP publications
Last reviewed/updated 21 May 2018