What is Universal Credit?

Until now, people have had to apply for several separate benefits because they were on a low income or did not have an income.

The government is now introducing a new benefit called Universal Credit which will replace these. This means that people will only have to apply for this one benefit instead of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Tax Credits.

Under Universal Credit, people will have one monthly payment to cover their housing and living costs. It is a means tested benefit for people who

  • are 18 or over
  • are under state pension age (there is no longer a 'default' retirement age and your state pension age will depend on when you were born. Visit www.gov.uk/state-pension-age to calculate your state pension age)
  • have less than £16,000 in savings.

You may still get Universal Credit if you are 16, 17 or in full time education.

People will need a bank account to claim Universal Credit. 

Before you apply

Before you apply for Universal Credit, you should seek advice (from your local Citizens Advice Bureau).

This is because claiming Universal Credit may have a detrimental impact on the level of your existing benefits award, or it may not be the most appropriate benefit for you to claim.

This is particularly the care if you are already receiving disability related benefits, such as Employment Support Allowance. For more information, contact the Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

We've compiled useful answers to some of your frequently asked questions around Universal Credit.

Click on the questions below to reveal the answer.

Who can get Universal Credit?

As Universal Credit is being gradually introduced, you can check online to see whether you are yet able to claim Universal Credit yet or not.

How do I claim Universal Credit?

You can apply for Universal Credit online. If you cannot use the internet, you should phone the helpline on 0345 600 0723. Before you apply for Universal Credit, you should talk to a benefits adviser. You can find advisors in your local area. 

I have been turned down for Universal Credit, how do I challenge this?

If you want to challenge a decision about your Universal Credit, you must ask the Department of Work and Pensions to look at their decision again. This is called a mandatory reconsideration. You must do this within a month of the letter that told you about the decision. If they do not change their decision, then you can appeal. A Tribunal will decide whether to change the decision. More information is available from the website here.

Try to get an advisor to help you with your appeal. You can find advisors in your local area. You can also contact the Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 or helpline@mencap.org.uk for more information.

Useful resources

We've created the following factsheets and precedent letters (which are designed to address complex legal situations) to help you know your rights and when to get advice about a problem. You can access these on our Information and advice resources page.

If you require advice on completing a letter, please contact the Learning Disability Helpline.

How to get the support you need

Contact the Learning Disability Helpline, our advice and support line, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.

Or why not take a look at our online community? This is a place for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability to share experiences, advice and support.

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