What is Universal Credit?

Until 2013, people have had to apply for several separate benefits because they were on a low income or did not have an income.

In 2013, the government introduced a new benefit called Universal Credit which replaced these. This means that people 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 case 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?

You may be able to get Universal Credit if you:

  • 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.

You can check online to see whether you are able to claim Universal Credit.

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 0800 328 9344. Before you apply for Universal Credit, you should talk to a benefits adviser. You can find advisers 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 GOV.uk website.

Try to get an adviser to help you with your appeal. You can find advisers 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 some useful 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 need 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.

You might also like

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - FAQs

Frequently asked questions about Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Read more about Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - FAQs

Money and benefits

Take a look at some easy read resources about money and benefits.
Read more about Money and benefits

Housing - what we think

People with a learning disability have a right to live independently in the community
Read more about Housing - what we think