Universal Credit (UC) is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and aims to make the welfare system simpler by replacing six benefits and tax credits with a single monthly payment.
Read our guide for more information on how to apply and the support available.
Universal Credit replaces:
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credits
- Working Tax Credits
Our guide below explains Universal Credit, how to apply, and the support available particularly if you are in financial difficulty.
- How to claim Universal Credit
- Council Tax Reduction
- Avoiding delays with your claim
- Financial assistance
- Additional help with rent costs
- The Scottish Welfare Fund
- Paying your rent
- Need access to a computer?
- Change in circumstances
- Other help available
How to claim Universal Credit:
You must apply for Universal Credit online at: www.gov.uk/universal-credit
Before you apply, you’ll need to gather some information together. This will help to make sure you complete your application fully and will help you to get your Universal Credit payment as quickly as possible. There is a checklist on the next page to help you.
Once you have made your claim for Universal Credit, you will be given an online account to manage. You will need to access this online account regularly or your Universal Credit payments will be stopped.
Council Tax Reduction:
Your claim for Universal Credit does NOT include help with your council tax. Once you have claimed Universal Credit you must make a separate application to Fife Council for your Council Tax Reduction.
Apply online at: www.fifedirect.org.uk/ctaxreduction
If you don’t apply for council tax reduction, you will be expected to pay your full council tax charge yourself.
To make a claim for Universal Credit you will need to have the following information:
- Your postcode
- Your National Insurance Number
- Details of your bank, building society or credit union account, including their name, sort code and account number. If you don’t have an account with any of these institutions you will need to open one
- Your email address
- The type of accommodation you live in, for example if you are a council tenant, private tenant, housing association tenant or have a private mortgage
- Your landlord’s name and address
- How much you pay in rent and how often - the DWP refers to this as your housing costs. If you are a Fife Council tenant, contact your Housing Management Officer and we will confirm this for you. It is crucial that you inform DWP of your correct housing costs. The council will be asked by DWP to verify your housing costs. If the information we provide is different from what you have declared, you will not receive any housing costs as part of your UC payment and you will have to meet the cost of this yourself
- If applicable, how many rent free weeks your landlord allows. If you are a Fife Council tenant, you are entitled to four rent free weeks each year
- Details of how much you earn from work. You will get this from your payslip
- Details of any income that’s not from work, for example, from a pension
- Details of any savings you have
- Details of any other benefits you are receiving
Avoiding delays with your claim:
To help avoid delays in your claim, try to make sure you have all of the information you need before you start.
- Talk to your Job Centre Work Coach – they need to know about any health conditions or disability you may have, if you are living with addiction or alcohol problems, if you are a carer or are homeless or have transport problems and if you need help with your reading, writing or speaking
- Call your Job Centre Work Coach straight away if there is a problem, for instance if you can’t do something you agreed to or have been told to do
- Keep a record of what you do to find a job.
How will you manage while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment?
It is likely to be at least 6 weeks before you receive your first UC payment.
If you’re going to struggle financially while you wait for your first payment, you may be entitled to an advance payment from the DWP while your claim is being assessed. This will then be recovered from your future monthly payments, although you can ask for this to be deferred for the first 3 months.
If you have a large outlay after your claim is in payment you could consider applying for a budgeting loan from the DWP. The loans are interest free and the repayment amount will be set before you receive the loan. Contact your Job Centre Work Coach at your Job Centre.
Additional help with rent costs:
If your UC award includes housing costs (your rent) but does not cover the whole of the charge, you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment from Fife Council to help with the shortfall.
Apply online at: www.fifedirect.org.uk/dhp
The Scottish Welfare Fund:
If you need help to set up your home, or you or your family have been hit by a crisis, you can apply for a crisis or community care grant from Fife Council. This can help meet costs of food, fuel and day to day living.
Apply online at: www.fifedirect.org.uk/welfarefund
Paying your rent:
Paying your rent on time and in full is the most important part of your Tenancy Agreement.
There are lots of payment options to choose from, including direct debit, so we can discuss what option would be best for you.
Please ensure that you know your rent charge. This can also help avoid delays when claiming UC for the first time.
It is your responsibility to ensure your rent is paid on time. If you are having difficulty making rent payments then contact us. If you have no income and are unable to pay whilst waiting on your first UC payment, you MUST contact your landlord or your Job Centre Work Coach to discuss. Please do not ignore the situation, remember we are here to help you.
Need access to a computer?
If you don’t have a computer at home, computers are available and free to use at all of Fife’s libraries.
Find your nearest at: www.onfife.com/libraries
If you need help to set up an email account then a member of library staff will be able to help.
If you need help to make your claim you can visit your Job Centre.
You can also drop in to one of Fife’s community job clubs – a member of staff will help you.
Opening times are available at: www.fifedirect.org.uk/jobclubs
When making a claim you will be asked to provide a username and password.
Choose a password that you will remember but which is not easy for someone to guess. Use both letters and numbers.
Never tell anyone your passwords. Keep your password reminders in a place that isn’t easily seen by other people.
Change in circumstances:
If you are claiming UC, you must report changes in your circumstances to DWP immediately.
- Changes in your income
- Changes in your household
- Finding or finishing a job
- A change to your address
- A change to your banking details
- Your rent increasing or decreasing
- Becoming too ill to work or to meet your Job Centre Work Coach
You should report changes in your circumstances through your UC online account. If you need help to report a change, you can speak to your Job Centre Work Coach at the Job Centre or visit your community job club.
Other help available:
There’s a lot to think about and we understand this is all new to you, but we will do all we can to help you. You can take someone along with you to support you at meetings with the DWP and they can help you talk and check you are understanding what you are agreeing to in a meeting.
Information on managing your benefits, finding work and living on a budget is available at:
You can also check which benefits you may be entitled to at:
If you are having problems with your benefits, difficulty with budgeting, or problems with debt, contact Citizens Advice and Rights Fife where trained staff can help.
03451 400 095
If you have no access to banking services and need to open an account to have your Universal Credit paid into, your local Credit Union may be able to help, and can offer options for low cost borrowing.
Conduit Scotland is a not-for-profit organisation which also offers alternatives to high cost, short term borrowing.
Advice about paying your council tax
For advice about benefit reviews and making an appeal, contact DWP on: 0345 600 4272
Ask your local job club: www.fifedirect.org.uk/jobclubs or contact Citizens Advice and Rights Fife: www.cabfife.org.uk
Apply for Council Tax Reduction or Discretionary Housing Payment:
Apply for a Scottish Welfare Fund grant: