Universal Credit frequently asked questions
The Benefits department are dealing with an increased volume of enquiries and claims and this is causing unavoidable delays. Please do not visit the Council. Request/send in information by email at firstname.lastname@example.org - put "Claim Ref" and your claim number in the subject line, e.g Claim Ref 12345 - or send by post.
Visit the Housing Benefit page to see if you claim help with your rent from us or Universal Credit. Visit the Council Tax Support page to see how to claim help with your Council Tax. Visit the Universal Credit page for advice about UC and how to claim.
If you have to visit us because you can't email us you can leave any documents in a sealed envelope with your name and address in the post box outside to the right of the entrance.
Key Universal Credit FAQs.
When will I get paid?
When you make a new claim for Universal Credit you will have at least a five week wait for your first payment.
You will then be paid calendar monthly and in arrears. If you are used to working out your budget weekly or fortnightly you will need to think about how you'll manage your money for a whole month. You can request an advance payment if you're going to find it hard to manage until you receive your first payment.
If you need help with budgeting you can come and see us. You will need to make an appointment with one of our specially trained staff. You can also go to Citizen's Advice, or you can visit the Money Advice Service.
Getting an advance payment
If you don’t have enough to live on, you can ask for an advance payment at your Universal Credit interview or by calling the helpline after you’ve made a claim.
You need to pay it back through your regular Universal Credit payments - your monthly payments will be lower until you pay it back. You will be able to claim up to 100% of your payment and pay it back over 12 months.
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
One of the first things you need to do to prepare for Universal Credit is to make sure you have a bank account where the money can be paid. If you don't currently have an account you risk not being paid or having your payments delayed.
What type of account do I need?
For Universal Credit to be paid you will need a bank, building society or a credit union account.
What are the benefits of a basic bank account?
- Free to open and use
- Receive money
- Pay regular bills via direct debit
- Pay in cash and cheques
- Set up standing orders
- Take out money over the counter (cashback)
- Withdraw from cash machines
- Use a debit card for online shopping - this can help you save money
- Track all your transactions with printed or online statements
For more information on choosing an account have a look on the money advice service website.
Make sure you have identification
Once you have made the online claim for Universal Credit, the next part of the process will be to confirm your identify.
You will be asked to attend an interview at the Job Centre with a member of staff who will become your 'work coach' so you will need to take your ID documents to your first interview.
The DWP will contact you to arrange this appointment. If you selected to be contacted via email rather than a text it is really important you check your emails on a daily basis. If you miss or don't attend your appointment your claim will be cancelled and you will have to start the process all over again.
What about my rent?
If you live in a rented property, to ensure you get the financial help you need, answer YES to the question: Do you pay rent to live in your home? This is called the housing costs element.
On Universal Credit you will have to pay your full rent to your landlord yourself. If you have previously claimed housing benefit and are used to your rent being paid directly to your landlord, this will change even if your landlord is Stroud District Council or a housing association. It would be a good idea to make contact with your landlord when you make a claim so that they are aware there may be a delay in paying your rent while you wait for your first payment.
What if I go into arrears?
Alternative payment arrangements (APAs) means that once you are two months or more behind with your rent, your landlord can apply for something called a managed payment. This means that some of your UC payment is paid directly to them. If this does not cover all of your rent, you may still have to make a payment yourself.
Stroud District Council will still administer discretionary housing payments (DHP) and these are additional payments towards your rent for when you need short term help.
Under Universal Credit it is much easier to report a change of relationship without the need to reclaim from the very beginning as you will both make a claim and then link it. Under the previous benefit system, if you became a couple or your relationship ended, you needed to make new claims for all the different benefits and this could cause delays and financial hardship.
Please remember to let the council tax department at Stroud District Council know separately if someone joins or leaves your household.
What to do if your job has just ended
If you are finishing work you may be entitled to contributory benefits based on your National Insurance contributions instead of or in addition to Universal Credit. Final earnings could affect the amount of UC you are entitled to depending on when it is paid.
Please seek advice from the Job Centre if you are unsure.