Universal credit

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a benefit payment from the government to help with your living costs.

It is paid monthly directly to you and you need a bank account to get it.

It replaces the following benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support (IS) 
  • Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit
  • Budgeting loans and Crisis loans.

If you currently receive any of these benefits, you cannot claim Universal Credit at the same time.

This useful video tells you everything you need to know about applying for Universal Credit.


Who is affected?

Only new benefit claims in Northampton will get Universal Credit initially.

Some single people in Northampton have already started to claim Universal Credit because it was introduced for this group for a certain period of time.

If you are claiming benefits already you will not yet be affected.

If you are of working age and making a new claim for benefits after 14 November you will claim Universal Credit.


What does this mean for me?

There are a few things you need to know:

  • All claims for UC are made online – there is no paper process.
  • All UC payments are direct to a bank account – there is no other way to receive money.
  • All UC payments are made one month in arrears – if you don’t have savings, you will be unable to keep up with your important payments while you wait for a claim to be paid.
  • You will be in charge of paying the rent – Housing Benefit is currently paid direct to your rent account. UC, which includes the cost of Housing rent, will be paid direct to you. You will need to make sure you pay your landlord each month.
What to do now

There are three things to do now:

1. Get a bank account

2. Start saving a small amount regularly

3. Get online

Bank Accounts

If you do not have a bank account or you are having difficulties managing your account, you may want to look at fee-free bank accounts. They offer banking services without the worry of getting into debt. 

Making regular savings

You need to be prepared to manage your monthly budget to make sure that you pay your rent and other important bills. The Northamptonshire Credit Union, called Harvest Money can help you save a small amount every week and withdraw your savings at any time.

Getting online

UC claims can only be managed online. If you need help to go online, there are a number of places in Northampton that can help you.  

You can visit the One Stop Shop at the Guildhall to use one of their computers between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday – Friday. If you need extra support to access online services, there are a number of advisors available to help between 16:00 and 17:00.

Local libraries often have low cost internet services and Northamptonshire County Council offer adult learning courses, which can be free if you get certain benefits. The Adult Learning team at Northamptonshire County Council can be contacted on 0300 126 1000.

Advance payment to cover the wait


If you need help to pay your bills or cover other costs while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can apply to get an advance.

The most you can get as an advance is the amount of your first estimated payment.

How to apply

You can apply for an advance payment in your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach.

You’ll need to:

  • explain why you need an advance
  • verify your identity (you do this online when you submit your Universal Credit claim or at your first Jobcentre Plus interview)
  • provide bank account details for the advance (talk to your work coach if you cannot open an account)

You’ll usually find out the same day if you can get an advance.

If you need help

Call the Universal Credit helpline if you need help applying for an advance payment.

The Universal Credit full service helpline is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 - 18:00.
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

How you pay back your advance

You start paying it back out of your first payment.

You can choose how many months you pay the advance back over. You must pay it back within 12 months. You don’t pay interest on it - the total amount you pay back is the same.

Example: your first estimated payment is £251.77 and you get £251.77 as an advance. You choose to pay back your advance over 12 months, which is £20.98 per month. You’ll get £230.79 on your first payment date - this is your first payment minus the bit you’re repaying (£251.77 minus £20.98).

Where do I go for help?

You can get help about all of the above from a number of places

For more information on Universal Credit and benefits:

For more information on banking:

Or, you can always speak to your housing or rent income officer at NPH – we are here to help.