Money Wellness

How to deal with the most common universal credit problems

Universal credit can offer a lifeline if you’re on a low income, unemployed or unable to work. So, when you experience problems, it can be distressing.

In this guide, we look at some of the most common problems that arise and how to deal with them.

woman on phone

Your application has been rejected

Two of the most common reasons for claims being rejected are:

  1. You’re earning too much

Sometimes a claim will be rejected if you’ve lost your job but you got your final pay packet after you made your claim for universal credit. If you expect your earnings to fall, submit another claim as soon   as possible.

  1. You can’t claim public funds

You won’t be able to get universal credit if your immigration status means you have ‘no recourse to public funds’. You might be able to get new style jobseeker’s allowance or new style employment and support allowance instead, if you’ve been working and making national insurance contributions. If you don’t qualify for these either, contact your local authority to ask about other local welfare help and food banks.

If you think the decision to reject your claim for universal credit was wrong, you can ask for it to be reconsidered. If it’s rejected again, you can appeal.

Your payment is late

If your payment is late, you should contact your work coach by logging into your online account and leaving a note for them in your journal.

Ask them if they need any extra information to help speed up your claim.

It typically takes five weeks to get your first payment. You should then get your payments on the same day every month.

While you’re waiting for your first payment, you can ask for an advance (even if the payment isn’t late). You’ll need to repay this from your future payments.

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You were better off on your old benefits

If you’re receiving benefits such as housing benefit or working tax credit and you’re thinking of moving onto universal credit, it’s important to check how this might affect you before applying.

It’s possible you may end up with less income or no income at all. For example, if you live with a partner, your joint income and savings may mean you don’t qualify for universal credit.

Once you’ve swapped onto universal credit, you can’t go back to your old benefits.

If you’ve already made a claim and your income has gone down or stopped, you can ask why this has happened through your online account. You can challenge the decision if you disagree with their reasoning.

woman with shopping cart thinking about bills

Your payment is wrong

If you’ve received the wrong universal credit payment, you can either:

  • call the free helpline on telephone: 0800 3285644 or textphone: 0800 328 1344. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm; or
  • leave a message for your work coach in your journal by logging into your online account.

It may help to provide evidence to show why you think your payment is wrong e.g. payslips, proof of rent etc.

Once your payment has been checked, if you still think it’s wrong, you’ll be able to take it further.

Sometimes it can be hard to work out how much you’re going to get paid, as the amount can change from month to month. If you’re not sure how much you should be getting paid you can get an estimate on the Citizens Advice website.

woman on phone to advisor

Your payment doesn’t cover your rent

Universal credit will cover your rent if you live in a local authority, housing association or council property.

But, the amount you get will be reduced if you have spare bedrooms. It will be reduced by:

  • 14% for one spare bedroom
  • 25% for more than one spare bedroom

If you’re renting privately, the amount you get will be based on your local housing allowance.

If your universal credit doesn’t cover your rent and you’re struggling to pay, you can apply for a discretionary housing payment from your local council.

illustration of house and calculator

You need help to cover your mortgage

If you’re on universal credit and you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, you may be able to get support with mortgage interest.

This is a loan that you’ll need to pay back when you sell your property. You can only claim this once you’ve been getting universal credit for 39 weeks.

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Universal credit isn’t covering your essential expenses

If your universal credit payment doesn’t cover your essential expenses and you’re worried about getting into debt, why not call one of our friendly advisers now on 0800 899 899.

woman on the phone to advisor

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