Universal Credit is a benefit that is claimed by almost six million people in the UK.
How much you can get depends on your circumstances, including your living arrangements, employment and any income and savings you have.
Your circumstances are assessed every month, which means your Universal Credit will fluctuate.
At the moment, the standard allowance is £265.31 for someone who is single and under the age of 25, or £334.91 for someone who is single and over the age of 25.
Couples who are both over the age of 25 can get £416.45 as their standard allowance, while couples where only one of you is over the age of 25 can get £525.72.
Universal Credit is made up of a standard allowance, plus any extras you may be entitled to – for example, if you have children, you are a carer or you have a disability.
Money may then be deducted off your Universal Credit because of your earnings or other income, such as any savings you may have.
If it applies to you, the benefit cap may reduce how much you receive.
If you’re on Universal Credit and you’re struggling, there might be other help and free cash you can access.
Council tax help
You may be able to claim help through a Council Tax Reduction scheme (sometimes called Council Tax Support) if you’re on a low income or on certain benefits.
It can be a postcode lottery as the help varies depending on what your local authority can offer – but if you qualify, your bill could be reduced by as much as 100% depending on your circumstances.
Whether you are entitled to help through a Council Tax Support scheme largely depends on where you live, who lives with you and your work and income.
You can check your council tax band here. Contact your local authority directly to see what kind of discount you could be entitled to.
Other benefits and grants
Debt charity Turn2Us estimates that around seven million people are missing out on a collective £15billion in benefits.
If you already claim Universal Credit, you may be entitled to extra benefits on top – for example, if you’re unwell or can’t find a job due to illness or disability.
The best thing to do is use a free benefits calculator online to see what you could be entitled to. You should then double check the results with a benefits specialist.
Turn2Us also has thousands of free grants that are offered by charities and organisations to help struggling families.
As these are grants, you won’t normally need to pay the money back – but do double-check this.
The help available varies depending on where you live, with the money being given to put towards food, bills or other essentials.
You can use the free Turn2Us grants search tool to see what grants you may be able to claim.
Help paying rent
If you’re struggling to pay your rent, talk to your council to see if you can get help through a Discretionary Housing Payment.
This is normally given to people who aren’t getting enough money to cover their rent, or for a one-off cost like a home deposit, rent in advance or removal costs.
You can only apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if you are entitled to housing benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit.
The amount you could get, and for how long, will be decided by your council.
Funding is available in England and Wales – find out how to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment in Scotland.
Cost of living help
The Chancellor Household Support Fund was created in October last year to help people who are struggling with their bills.
It was worth £500 million but has just been double to £1billion.
The type of help you might be offered includes free cash and vouchers to help pay for heating your home or to cover costs of your weekly grocery shop.
Each council decides who to give the money to, and how the money should be spent.
For example, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council previously gave out vouchers of up to £200 which could be spent in Aldi, Asda, Morrisons or Tesco.
Get in touch with your local authority to see what help you could get.
Help with health costs
If you receive Universal Credit, you may also qualify for help with health costs including NHS prescriptions.
One of the following must also apply:
- You had no income or net earnings of £435 or less in your last Universal Credit assessment period.
- You had no income or net earnings of £935 or less in your last Universal Credit assessment period, and had a child element included in your award or had limited capability for work or work-related activity.
It’s worth noting that if you’re in a couple, the net earnings applies to your combined income.
To prove you qualify for free prescriptions, you must bring a copy of your Universal Credit notice when going to get your prescription.
You may also get help with dentist check ups and eye tests.
There are lots of schemes and help available toward childcare if you claim Universal Credit.
For example, you may be entitled to free school meals for your child or £150 toward the cost of their school uniform.
Whether you need to apply through your council or child’s school depends on where you live.
Click here and type in your postcode to be redirected to your local council’s website and apply.
You may also be able to get a one off payment worth £500 to help towards the costs of having a child through the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
This money doesn’t need to be paid back. To claim, you’ll need to print out and fill in the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SF100) claim form.
Energy bill help
Energy bills have risen at an astronomical rate, but you may be entitled to help through various schemes that have been set up.
There is the Warm Home Discount scheme, which gives you £150 off in the winter months, between October and March each year.
You’ll qualify for the Warm Home Discount if you’re on Universal Credit and you’re deemed to have “high energy costs”
You could also get £25 during freezing weather through the Cold Weather Payment scheme.
This applies if the average temperature is – or is forecast to be – 0°C or below for seven days in a row between November and March.
You’ll be eligible if you have a health condition or disability and have a limited capability for work, or you have a child under five living with you.
Finally, you may be able to make your home more energy-efficient through the Affordable Warmth Scheme.
Water bill help
If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you could be entitled to have your water bill reduced under the WaterSure scheme.
This scheme enables customers to have bills capped so that they won’t have to pay more than the average household bill for their home, even if they use more than the average amount of water.
To qualify, people need to be responsible for three or more children under 19 who are in full-time education living with them, or living with someone who has a medical condition requiring significant use of water.
According to Consumer Council for Water, all water companies offer reduced tariffs to low-income customers, with some cases having bills cut as much as 90%.
Cheap broadband and mobile deals
Many telecoms giants have launched social broadband and mobile packages especially for people on benefits.
For example, Sky has launched its new Broadband Basics deal and it costs £20 a month for existing Sky customers who get Universal Credit or Pension Credit.
The tariff offers 36M/bs broadband for 18 months. This type of deal usually costs £25 a month with Sky – so you would save £90 over that time.
You may be able to find a cheaper social tariff if you can do with a lower speed – see a full list here.