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Universal Credit


To claim Universal Credit, you must usually be aged 18 or over and not receiving education. Please see our ‘Checking the benefits you can claim as a young carer’ guide for more information about 16- and 17-year-old carers who may be able to claim Universal Credit.

You should also be under pension age. If you are pension age but your partner isn’t you may need to claim Universal Credit until your partner also reaches pension age, but it is worth checking if you are eligible for Pension Credit first. See our Pension Credit guide for more information.

Universal Credit is made up of a standard amount for a single person or couple and then different elements to meet different needs:

  • Housing Element
  • Child Element
  • Childcare Element
  • Disabled Child Element
  • Limited Capability for Work or Work-Related Activity Element
  • Carer Element

If you have ‘regular and substantial’ caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person, which has the same meaning as used for Carer’s Allowance, you will be eligible for a Carer Element in Universal Credit. You don’t have to be getting Carer’s Allowance to get this, which means if your earnings are too high to get Carer’s Allowance but you meet the other rules, you could still get a Carer Element in Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit, which means your income will affect how much you might receive. Carer’s Allowance counts in full as income, so every £1 of Carer’s Allowance you get reduces your Universal Credit by £1. If you have savings or capital over £16,000 you will not be eligible for any Universal Credit.

Because Carer’s Allowance counts in full as income, and the Carer Element can be included without a Carer’s Allowance claim, Universal Credit claimants might not be better off financially by claiming Carer’s Allowance as well. If you live in Scotland, getting Carer’s Allowance makes you eligible for the Carer’s Allowance Supplement so you will be better off.

You must sign a claimant commitment to get Universal Credit. This explains what is expected of you during your claim, such as any work-related requirements. If you qualify for the Carer Element you will have no work-related requirements which means you won’t have to attend any work-focussed interviews or courses or do any work search activities.

If you do want to work alongside claiming Universal Credit, your payments may be reduced on the basis of your earnings. Your total income from earnings and Universal Credit will still be more than you would have received from Universal Credit alone though. For these calculations, it doesn’t matter how many hours you work, only the amount you earn.

It used to be the case that your Universal Credit payment would be reduced by 63p for every £1 you earn over your work allowance, meaning you would receive 37p for every £1 earnt.

From 24 December 2021, this has changed so that you are able to keep more of your Universal Credit payment. From now onwards, your payments will be reduced by 55p for every £1 you earn over your work allowance, meaning you will now receive 45p for every £1 earnt.

If you start to earn enough that you are no longer able to claim Universal Credit, you will be notified that your payments will stop. If the amount you earn goes down again in the future, you will be eligible to claim Universal Credit again then.

Your Universal Credit will be worked out by starting with a maximum amount, but this can then be reduced if you have other income or capital to take into account, or you are affected by the benefit cap which limits the total amount in benefits some people can receive. You should use a benefits calculator to check how much you could receive. The monthly rates which make up the maximum are shown below:

Standard allowance:

  • Single under 25 - £311.68
  • Single 25 or over - £393.45
  • Couple both under 25 - £489.23 (for you both)
  • Couple one or both 25 or over - £617.60 (for you both)

Child element (could be limited to 2 children):

  • First child born before 6 April 2017 - £333.33
  • Subsequent child/all children born on or after 6 April 2017 - £287.92

Disabled Child element:

  • Lower rate - £156.11
  • Higher rate - £487.58
  • Limited Capability for Work element (for LCW claims started before 3 April 2017 in Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance) - £156.11
  • Limited Capability for Work-related Activity element - £416.19
  • Childcare costs element – 85% of your eligible childcare costs up to a maximum of £1,014.63 if you have one child or £1,739.37 if you have 2 or more children.
  • Housing costs element – the amount will depend upon whether you live in a social rented property, such as from the council or a housing association, or a private rented property. Social tenants may have their help reduced if they have one or more spare bedrooms. Private tenants have limits applied to the amount of rent they can get help with based upon where they live and how many bedrooms they are thought to need.  


You apply for Universal Credit online on the GOV.UK Universal Credit webpage where you can also find full details of the claim process and help available.

Please get benefits advice before making a claim if you are currently getting a legacy benefit (Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and in most cases Housing Benefit) as a claim for Universal Credit will end your claim for the legacy benefit you are receiving.

Asking to have the Carer Element included in Universal Credit can affect the benefits of the person you care for. If they receive something called a Severe Disability Premium in their benefits they will lose this if someone gets the Universal Carer Element for looking after them. Because of this it is important to seek benefits advice before asking for this to be included in your Universal Credit.

Money Manager tool for people claiming Universal Credit

MoneyHelper, the impartial financial advice service, have lent us their Money Manager tool. This is specifically for people who are currently claiming Universal Credit, or who think they might be going to in the future. It provides tailored advice, information and guidance to help with your specific circumstances. For instance, it can give you support if you are making a new claim for Universal Credit, or moving onto it from another benefit. It can also help you to budget while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment to arrive. Or if you are struggling, it will tell you where you can go to get some extra support.

Give it a try below:

Universal Credit Money Manager

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

Online support
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