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Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is now available across the UK and HMRC state that it is no longer possible for anyone to make a brand-new claim for tax credits. The only exception is for certain people who are granted refugee status. Instead, people are expected to claim UC or pension credit depending on their circumstances.  Currently, existing tax credit claimants can continue to renew their tax credits and/or add extra elements to their claim. See our existing tax credit claimants page for more information. Our understanding is that the majority of existing tax credit claimants will move to either universal credit or pension credit by the end of the 2024/25 tax year. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section. 

Updated on 6 April 2024

Payments of universal credit

Universal credit is a monthly award and payments are generally made monthly.  In Northern Ireland, payments are usually made twice monthly. There are a number of alternative payment options available depending on your circumstances.

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How universal credit is paid

Universal credit is usually paid directly to you, the claimant. If you have a joint claim, both claimants nominate which one of you receives the payment. In some cases DWP can split the payment or decide which of you receives the payment. You are responsible for ensuring you pay your rent to your landlord but DWP can pay the housing element part of the award separately and directly to your landlord (see alternative payment arrangements below).

Payments are made by automatic transfer to the bank account that you choose. You must give DWP your bank account details for your universal credit payments when you make your claim and you are responsible for telling DWP about any changes to those details.

If you are unable to use mainstream banking or credit union accounts, you should discuss the position with DWP to see if your payments can be made some other way.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, there are some payment flexibilities that allow for different payments to be made.

Universal credit payments are usually made monthly, seven days after the end of the assessment period. In Northern Ireland, payments are usually made twice a month unless you ask for monthly payments.

The first payment

For new universal credit claims, you may need to wait up to five weeks after making your claim to receive your first payment. This is because universal credit payments are usually made seven days after the end of the monthly assessment period.

If you need financial support while waiting for your first payment, you can ask for an advance payment, personal budgeting support or, in Northern Ireland, a grant from the universal credit contingency fund. A discretionary housing payment from your local authority may also be available.

Note that in Northern Ireland, universal credit payments are normally made twice-monthly rather than monthly however the first payment is still made five weeks after you submit your claim.

Advance payments

DWP staff should offer an advance payment but regardless of whether the advance is offered, you can ask for an advance payment at your universal credit claim interview or you can request an advance payment through your universal credit online account. The advance payments can be up to 100% of your potential entitlement but they will only be granted where DWP consider your universal credit claim looks likely to result in an award.

The advance payment is a loan from DWP and you must repay it. This is usually done by DWP deducting the agreed repayment amount from your subsequent payments of universal credit.

Advances can also be available where you have a financial need after you have reported a change of circumstances.

Alternative payment arrangements

Universal credit is usually paid once per month, or twice monthly in Northern Ireland. If you are unable to manage your single monthly payment, you may be able to ask for an alternative payment arrangement. There are 3 types of alternative payment arrangements:

  • Paying rent to your landlord directly, known as a managed payment
  • Split payment of your award between you and your partner
  • More frequent payments – such as twice a month or four times in a month.

If you are in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can ask for these alternative payment arrangements but there are also flexible payment arrangements that you can access (see below).

DWP will consider alternative payment arrangements if you struggle to manage the single monthly payment and, as a result of that, there is a risk of financial harm to you and/or your family.

Otherwise you can request an alternative payment arrangement by speaking to your work coach or calling the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

Landlords can also request payment of rent directly from your universal credit by filling in form UC47.

You can read more about alternative payment arrangements on GOV.UK.

Scotland – flexible payments

If you live in Scotland and claim universal credit, you have some additional choices about your payments. These are sometimes called 'Scottish flexibilities' or 'Scottish choices'. You cannot have Scottish flexibilities/choices and an alternative payment arrangement at the same time.

You can choose to:

  • Be paid monthly or twice monthly
  • Have your housing costs paid to yourself or your landlord

According to the Scottish Government website, if you are eligible, you will be offered the choice after you have received your first universal credit payment. This means the offer will be made at the start of the second assessment period, when DWP know what your expected universal credit award is. The offer should be made in your universal credit online account.

If you apply for an alternative payment arrangement prior to the start of the second assessment period, then you will not be offered the corresponding choice.

If you do not make a choice within 60 days of the offer being presented, it will be removed from your online account but you will still be able to request it at any time using your universal credit online journal.

There is more information on the Scottish Government website.

Northern Ireland – flexible payments

In Northern Ireland, you will normally be paid your universal credit twice a month but you but can ask to have it paid monthly.

There is more information on the NIDirect website.

Budgeting support

Personal Budgeting Support is designed to help you adapt to universal credit payments by providing you with support if you need help managing your money. This includes money advice and alternative payment arrangements (see above).

If you feel you need help with managing money, you should speak to your work coach who will direct you to appropriate support.

More information is available in the DWP guidance on Help with managing your money.

Third party deduction

Third party deductions, sanctions and alternative payment arrangements can all affect the amount of a payment from a universal credit award. Conditionality sanctions are deducted from your universal credit adjusted award and then amounts for third party deductions (TPDs) and alternative payment arrangements (APA) are deducted from the overall universal credit award, not from individual elements that have been used as part of the process to calculate that award. If the level of your universal credit payment that is left after deduction of sanctions and third party deductions is less than the total value of the housing costs element, DWP will pay remaining amount of universal credit to your landlord as an alternative payment arrangement.

There is more information about deductions that can be taken from payments of universal credit on the GOV.UK website.

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