Ask Max - Universal Credit special

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Every issue our customer services manager, Maxine, gets to the bottom of your questions and enquiries. If you have a question please email it to or write to us at the usual address. Don’t forget to include your name and the name of the town you live in.

I have just lost my job, I need to apply for benefits – last time I lost my job it was just normal benefits and job seekers that I had to apply for. I’ve been told I need to apply for Universal Credit this time. What’s the difference and how do I do it?

Anonymous, Grantham

Universal Credit is a benefit for people of working age who need help with living and housing costs.

It replaces the following benefits: housing benefit, job seekers allowance (income-based), employment and support allowance (income related), income support and child and working tax credits.

The idea is that you will receive one lump sum payment each month, instead of several different payments. It will be paid directly into your bank account.

To apply you will need to go online at - here you will find a full list of all the details you will need to fill in the application and the link to begin your application process.

If you don’t provide the correct information it might affect how much you get paid, which could lead to rent arrears and other debt.

I’ve heard it takes 6 weeks from application to payment – so how am I supposed to pay my rent when I’m switched to Universal Credit?

Sheryl, Nuneaton

Our experience of Universal Credit so far has shown that the most difficult thing about moving to the new benefit is this delay in receiving payments. On average it takes around 5 weeks but it has been known to take longer, even 7 or 8 weeks in some cases. This is why it’s absolutely critical to prepare.

If you are in work then you will need to set aside extra money from your salary to cover the shortfall. If you can’t do that you need to ask your work coach at the job centre about getting an advance payment.

We are also encouraging all customers to get their accounts in credit prior to applying for and receiving Universal Credit. You can talk to our income management team on 01332 614 900 (income enquiries onlyabout a payment plan in order to do this.

If you won’t have enough money to live on or pay your rent while you wait for your first payment, you can also request an advance payment from your work coach. This is essentially a loan that you’ll be required to pay back out of your Universal Credit entitlement.

My housing benefit is paid directly to Derwent Living at the moment. How do I pay my rent to you when I get my Universal Credit payment?

Liam, Chellaston

Once you move to Universal Credit, you will have to pay your rent yourself. The best way to do this is to set up a Direct Debit, to start on the date you will be receiving your payments.

This means the money will come directly to us each month and you won’t have to worry about remembering to pay us.

If you are not sure how much rent you should be paying, your rent officer can help. If you have arrears an additional payment will be needed, but this can also be worked out with your rent officer.

You can set up a Direct Debit by visiting the direct debit setup page.

Other top tips

If you have ANY change in circumstances, you must go online straight away and update your Universal Credit information. This includes things like a change of rent amount, change of income or the number of people in your household.

We have lots of Universal Credit information on our website.

Other useful websites with Universal Credit info are: