factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“I will have to wait at least 5 weeks after I claim universal credit before I am paid anything”

The short answer:

Not necessarily - you can ask for an advance of your payment - but it has to be repaid

If you are in financial need because you are waiting for a decision on your claim, you may be able to get a short-term advance if the decision-maker considers it likely that you are entitled to the benefit.

You can ask for an advance as soon as you make your claim for universal credit. You can do this by - 

  • speaking to your work coach at the jobcentre;
  • applying through your online account - click on the 'apply for an advance' button;
  • calling the universal credit helpline (0800 328 5644).

NB - if the end of your first assessment period has passed (one month after your date of claim) you can only request an advance by ringing the helpline.

If the decision-maker does not think you will be entitled to an award of universal credit, then the advance will be refused. There is no right of appeal against a refusal although you can ask for your application to be looked at again.

Tip: If you have been refused an advance payment because the decision-maker thinks you will not be entitled to universal credit, ask why they think you will not be entitled and try and provide information to show that is not the case.

You can be awarded an advance of up to 100% of your estimated monthly universal credit payment.

You will have to repay the advance. Deductions are usually made from the day you get your first payment although you can ask for your repayments to be delayed for up to three months if you can't afford them. You will need to explain why you can't afford them. Advances are normally recovered over 12 months.

It is planned that, from October 2021, advance payments can be recovered over 16 months instead of 12.

In addition, if you were on housing benefit just before you started your universal credit claim you will continue to get housing benefit for a further two weeks. This is non-repayable and is not taken into account when your universal credit award is calculated. Any reduction that was applied in your housing benefit due to your income will not apply for the two week run-on.

It is planned that, from July 2020, a similar two week run-on of income support, income-related employment and support allowance, or income-based jobseeker's allowance will also be paid if you are in receipt of one of these benefits at the point you claim universal credit.

Law and case law:

Regulations 3 to 10 of the Social Security (Payments on Account of Benefit) Regulations 2013 provide for advance payments.

Regulation 8A of the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 provides for the transitional housing benefit payment, 

Official guidance:

Universal credit advances from gov.uk

Advances - New Claim from the House of Commons Library (last updated March 2019)

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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