universal credit logoThe first Universal Credit payments are expected around 22 April for those who applied during the first week of the stay-at-home measures introduced by the government due to the Coronavirus outbreak. 


Citizens Advice has set out the five steps to follow to understand how Universal Credit is calculated:

  1. Look up your standard amount. This varies by age and if you’re making a joint claim. Someone who is single and aged 25 or over, for example, will get £409.89 a month.

  2. Add any other amounts that can be claimed. These are called ‘elements’ and include things such as housing or childcare. How much you get will depend on your circumstances, e.g. a ‘child element’ for your oldest child if they were born before 6 April 2017 is £281.25 a month.

  3. Factor in wages and savings. You'll get less Universal Credit if you’re earning wages, have other income, or if you have more than £6,000 in savings.
    For each full £1 you earn, your Universal Credit reduces by 63p. But you may be allowed to earn a certain amount without reducing your Universal Credit payment, such as if you're responsible for a child. This is called a 'work allowance'.

  4. Take away any other reductions. This could include repaying an advance payment, which is a loan that you can ask for if you won’t have enough money to get by until your first payment. Other deductions could include paying back debt, such as utility bills.

  5. Check if the Benefit Cap applies. There is a limit on the amount of benefits you can get. E.g. if you’re single and live outside of London it’s £257.69 a week.

Kate Smith, Senior Benefits Expert Citizens Advice, said:

“Understanding how much Universal Credit you’ll be paid can be very confusing, as it can fluctuate from month to month, depending on how much you’re earning.

“If you’re unsure how Universal Credit works, visit the Citizens Advice website for more information on how your payment is calculated, and you can speak to an adviser online or on the phone if you need more help.” 

Here’s an example of how Universal Credit can fluctuate for someone who has been furloughed: 

Zoe, 40, is a single parent with an eight-year-old daughter. She earns £1,200 after tax each month and gets paid on the last day of the month. The rent on their two-bedroom council flat is £450 a month.  

On 16 March Zoe’s employer said she would not be able to continue working, and so she applied for Universal Credit that day. Her Universal Credit standard allowance is £409.89, and she will also be entitled to £281.25 child element, and £450 housing costs element which comes to a maximum entitlement of £1,141.14 a month.

She has a work allowance of £292 because she has a child, but this is the lower rate because her Universal Credit includes a housing cost element.

  • Zoe’s first Universal Credit assessment period was 16th March to 15th April. During this time, she was paid £650 on 31 March for the work she did that month. The first £292 of her earnings are ignored due to her work allowance, leaving £358 which is taken into account. Her Universal Credit is reduced by 63% of £358 which is £225.54.

    This means Zoe will be paid Universal Credit of £915.60 (£1,141.14 - £225.54) around one week after the end of the assessment period, approximately 22 April. 

  • Zoe’s second assessment period runs from 16th April to 15th May, and it is assessed based on her earnings of £1,520, which includes arrears back to 16 March under the Job Retention Scheme. Her work allowance means £292 of the earnings are ignored leaving £1,228. Zoe’s Universal Credit is reduced by 63% of £1,228 which is £773.64.

    This leaves Zoe with £367.50 Universal Credit, which is paid around 22nd May. 

  • Zoe’s third assessment period runs from 16 May to 15 June and is based on her earnings of £1,010. Her work allowance of £292 is ignored leaving £718. Her Universal Credit is reduced by 63% of £718 which is £452.34.

    This leaves Zoe with £688.80 Universal Credit which is paid around 22nd June.

If Zoe had taken a £600 advance payment to tide her over after applying for Universal Credit she could also have to repay £50 a month, because the Department for Work and Pensions usually tries to recover the advance over 12 months. 

As a result her April Universal Credit payment would be reduced from £915.60 to £865.60, her May payment would be reduced from £367.50 to £317.50, and her June payment would be reduced from £688.80 to £638.80.

For more information on how Universal Credit is calculated see Citizens Advice - Check how much Universal Credit you’ll get and Benefit calculators: what benefits can you get.

If you need more information or advice about how much Universal Credit you will get,

you can contact us:

by phone on 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, closed on bank holidays);

or by email.

Advice and support if you want to apply for Universal credit:

If you're seeking to make a new claim for Universal Credit and need advice or support to apply, you can call our freephone Universal Credit Help to Claim line on 0800 144 8 444.

Our Help to Claim service can support you in the early stages of your Universal Credit claim, from the application, through to your first payment.

Help to Claim is a dedicated service from Citizens Advice. It’s free, independent and confidential. Our trained advisers can help with things like how to gather evidence for your application.

Call us for free: 0800 144 8 444
Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm


First published 21 April 2020.


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