Housing Benefit

Universal Credit

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit (UC) is a new means tested benefit designed to replace several existing “legacy benefits” for working age residents. The legacy benefits being replaced are:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Jobseekers Allowance (Income Based)
  • Employment Support Allowance (Income Related)
  • Tax Credits
  • Income Support.

People of pension are not affected by Universal Credit.

Who is affected?

Currently most working people who need to make a new claim for any of the legacy benefits listed above will have to claim Universal Credit instead.

However, families who have more than two dependent children are currently unable to claim Universal Credit. These families will still be able to make a new claim for any of the legacy benefits listed above.

If you currently receiveany of the legacy benefits, you will continue to do so until there is a change in your circumstances that requires you to make a new claim:

  • For example, if you currently claim Jobseekers Allowance, when you start work, instead if claiming Working Tax Credit, you will be required to claim Universal Credit.
  • Similarly, if you get Jobseekers Allowance and are expecting your first child, when the child is born, instead of claiming Child Tax Credit, you will need to claim Universal Credit.

How does Universal Credit work?

Universal Credit is assessed and paid by the Department for Work and Pensions. It has two elements:

  • Living Costs - which replaces JSA/IS/ESA and Tax Credits.
  • Housing Costs - which replaces Housing Benefit for those pay rent for their accommodation

The two elements are calculated together and paid as a single monthly payment. This is usually paid directly to the claimant, but there is scope to have the rent deducted from the monthly Universal Credit payment and paid direct to the landlord.

People receiving Universal Credit who live in either:

  • Accommodation where the rent includes charges for care an support or
  • Temporary homeless accommodation provided by the council.

Will only get Universal Credit for their Living Costs and will need to claim Housing Benefit to help pay their rent.

Is Universal Credit available for people who work?

Universal Credit is available regardless of whether or not you are working. It is means tested which means the amount a person gets will depend on a number of factors, including family size, disability and any other income or savings they may have.

For those who are working, Universal Credit replaces Working Tax Credit and the amount they earn will be used to help assess how much UC they are entitled to.

Housing Benefit

Housing benefit is a social security benefit that can help people on low incomes with their rent. The amount of housing benefit awarded varies according to the income, savings, rent and personal circumstances of the claimant and anyone else living in his/her household.

Although the scheme is administered by local councils, the rules used to work out entitlement are decided by central government. Tower Hamlets benefits service has no discretion to make changes to those rules.

Absence from home

You may still be entitled to Housing Benefit if you are away from home for a temporary period. However, if you are going abroad, Housing Benefit can only normally be awarded for absences not exceeding four weeks. If you have any queries please contact us.

Useful Housing Benefit information

  • Find out more about changes to housing benefit from April 2013
  • Find out more on the changes to benefits for claimants living with other adults and renting privately (Local Housing Allowance).
  • For more information read the changes to Housing Benefit from April 2012
  • For more information read the changes to Working Tax Credit from April 2012 
  • You can read more on the changes to housing benefit for 25 to 34 year olds living alone in private accommodation. 

How to claim

If you are in any of the groups exempt from claiming Universal credit Rent element and you have a liability to pay rent, you can make a new claim for Housing Benefit.

You need to complete a Tower Hamlets full claim form. The claim form must include full details of the claimant’s family, household composition, income and savings. You need to supply original evidence to support this.

After a claim has been made and an award started it is not normally necessary to complete another full form unless there is a break in your entitlement. 

The quickest way to make a claim is to use our online form. You only need to answer questions relevant to your circumstances.

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The benefit rules exclude some people from entitlement to housing benefit, even when they have a low income and are liable for rent.

If you are entitlteld to claim Universal Credit rent element, you are unable to claim Housing Benefits.

If you are excluded we will write to you and tell you why.

Information and evidence needed

Because housing benefit is a means tested benefit, Tower Hamlets Benefits Service needs to know about all your income and savings, the income and savings of your partner and in some cases the income and savings of other people who live in your household. Examples of the information and evidence needed are provided on the claim form.

We can get evidence of some benefits directly from the Department for Work and Pensions - and you will not have to provide this yourself unless there is a problem.  In addition, anyone already getting Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker's Allowance or Pension Guarantee Credit will not have to provide evidence of any other income and savings they have.

We need evidence of your income, savings and rent in order to deal with your claim correctly and promptly. You should aim to provide the evidence within a few days of making your claim whenever possible. 

The easiest way to provide the evidence is to take your original documents to your nearest One Stop Shop where they can be photocopied and verified by council officers. We cannot accept photocopies of original documents taken by claimants or anyone who is not authorised to do so.

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Further information

For more information visit the Department for work and pensions website.

How to contact us

Tower Hamlets operates a centralised benefit claims processing service and a dedicated benefits call centre both based at the Town Hall where all postal, email and telephone enquiries should be directed. Home visits can be arranged if you are housebound and do not have anyone who can help you.


Benefits Service
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Mulberry Place
5 Clove Crescent
London E14 2BG

Telephone: 020 7364 5001   
Fax: 020 7364 7048

Email: benefits@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Personal callers should visit their nearest One Stop Shop to hand in claim forms, obtain receipts and have original evidence photocopied.

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