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 age are not affected by 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 and 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.

Find out how to apply for Universal Credit

Resident support outreach team

The council has appointed a team of outreach officers who will be working to support residents making the move to Universal Credit. These officers will be in various locations across the borough. Please get in contact via the referral form or email address below and we will let you know the nearest location to you.

Refer yourself or someone else for support from the team now.

For more information or to book an appointment with the team please contact: lbthresidentsupport@towerhamlets.gov.uk

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.

Citizen Access - Benefits

Access to your Benefit claim information online

This service will enable you to:

  • See the details used in your benefit calculation
  • See when your next payment of benefit is and how much it will be.
  • See a summary of your entitlements and be able to see further details.
  • You can also use this service to tell us of any changes. 

You will also be able to access your notification letters online. This requires a simple registration process. After you have registered:

  • You will be able to see letters that are produced after the date you enrolled.
  • Every time there is a change to your benefit and a new letter is produced, we will send you an email to remind you to login to view these letters.
  • These letters will remain available on-line to you for six months. And you will be able to download or print a copy for your records.
  • You will still have access beyond this six-month period by contacting us.  

What you need for online access?

For online access you will need to enter details about your claim that are personal to you.

  • First and last name
  • Date of birth
  • National Insurance number
  • Address and post code
  • Housing Benefit Claim number
  • Email address
  • And an Access Key - this is a security PIN that will be emailed to you. 

Access the online system now

For existing claimants

If you are already getting benefit and have an email address you can get on-line access now. From the service you will also have the option to access your letters on-line. Use the link below

Visit the Citizens Access - Benefits website.


Action will be taken against unauthorised use of this service.

You MUST NOT use this service if you are not eligible/entitled to do so.

For New claimants

Once we process your claim and you have provided us with your email address, we will notify you by email to access the service. Note that your information is only available after your claim is successful.

After that, you will always be able to access your details by returning to this web page  and using the link above.

Housing Benefit - Full Case Reviews

The council must review claims where Housing Benefit is being paid. This review helps us to ensure that we pay you the correct entitlement of benefit.  

When we need to review your claim, we will send you a letter or email inviting you, to complete our on-line form.  

The form will ask you to confirm the details we hold on your claim and you will need to provide with evidence of this. The form will also allow you to inform us of any changes. 

The online form is the best way for you to provide the information we need. You will have 30 days from the date of the invite to complete the form.  

We will need details of the rent you pay, the people who live in your household, and the income of everyone in your household. It may be best to have this information ready before you start to fill the form. 

When you complete the on-line form, we will update your claim and then let you know of the new amount of benefit. 

Remember to tell us of all changes. To start your review please have the invite letter ready. 

To log into the on-line form, we will ask for the following information to confirm your identity:  

  • Your surname or last name
  • National Insurance Number (NINO)
  • Date of birth
  • Postcode
  • Your Benefit Claim Number
  • Your Access Key - this is a security number sent in the invite and is only for you to use. 

If you need help with this review please contact 020 7364 5000.

When you have the above information please complete the Full Case Review Form

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

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.

Back to the top


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 entitled 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 submit evidence documents online within a few days of making your claim whenever possible. 

Back to the top

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. Our address is:

Benefits Service

Tower Hamlets Town Hall
160 Whitechapel Road
E1 1BJ

Telephone: 020 7364 5000
Fax: 020 7364 7048

Email: benefits@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Back to the top

Related services