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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-couples-an-introduction/universal-credit-further-information-for-couples
1. Definition of a couple
The Department for Work and Pensions counts 2 people as being in a couple if they live in the same household and are:
- married to each other
- civil partners of each other
- living together as if they were married
2. Claiming Universal Credit
If you are part of a couple you and your partner will need to make a joint claim for Universal Credit. Only one member of the couple will complete the claim form, but that person will need to enter details for both of you.
If one of you isn’t eligible, their capital and income may still be taken into account.
If you cannot claim online, face to face and telephone support will be available at your local council or your local jobcentre.
3. Who can claim?
To claim Universal Credit as a couple, both you and your partner must:
- be living in England, Scotland or Wales
- live at the same address
- be married to each other, civil partners of each other, or living together as if you were married
- not be in full–time advanced education (except in certain circumstances such as if you are responsible for a child, or receive certain disability benefits and have a limited capacity for work)
- not have joint savings or capital over £16,000
- be 18 or over
Or be 16 or over if you:
- have limited capability for work or are awaiting assessment to see whether you have limited capability for work
- are a carer for a severely disabled person
- are responsible for a child, or are part of a couple and your partner is responsible for a child
- are pregnant and it is 11 weeks or less until your due date, or were pregnant and it is 15 weeks or less since your due date
- are without parental support
If you’ve reached State Pension Credit qualifying age you can claim if you live with a partner who is eligible for Universal Credit and is under State Pension Credit qualifying age – you’ll need to make a joint claim.
If you prefer, you can make a claim for Pension Credit as a couple instead.
Universal Credit is being introduced in stages and other eligibility conditions may apply. Whether you can claim it will depend on where you live and your personal circumstances.
If you have children you may be able to make a Universal Credit claim if you live in certain parts of the country.
4. If one of you is working
You can claim Universal Credit if you and/or your partner are in employed or self-employed work and are on a low income.
If you are unsure about your eligibility please complete an online application form. You’ll be asked more questions to check your eligibility when you make a claim for Universal Credit.
5. If one of you is currently on benefits
If you or your partner are getting any of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit, these other benefits will stop when you make your Universal Credit claim as a couple.
If either of you are claiming tax credits you should contact the Tax Credit Helpline or write to the Tax Credit Office to tell them you have claimed Universal Credit as a couple.
This is because you cannot claim Universal Credit and tax credits at the same time.
Tax Credit helpline
Telephone: 0345 300 3900
Monday to Saturday, 8am to 10pm
Sundays 9am to 10pm
6. Claimant Commitment
A Claimant Commitment is your record of the responsibilities that you have accepted in return for receiving Universal Credit and the consequences of not meeting them.
Your Universal Credit payments may be cut if you don’t meet your responsibilities.
If you claim Universal Credit as a couple both of you will need to accept a Claimant Commitment. You will each have your own Claimant Commitment, and yours may be affected if your partner starts work or their circumstances change.
If you do not do what you’ve agreed to in your Claimant Commitment to find work, for example, fail to attend appointments or turn down job offers you may receive a sanction.
A sanction is a reduction in your benefit which is imposed if we think you have not completed a mandatory activity you agreed on your Claimant Commitment and you can’t give a good reason to explain why. Sanctions are a last resort and you will always be asked for your reasons for your actions before a decision is made.
If a sanction is applied to your Universal Credit we will tell you how much you will lose and for how long.
8. Receiving Universal Credit payments
As a couple you will receive one monthly direct payment. This will be paid into a suitable account of your choice, which could be a joint account or a single account in either your name or your partner’s name.
Ideally your account should allow you to make automated payments out of the account – such as direct debits or standing orders – for bills such as rent, gas and electricity.
This will help you prepare for and manage the world of work as you get used to handling your money on a monthly basis. A range of support services are available if you need help with budgeting and managing your money.
For more information on budgeting support the Money Advice Service have an online money manager support tool which provides free and impartial budgeting information and advice based on your personal circumstances.
9. How is the payment made up?
Your Universal Credit payment will be made up of different amounts depending on your circumstances. It can include support for the cost of housing, children and childcare, as well as support for disabled people and carers.
10. My partner won’t allow me access to any of the payment
If you have any concerns about accessing your payments and need to discuss alternative payment arrangements a Universal Credit helpline is available.
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Alternative payment arrangements are considered on a case-by-case basis and assessed on their individual merits.
This allows for the household payment to be split where this is the right approach for you and your family. Wherever possible, these alternative payment arrangements will be temporary.
11. Looking for work
If both of you are unemployed and able to work, you will both be expected to look for work. You should think of jobseeking as your job.
You will each be expected to look or prepare for work for 35 hours a week, depending on your circumstances.
Job-related activities that count towards your 35 hours can include:
- searching for jobs
- applying for jobs
- travelling to interviews
- visiting potential employers
- meeting your work coach
- activities to improve your jobseeking
- taking part in training courses
What you’re asked to do will take into account your circumstances, such as if you have children or other caring commitments.
If you or your partner have a health condition or disability which affects the amount or type of work you can do, that will be taken into account to decide the job-related activities you’ll be expected to do.
12. If you have a health condition or disability which means you cannot work
If you or your partner have a health condition or disability which means you cannot work at the moment and you have (or are intending to get) a Statement of Fitness for Work from your GP, that will be taken into account.
Even so, you may be required to attend appointments to discuss the activities you are able to do.
This is intended to support you to start work or get ready for work in the future, if and when you are able.
13. If you are caring for a severely disabled person
If you are caring for a severely disabled person or persons for a total of 35 hours or more per week you will not be expected to look for work or do job-related activities.
A severely disabled person means someone who receives Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Armed Forces Independence Payment at middle or higher rates.
This also applies if the severely disabled person has claimed one of these benefits and is awaiting the outcome.
14. Support to find a job
With Universal Credit you’ll get help identifying your skills and a clear job search plan to help you get back to work more quickly.
The role of your jobcentre adviser changes under Universal Credit as they become your individual work coach. They will set you challenging targets to make sure you are doing everything you can to find a job.
This will include activities such as getting help with drafting your CV, applying for jobs using find a job or contacting employers directly. In return you will need to take personal responsibility for finding work.
It is up to you to do everything you can to support yourself and your family.
You can apply for a wider range of jobs and get back to work sooner because Universal Credit tops up your earnings if you’re on a low income. Unlike Jobseeker’s Allowance your payment won’t stop when you work more than 16 hours a week. This will help ensure you are better off in work.
You can take temporary jobs to help you gain valuable skills and avoid CV gaps because with Universal Credit it’s quick and easy to resume your claim.
15. What happens if my partner or I get a job?
You must tell the Department for Work and Pensions when your circumstances change, including when you start work, earn more or change the number of hours you work.
Depending on your circumstances, you could still get support and advice on increasing your earnings when you’re in work.
You can earn a certain amount before your Universal Credit is reduced if you or your partner are either:
- responsible for a child or young person
- living with a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work
This is called a ‘work allowance’. Your work allowance is lower if you get help with housing costs.
|Your circumstances||Monthly work allowance|
|You get help with housing costs||£198|
|You don’t get help with housing costs||£409|
If you don’t tell the Department for Work and Pensions that you have started work, they won’t know why you are no longer attending your appointments, and will assume that you no longer wish to receive Universal Credit.
This may mean that you miss out on benefit payments that you are entitled to.
16. Universal Credit earnings taper rate
Once you earn more than your work allowance your Universal Credit payments will be reduced at a steady rate. This is known as the Universal Credit earnings taper.
The Universal Credit earnings taper rate is currently 63%. This means that for every £1 you earn over your work allowance (if you are eligible for one) your Universal Credit will be reduced by 63p.
This amount will be deducted automatically from your Universal Credit payment.
17. Change of circumstances
In Universal Credit, couples make a joint claim to Universal Credit and both are responsible for meeting the entitlement conditions, reporting any changes in their circumstances and ensuring that all information relating to their claim is current and correct.
If you have a change in your circumstances you must either report it:
- through your online Universal Credit account, if you have one
- to the Universal Credit helpline
Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm