If you have been working and you are thinking about claiming benefits, claiming Universal Credit is not your only option. It is important to understand that if you are in receipt of Working Tax Credits or Child Tax Credits that if you make a claim for UC you will never be able to go back to the old system and you may be financially worse off.

It might be best to consider claiming a contributory benefit such as ‘new style’ Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) or ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) rather than Universal Credit.

You may be eligible for a contributory benefit if you have:

  1. Earned £118 (‘the lower earnings limit’) a week for at least 26 weeks in at least one of the two previous tax years (2017-2018, 2018-2019) and
  2. Paid Class 1 National Insurance on the equivalent of 50 weeks’ work at the ‘lower earnings limit’ (£5900) during each of the two previous tax years.

You can check your contribution record online at GOV.UK. You can also ask for a printed statement by phone or post - check the contact details on GOV.UK.

You can usually get ‘new style’ JSA for up to 6 months if you have made the above National Insurance contributions and:

  • if you're 18 or over and under State Pension age;
  • working less than 16 hours a week
  • available to work full time
  • actively looking for full-time work
  • not in full-time education
  • not claiming Income Support
  • don’t have an illness or disability which means you can’t work

You can’t normally get JSA if you’re under 18, but there are some exceptions.

You may be able to get ‘new style’ ESA if you have made the above National Insurance contributions and:

  • you have a health condition that makes it difficult or impossible to work
  • you’re not getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer (but you can apply up to 3 months before your SSP ends - if you get ESA, it will be paid as soon as your SSP ends)
  • you’re not old enough to get the State Pension
  • you don’t work, are going to stop work or the work you do will be ‘permitted work’ when you claim ESA
  • you live in the UK.

If you need help with your rent you can also apply for Universal Credit

If you receive Housing Benefit or a Housing Element in Universal Credit you might be able to
apply to Isle of Wight Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

Please ring the Universal Credit helpline - 0800 328 5644 or email [email protected] for a session with a qualified Adviser or consult the Child Poverty Action Group website for more information.