Information on financial support and benefits available for kinship carers to help pay for the cost of caring for a child.
Universal Credit for kinship carers
What Universal Credit is, who can apply, what the rates are, how caring for children affects what you get and how to apply.
Universal Credit is a payment from the government to help you cover your living costs if you’re of working age.
You can get Universal Credit if you’re a kinship carer and:
- out of work
- in work but on a low income
- caring for children
Universal Credit is a single means-tested benefit that replaced 6 previous benefits:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
If you receive one or more of the above benefits, you should get specialist advice before you claim Universal Credit, because you could be financially worse off.
If you claim Universal Credit, you will not be able to make a new claim for any of the benefits above.
Go to your local Citizens Advice Bureau to speak with a benefits specialist who can do a ‘better off’ benefit calculation for you.
Unless you have had a change in your circumstances, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you to tell you if you have to move over to Universal Credit.
Who can get Universal Credit
Many people of working age are eligible to claim Universal Credit if they are in work, on a low income or out of work.
You should also:
- be a resident in the UK
- be over 18 years old but under State Pension age
- have money and savings of less than £16,000
If you live with a partner, you claim Universal Credit for your household. If you or your partner are getting any benefits that Universal Credit replaces, these may stop once one of you claims Universal Credit.
If you or your partner has reached State Pension age
If only one of you has reached State Pension age, you and your partner can still claim Universal Credit as a couple. Your Universal Credit claim will stop when you both reach State Pension age.
If you’re getting Pension Credit, it will stop if you or your partner make a claim for Universal Credit. You’ll usually be better off staying on Pension Credit. You can check using a benefits calculator.
If you are disabled
You could get an extra payment of Universal Credit to cover your circumstances if you are disabled. You are also entitled to claim other benefits, like Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance, which will not affect Universal Credit payments.
If you are currently receiving a disability premium (an extra amount of money added to your benefits because you are disabled), you may be able to get ‘transitional protection’ when you move over to Universal Credit. You may receive this automatically, but some people will need to apply.
If you are 16 or 17 years old
In some situations, you may qualify for Universal Credit if you are 16 or 17 years old.
Universal Credit rates
Because Universal Credit can be claimed by a range of people in different circumstances, there are a number of rates you could receive, depending on your situation.
Your Universal Credit claim is calculated monthly and is known as your monthly assessment period. The amount you get may change if you circumstances change during each month – for example, how much you earn.
Allowances and amounts
You receive a standard monthly allowance for your household.
Depending on your circumstances, you could receive extra amounts if:
- you have children
- your children are disabled or severely disabled
- you are disabled or severely disabled
- you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week who receives a disability or health-related benefit
How your job could affect Universal Credit
Particular rules apply to your Universal Credit payment if you have a paid job. If your earnings vary month to month, your Universal Credit allowance and the amount you get paid could change too.
Using a benefits calculator can help you to see how your earnings could affect the benefits you receive.
How to apply for Universal Credit
You can apply for Universal Credit online and you will need to set up a Universal Credit account.
If you can’t apply online, you can call the free Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644, or 0800 328 1744 if you speak Welsh.
Citizens Advice can support you to make a Universal Credit claim through their Help to Claim service.
Ready to apply for Universal Credit? Start your claim
Your claimant commitment
Claiming Universal Credit brings with it a set of responsibilities that relate to finding work. Your commitment depends on your personal circumstances and the age of the children you are caring for as a kinship carer.
If you have taken on a relative’s or friend’s child as a kinship carer, you will not have to look for work for the first twelve months, whatever the child’s age. You will only have to attend work-focused interviews.
Childcare costs and Universal Credit
You could get help with your childcare costs if you are on a low income or claim Universal Credit. If you’re eligible for Universal Credit, you can claim up to 85% of your childcare costs. You or your partner normally need to be working to qualify.