Can you get Universal Credit as a Fresh Graduate?

Can you get Universal Credit as a Fresh Graduate?

Can you get Universal Credits as a Fresh Graduate?

If you’re struggling for work and income as a student or graduate, Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance could help tide you over. Here’s how to check if you’re eligible and apply.

Nobody leaves university hoping to have difficulty finding a job as a graduate, but sometimes these things are out of your control.

And, of course, it’s not precisely plain-sailing while you’re a student either – the perfect storm of an insufficient Maintenance Loan and struggling to work around your studies means your time at university could be one long battle to get by.

Fortunately, you may be able to claim benefits to help fund your living costs. While Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance have been criticized for not providing enough financial support, the money they do provide could prove invaluable for you. Read on to find out if you’re eligible, plus how to apply and how much you could get.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a relatively new system, combining several different benefits that previously operated independently. These ‘legacy benefits’ were:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit.

Note that there are three types of Jobseeker’s Allowance, only one of which (income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance) now comes under the umbrella of Universal Credit. We’ll explain the others later.

What are the benefits?

People often use the terms ‘benefits’ and ‘Universal Credit interchangeably and, while this is sometimes accurate, they do refer to different things.

Benefits describe any type of payment from the government that’s designed to help people on a low income, or those with specific needs or circumstances (like having children, being a carer, or having a disability).

Universal Credit is just one type of benefit. Although it now includes some of the most well-known benefits, like Income Support, there are other payments that it doesn’t have.

Who is eligible for Universal Credit?

We wish we could give you a simple answer to this, we really do. But, unfortunately, there are so many stipulations and exceptions over who can claim what, that it’s borderline impossible to quickly summarise who’s entitled to Universal Credit.

That said, there are a few basic criteria that, if you meet them, could allow you to claim Universal Credit:

  • You live in the UK
  • You’re aged 18 or over (although there are some exceptions for 16 and 17-year-olds)
  • You or your partner are under the State Pension age
  • You’re on a low income or out of work
  • You and your partner’s combined savings and investments come to £16,000 or less.

Beyond this, there are dozens of reasons why you may or may not be eligible for Universal Credit. Some more of the main ones are listed on this government page, although you may be best just skipping the middle man and using a benefits calculator.

Frustratingly, the government advises that if you’re a student, benefits calculators won’t give you an accurate result – so read on for more details on how you could be eligible as a student.

Regardless of your student status, you’ll also need to sign a Claimant Commitment to start receiving Universal Credit.

A Claimant Commitment is essentially an agreement between you and your local Jobcentre, outlining measures that you need to take to show that you’re willing and able to work.

It will be tailored to your situation (taking into account factors such as having a disability or being responsible for children) and could require you to complete activities like creating a CV or applying for jobs. You can find out more about Claimant Commitments here.

In the majority of cases, full-time students can’t claim Universal Credit. However, there are some individual circumstances that mean you may be eligible, including if:

  • You’re aged 21 or under, studying for a course which leads to a qualification at the level of A-Level or below, AND you don’t have parental support
  • You’re responsible for a child
  • You live with your partner and they’re eligible to receive Universal Credit
  • You’re receiving Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, or Armed Forces Independence Payment, AND you have a disability limiting your capacity to work.

If you’re a part-time student, your chances of getting Universal Credit are a little better, although there are no guarantees.

You need to be able to prove that you’re still able to satisfy any work-related requirements that are relevant to you receiving Universal Credit (this will likely form part of your Claimant Commitment) – in other words, that your part-time course actually is part-time, and not so intense that it will impact on your ability to work.

Tuition Fee Loans, as well as Special Support Loans and Grants, won’t affect the amount of Universal Credit you’re entitled to.

Can graduates get Universal Credit?

As a graduate, you should be eligible for Universal Credit as long as you meet the standard requirements that apply to all applicants.

Don’t worry if your graduation ceremony is a few months after you finish university – for the purposes of benefits, you’re no longer considered to be a student after the last day of term in the final academic year of your course (check with your uni if you’re unsure when this is).

How to apply for Universal Credit

You should be able to complete your Universal Credit application online, but make sure you’re prepared – you’ll need a fair amount of personal information to hand, including:

  • Your bank account details
  • Housing information, such as how much rent you pay
  • Income details, such as payslips
  • If you have any savings or investments, including shares and property
  • How much do you pay for childcare (if you’re applying for help with this).

To verify your identity online, you’ll also need to submit a copy of a document proving you are who you say you are, such as your passport, driving license, or debit card.

If you’re unable to apply online, particularly if you have a disability that makes the process difficult, you can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644. It’s also recommended that you dial this number if you have any questions or problems with your application.

And, if you disagree with a decision made concerning your application for Universal Credit, you can make an appeal.

Courtesy / Credit: Save the Student

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