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CIH Scotland

New Arrivals


Who can get universal credit (UC), housing benefit (HB) and council tax rebate (CTR)?

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

What is universal credit (UC)?

Universal credit is a new cash social security benefit for working age people. It helps you with living expenses (including rent) if you have a low income. UC replaces all of the following ‘legacy benefits’ with a single monthly payment:

  • child tax credit
  • working tax credit
  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • income-related employment and support allowance; and
  • if you are working age, housing benefit.

UC is administered by the DWP and (from 1 February 2019) you cannot make a claim for any of these legacy benefits unless:

  • you or you and your partner have reached state pension age (or only one of you has if you claim before 15 May 2019);
  • you live in temporary or supported accommodation provided by a social landlord; or
  • you or you and your partner are severely disabled and meet certain other conditions (or you met those conditions within the previous month).

If the first exception applies you can claim pension credit and/or housing benefit; the second, universal credit for your general living expenses and housing benefit for your rent; and if the third applies you can continue to claim legacy benefits (including housing benefit).

If you were already on legacy benefit before 1 February 2019 you can continue to receive it so long as you meet all the conditions for it. If one of your legacy benefits ends (e.g. if you become fit for work, start full-time work or your youngest child reaches age five) you can only replace your lost income by claiming universal credit – and when you do all your other legacy benefits end. Eventually all existing legacy benefits claims will be gradually transferred to universal credit, but this is not expected to start until January 2020.    

To qualify for universal credit you must:

  • make a valid claim;
  • sign a ‘claimant commitment’ and comply with any work-related requirements set out in it; and
  • be an eligible person.

The law on universal credit sets the rules about who is eligible according to whether you are British or Irish, a national of an EEA member state, or from outside the EEA.

What is housing benefit (HB)?

Housing benefit is a cash social security benefit to help you pay your rent if have a low income. To qualify for housing benefit you must make a valid claim and be an eligible person. The law on housing benefit sets out the rules about who is eligible according to whether you are British, a national of an EEA member state, or from outside the EEA.

What is council tax rebate (CTR)?

All householders (whether owners or tenants) pay council tax to their local councils, based on the property value. In Scotland the Scottish Government sets the rules for all local councils. The rules for CTR in Scotland are very similar to the rules for HB – any differences are described as they arise. 

In Scotland if you are entitled to CTR and your income is low enough the whole of your council tax bill is covered by rebate (unlike many council areas in England and Wales).

Here you will find more information about the law on council tax rebate.

Making a claim for UC/HB/CTR

You must make a claim to qualify for your UC/HB/CTR. To complete your claim for UC/HB you must provide the DWP/local authority with your national insurance number and also your partner’s if you are claiming UC/HB as a couple. If you do not have one you must have applied for one (which you do at the local Jobcentre Plus office) and for HB, provide the local authority with evidence that you have done this.

In Scotland there is no legal requirement to provide a national insurance number to claim CTR (although in practice most local authorities will ask for one).

Claiming UC if you are a member of a couple

If you are a member of a couple you usually claim UC jointly with your partner – and if you do you must both be eligible. But if only one of you eligible (e.g. if your spouse is British and you have leave with a ‘no public funds’ condition) then that person can claim UC as a single person and if they do it doesn’t affect your immigration status.

Claiming HB/CTR if you are a member of a couple

If you are a member of a couple you can only be excluded from HB/CTR if both you and your partner are ineligible (e.g. if both you and your partner have leave to remain with no recourse to public funds). If only one of you is ineligible then the other (eligible) member should make the claim. However, this does not mean that it is safe to do so in terms of your immigration status (since your partner’s awards counts as public funds). Your local authority may report you to the Home Office but is not obliged to do so.

If you have been granted leave following your application for asylum

If you have been granted refugee status, humanitarian protection or discretionary leave following your application for asylum you are entitled to UC/HB/CTR from the date you receive the letter that confirms you have been granted leave (unless, unusually, your leave has a 'no public funds' condition).

If you are a British or Irish citizen or you have settled status

If you are a British Citizen, Irish Citizen, a citizen of a Commonwealth country with ‘right of abode’ in the UK or have been granted indefinite leave to remain (also known as ‘settled status’) you are entitled to:

  • UC/HB/CTR if you have made your home here (you are ‘habitually resident’); or
  • UC/HB/CTR if you have been deported, expelled or removed from another country to the UK; or
  • HB/CTR if you have been awarded one of the passport benefits: income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or income support; or
  • HB only if you or your partner have been awarded state pension credit.

EEA nationals and EEA family members

If you are an EEA national you are entitled to UC/HB/CTR if:

  • you are in self-employment in the UK (including if you are self-employed but temporarily unable to work due to sickness)
  • you are an EEA worker
  • you are a former EEA worker who is temporarily unable to work (e.g. unemployed or off sick)
  • you are a EEA family memberof any of the above
  • you have previously worked in the UK but have since retired; or
  • you qualify as a long-term resident (including those granted settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme) and you are ‘habitually resident’.

You are also entitled to HB/CTR if:

  • you or your partner have been awarded income-related employment and support allowance or income support;
  • you or your partner have been awarded income-based jobseeker’s allowance – but for  HB only for  up to six months immediately following after period of work in the UK (i.e. while you are treated as a former worker;
  • you have been awarded state pension credit.

In any other case you are only entitled to UC/HB/CTR if you are habitually resident and you have some other right to reside (see other EEA nationals and EEA family members for details). 

All other people from outside the EEA

If you are a citizen of a country outside the EEA you are not normally entitled to UC/HB unless:

  • you have made your home here (you are ‘habitually resident’); and
  • you have been granted leave from the Home Office and either:
    • you are the separated partner of a British citizen or settled person who you are leaving due to domestic violence;
    • you are a national of Macedonia or Turkey;
    • your leave is not subject to a ‘no public funds’ condition nor was it granted as a result of a maintenance undertaking (sponsorship agreement);
    • it was granted as a result of a sponsorship agreement but you have lived in the UK for five years;
    • or it was granted as a result of a sponsorship agreement but your sponsor (or all of your sponsors if there was more than one) has since died; or
    • for HB only, you or your partner have been awarded one of the passport benefits: income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support or state pension credit.

You are also entitled to CTR if you are habitually resident and have been granted leave by the Home Office and either:

  • you are separated from your British/UK settled partner as a result of domestic violence;
  • you are a Macedonian or Turkish national;
  • your leave was not granted as a result of a sponsorship agreement;
  • your leave was granted without a ‘no public funds’ condition; or
  • you or your partner receive income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or income support.

What you can do if the decision is wrong

The DWP/local authority will send you a letter explaining their decision. If you want to ask for a review you can do this the same way you made your claim (e.g. online, by telephone, etc.) within one calendar month of the date on the letter. If you do this within the time limit the DWP/local authority must reconsider your claim. This is sometimes called an ‘any grounds review’ because you don’t have to give reason why you think the decision is wrong.

You can ask for an ‘any time review’ (outside the time limit) if the DWP/local authority made an ‘official error’. An ‘official error’ means the decision-maker failed to take account of a fact you told them about, used the wrong bit of law to decide your claim, or the right bit of law but misunderstood what it means. An example would be if you told them you have EU Settled Status and they overlooked this, or they took it into account but decided you weren’t entitled. If the new decision doesn’t give you what you asked for you can ask for an ‘any grounds review’ as above. But if your circumstances have changed in a way that may affect your entitlement (e.g. you have been granted leave) you should also make a new claim.

If you are dissatisfied with a DWP/local authority decision, you can appeal to an independent tribunal instead, but only if:

  • you tell the DWP/local authority that you want to ‘appeal to a tribunal’ within one month of the date on their letter; and
  • your letter sets out:
    • your name and address and those of your representative if you have one,
    • the address you want any documents about your appeal to be sent to,
    • the decision you want to appeal about and why you think it is wrong; and
  • for UC only, your appeal follows an ‘any grounds review’.

For HB disputes you can go straight to appeal, but it normally takes between three to eight months to get a hearing listed. If your appeal explains clearly why you think the decision is wrong the local authority can review its decision and change it, if it agrees with you.

Background Topics

Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland