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How Universal Credit works in Scotland

Sharon McDougall - Updated - 2nd May 2024 - 2 minutes to read

The introduction of Universal Credit was intended to simplify the benefits system and reduce the opportunity for fraud, but it has received much criticism, partly due to an inherent lack of flexibility.

The Scottish government is now able to use new social security powers, however, when administering Universal Credit. These devolved powers were brought in by the Scotland Act, 2016, and the new system applies to payments made on or after 4th October 2017 in ‘full service’ areas of Scotland.

A full service area is a local authority area that uses an online claiming system for Universal Credit, as opposed to the ‘live service’ in Scotland which involves administering a claim by phone. It’s intended that, eventually, all areas will become full service areas.

So how is Universal Credit paid in parts of Scotland that aren’t ‘full service’ areas, and what changes have been made under the new legislation?

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Single monthly Universal Credit payments

The single monthly payment made directly to claimants’ bank accounts, means that careful budgeting is needed to ensure rent payments and other household bills are made without default.

Since Universal Credit has been rolled out, an increase in the volume of rent arrears has been reported, and although Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) are available, they’re said to be administration-heavy, with calls being made for the system to be changed.

Which changes have been made under the new Universal Credit system?

Two changes have been brought in under the new Universal Credit system – if you live in a full service area, you can :

  • Receive payments twice monthly, instead of a single payment
  • Choose to have the ‘housing element’ within your UC payment made directly to your landlord

If you meet the current criteria, these choices are made available once you’ve received the first payment via the online system. You can choose to make one change, both changes, or none at all under the new process, giving you more flexibility and control over your finances.

What if I choose to change my Universal Credit payment?

Initially, there’s a time limit of 60 days in which to choose one or more of the changes. The offer to change disappears from your online account after 60 days, but you can still make a request to change your payment options at a later date if you wish.

This new flexibility also means you can change your mind in the future, should your circumstances change. There are benefits to yourself as a tenant and also to your landlord by having your rent paid directly, rather than into your bank account. Although you’ll still need to budget for household bills, it ensures this high priority rent payment is made without delay.

Scotland Debt Solutions has been helping Scottish residents to escape debt since 1989. We can provide more information about the Universal Credit system in Scotland, and how it affects your claim. Call one of the team for a free consultation – we operate from five offices around Scotland.

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Sharon McDougall


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