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The Chancellor Philip Hammond used his 2017 Budget speech to announce changes to Universal Credit. From February 2018, anyone that claims Universal Credit will no longer have to wait six weeks to receive their first payment.

Not only that, but the government will provide additional help to anyone who previously got housing benefit. To make sure you know how Universal Credit is changing and what this could mean for you, we're taking you through the key points.

How is the waiting period changing?

From February 2018, anyone claiming Universal Credit will wait five weeks instead of six weeks to receive their first payment.

The following will still take place:

• a four week period to assess how much a person has earned in the last month, and

• a week that's set aside to process the payment.

However, the government is scrapping the extra seven day waiting period where people are not eligible for any benefit. The government faced pressure to reduce the waiting time, after reports that people were falling behind on their rent or having to rely on food banks to eat.

What else is changing?

The scrapping of the one week waiting period isn't the only change to Universal Credit. The following is also changing. 

Higher advance payment

People that struggle to make their finances stretch while they wait for their first payment, will be able to get a full month's advance payment within five days of applying for Universal Credit. At the moment, only half a month's advance payment is available.

Claimants can then pay back the advance over 12 months (not within six months at it stands now) and there's no interest charged on the borrowed amount. These changes will come in from January 2018.

Worried about budgeting for this benefit? Find out how to cope when you move to Universal Credit.

Help for housing benefit claimants

From April 2018, anyone who previously got housing benefit will continue to get it for another two weeks after they apply for Universal Credit.

The current system sees the benefit stop and a claimant doesn't receive anything until their Universal Credit begins. The aim of this move is to stop people falling behind with their rent before getting their first payment.

Want to know what else was announced in the Budget 2017? Find out the key points from the Autumn Budget 2017 in our guide.

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