How to claim universal credit

When and how to apply

Apply for universal credit (UC) as soon as you need it.

You will not get your first monthly payment for at least 5 weeks.

Your claim could be backdated for up to 1 month if you have a good reason for not claiming earlier. For example, sudden or serious illness.

If you lose your job

Apply the day after you get your final wages.

If you apply before this, your wages count as income. This means your first UC payment could be smaller.

You can apply straight away if you're waiting for a redundancy payment rather than wages. Redundancy pay should only affect your UC if your total savings will be more than £6,000.

Talk to a Help to Claim adviser at Citizens Advice before you apply.

Call 0800 144 8 444 or use their online chat service.

How to apply

Most people have to apply for UC on GOV.UK.

You usually have to go to a jobcentre appointment to complete your claim.

You can claim over the phone if you:

  • struggle to use a computer

  • do not have regular internet access

  • need support because of a disability or health condition

Call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

You can ask Citizens Advice for help.

You usually have 1 month from when you apply to:

  • confirm your identity

  • go to your jobcentre appointment

  • share your supporting information

Get everything together before you start

You need to have:

  • your bank details

  • how much your rent or mortgage is

  • evidence of your income and savings

  • household information, such as who lives with you and childcare costs

  • your national insurance number – ask HMRC if you cannot find it

If you do not have a bank account

You can still get UC but it helps to have a bank account.

Read our guide on how to open a bank account if you're homeless.

Set up your online account

You need an email address and a phone number.

Set up a username, password and 2 security questions.

Keep this information safe. You need them to log in to your account.

Do not share this information with other people. It puts you at risk of identity fraud.

If you claim as a couple

You need to set up separate UC accounts.

One of you should set up your account first and start a joint claim.

You get a code which links the claims. Give the code to your partner so they can set up their account.

If you're separated but still living at the same address, claim separately. Your accounts will not be linked.

Claim through your online account

You can make your claim for UC when you've set up the account.

Completing the 'to do' list in your account. It has sections on your:

  • health

  • housing situation

  • work, income and savings

  • childcare costs

If it's a joint claim you might not be able to complete everything until your account is linked to your partner's account.

Citizens Advice has more information on your 'to do' list.

Confirm your identity

You can do this from your 'to do' list if you have a UK passport or driving licence.

Do not worry if you cannot do this. You can confirm your identity over the phone or at a jobcentre appointment.

If you do not have photo ID

You can use other documents. For example your:

  • birth or marriage certificate

  • tenancy agreement

  • NHS medical card

  • bank statements

  • debit card

If you do not have any ID, you could show who you are by answering security questions over the phone. You could also get someone else to confirm your identity.

Watch out for UC scams

The DWP usually call from 0800 023 2635

If you're worried, ask the caller to leave a note in your UC journal so you can be sure.

Money Helper has a guide to UC scams.

Book a jobcentre appointment

Check your 'to do' list. There is a section that says prepare for your appointment.

This lets you choose which documents to bring. For example:

  • bank statements

  • recent payslips or your P45

  • evidence of childcare costs

  • children's birth certificates and child benefit numbers

  • proof of rent – your tenancy agreement or a letter from your landlord

You need to show ID if you have not done this online.

Do not worry if you do not have all the documents. You have 1 month to provide them.

Go to your jobcentre appointment

Your appointment is with your work coach who will:

  • discuss your situation with you

  • check your supporting information and ID

You have to agree to a 'claimant commitment'. This sets out what you must do to get your full UC payment each month.

Most people are expected to work or look for work.

Tell your work coach if anything makes it very hard to work or look for work 35 hours a week.

For example:

  • childcare or caring

  • a disability or health condition

  • homelessness or domestic abuse

Find out more from Citizens Advice about preparing for your appointment.

If you tell your work coach about a disability or health condition that means you cannot work or look for work, they will send you a capability for work questionnaire (UC50 form).

Complete the form and post it back within 4 weeks.

You might have to go to a 'work capability assessment'. This is usually within 3 months.

Find out more from Citizens Advice about getting UC if you're sick or disabled.

Last updated: 5 April 2023

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help