How to claim universal credit

When and how to apply

You apply for universal credit online. There's no paper form to complete.

To complete the application you need to:

  • set up a universal credit account

  • make your claim through the account

  • confirm your identity online or by phone

  • book and attend a jobcentre appointment

You can use a smartphone, computer or tablet to apply.

You must confirm your identity, attend your jobcentre appointment and provide all the supporting documents within a month to complete your claim.

You should receive your first payment 5 weeks after you make your online claim.

Telephone claims

You can only apply for universal credit over the phone if you can't apply online. For example, if a disability stops you using a phone or computer, or because you don't have regular internet access.

Call the DWP's universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 to make a claim by phone.

When to apply

The day you make your claim online is usually the first day of your entitlement.

You should apply for universal credit as soon as you need it if you have no money coming in. It takes at least 5 weeks to get your first payment.

Your claim can be backdated for up to a month if you were entitled to claim earlier but could not do so. For example, because of sudden or serious illness.

Wait for your final wages if you've lost your job

It's usually best to apply the day after you get your final wages. Otherwise your wages will count as income and your first universal credit payment will be lower.

If you're waiting for a redundancy payment rather than wages you can go ahead and apply. Redundancy pay is not treated as income and should only affect your universal credit if you get more than £6000.

Get everything you need together

You need quite a bit of information and evidence to complete your claim.

It helps to have as much of this to hand as possible when you start your claim.

You need to provide your:

  • bank details

  • income and savings

  • rent or mortgage amounts

  • household information - who lives with you and any childcare costs

  • your national insurance number – if you can't find it, ask for one to be sent to you

You usually have up to a month to provide supporting documents and confirm your identity.

Set up a universal credit account

You need an email address and a phone number to do this.

You have to set up a username, password and 2 security questions.

Don't share this information with other people. It puts you at risk of identity fraud.

Keep your username, password and answers to your security questions safe. You need them to access your account in the future.

Claiming as a couple?

You still need to set up separate universal credit accounts.

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

You will be given a 'linking code' as part of the process. Give this to your partner for when they set up their account and make their claim. The linking code joins the claims together.

If you're separated but still living at the same address, you should claim separately and your accounts won't be linked.

You need to complete the claim within 28 days of creating an account. Your entitlement won't start until you've completed the online form.

Make your online claim

You can make your claim for universal credit as soon as you've set up the account.

You make your claim by completing the 'to-do' list in your universal credit 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.

It takes about 30 minutes to make a claim on your own and up to 1 hour if it's a joint claim.

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

Confirm your identity

You're asked to confirm your identity on your 'to do' list after you've made your online claim.

There are 2 ways to confirm your identity online:

  • GOV.UK Verify

  • Government Gateway

You'll be told which you can use.

Don't worry if you have problems confirming your identity online. You can book an appointment on the phone or at the jobcentre to provide the documents.

You will usually need to show photo ID - a passport or UK driving licence.

If you don't have either of these, you will be asked for other documents. For example, a birth or marriage certificate, NHS medical card, debit card or tenancy agreement.

If you don’t have any ID, you might be able to prove who you are by answering security questions over the phone or getting someone else to confirm your identity.

Watch out for universal credit scams.

If you're unsure if a caller is from the jobcentre or DWP you can ask them to leave a note in your journal so you can be sure it's them.

The DWP usually call from this number 0800 023 2635

The Money Helper website has a useful guide to universal credit scams.

Book your jobcentre appointment

You complete your claim at a jobcentre appointment. During coronavirus this could be by phone, videocall or at a face to face appointment.

To book your appointment, check your 'to-do' list. There will be a section that says prepare for your appointment.

This lets you choose which documents you'll bring to the appointment. 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'll also need to show ID if you've not already done this online.

Don't worry if you don't have all the documents you need by the time of your appointment. Take what you can. You have a month to provide the rest.

What happens at the jobcentre appointment

Your jobcentre appointment is with your work coach.

They will:

  • discuss your personal situation

  • 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 universal credit payment each month.

It's very important that you tell your work coach about anything that makes it difficult or impossible for you to work or look for work 35 hours a week.

For example:

  • a disability or health condition

  • homelessness or domestic abuse

  • childcare or caring responsibilities

Most people are expected to work or look for work. Some people do not have to meet these conditions. Your work coach can sometimes make the conditions easier for you to meet.

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

If you tell your work coach about a disability or health condition that means you can't work or seek work at the moment, you'll be sent a Capability for Work questionnaire (UC50 form).

You need to complete the form and send it back by post within 4 weeks. You might also have to attend a medical appointment called a 'work capability assessment', usually within the next 3 months.

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

Help to Claim from Citizens Advice

This service can provide help with the early stages of your universal credit application.

For example, advisers can help you:

  • work out if you qualify

  • complete the application

  • prepare for the jobcentre appointment

  • check your first payment is correct

Speak to an adviser before you apply.

Contact a Help to Claim adviser at Citizens Advice

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

Last updated: 4 October 2021

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