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Making a claim for universal credit

This content applies to England

Information on how to claim universal credit.

A claim can be made by a single individual or jointly by a couple.[1] Claimants apply online. A claimant who needs support completing the online claim form can ask for face-to-face help from their Jobcentre plus office. There is also a telephone helpline for people who are not able to claim online. The telephone number is 0800 328 9344 (live service) and 0800 328 5644 (full service). The helpline is free from landlines and most mobile networks.

Families with more than two children

From 6 April 2017 until 31 January 2019 (the 'interim period'), a person who is responsible for more than two children could not make a new claim universal credit unless they were in a transitionally protected group.  From 1 February 2019 this restriction is removed. For the interim period s/he had to claim legacy benefits and child tax credit.[2] For more information see Gov.uk.

Benefits offences

The DWP may decide to investigate a claim for universal credit where it suspects that a benefit offence may be, or has been committed. The DWP has wide powers to require information from sources including landlords, employers, banks, childcare providers and credit reference agencies.[3] Where it is believed that a person has committed fraud, DWP may offer the option of paying a financial penalty rather than facing prosecution.[4] If s/he agrees to repay, then the amount can be recovered from benefits in the same way as an overpayment (see 'Deductions for debt to DWP' in 'Deductions to repay debt'). An applicant who is prosecuted or accepts a financial penalty in respect of fraud may also face sanctions to future benefits.[5]

Civil penalty

A fixed civil penalty may be applied in some cases where a claimant has not acted fraudulently, but an overpayment has resulted because s/he has negligently given incorrect information to the DWP or has not given information requested or reported a change in circumstances without reasonable excuse.[6] The penalty will be added to, and recovered along with and by the same means as, the overpayment (see 'Deductions for debt to DWP' in 'Deductions to repay debt'). There is a right of appeal against the imposition of a civil penalty.[7]

Existing housing benefit claimants

Where an applicant is currently receiving housing benefit and makes a successful claim for universal credit (until migration of existing claims this is likely to be because of a change of circumstances), s/he will continue to receive housing benefit for two weeks after s/he becomes entitled to universal credit. See How long an award lasts.

[1] s.2 Welfare Reform Act 2012.

[2] reg 2 Universal Credit (Restriction on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Regulations 2019 SI 2019/27.

[3] s.109B Social Security Administration Act 1992 as amended by reg.2 Social Security (Persons Required to Provide Information) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/1510.

[4] s.115A(1) and s.115A(1A) Social Security Administration Act 1992.

[5] s.6A(1), s.6B  and s.7 Social Security Fraud Act 2001; Social Security (Loss of Benefit) Regulations 2011 SI 2011/4022. See also chap B2, ADM, DWP, 22 March 2013

[6] s.115C(1) and s.115D(1) and s.115D(2) Social Security Administration Act 1992.

[7] s.12 and Sch 2 and 3 Social Security Act 1998; reg 50(1) and Sch 2 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2014/381

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