How to apply for Universal Credit

How to apply for Universal Credit for the first time, what paperwork you’ll need and getting help if you’re having difficulty getting online. Includes where to get free help before you apply to make sure Universal Credit is right for you.

Before you apply for Universal Credit

Help to Claim

If you’re claiming Universal Credit for the first time, Citizens Advice has a dedicated service to help you. Call 0800 144 8444 in England or 0800 024 1220 in Wales. For more information and to find your local Citizens Advice on their website.

In Scotland, call 0800 023 2581, via webchat on the Citizens Advice website or contact your local bureau directly during their usual business hours.

Before applying for Universal Credit for the first time it’s important to check how it can affect other benefits you’re already getting or may be entitled to. In some cases, it might make sense to apply for a different benefit instead of or alongside Universal Credit. And if you (and your partner if you’re in a couple) are already getting certain benefits or tax credits it may not always make sense to move to Universal Credit. In some cases you could end up worse off and unable to go back.

Find out more about how Universal Credit works.

Single or joint application: how it works

Universal Credit awards are based on your household income and savings.

  • If you live alone or share a flat or house but are not part of a couple, you will be making a single online application.
  • If you live with or move in with someone as a couple you will need to make a joint online claim, even if your partner isn’t already getting Universal Credit. Only one of you will need to complete the online claim form, but whoever does it will need to enter details for both of you.

Universal Credit application paperwork

You’ll need to provide the following information as part of your application:

  • bank, building society or credit union account details
  • an email address
  • housing costs, such as rent or mortgage payments, service charges, etc
  • employed or self-employed income
  • savings and investment details, for example shares or a property that you rent out
  • any current childcare costs

To verify your identity online you’ll also need proof of identity such as:

  • passport
  • debit or credit card
  • driving licence

Find out more about what you need before you start your claim on the GOV.UK website.

If you can’t find any of this paperwork or you don’t have photo ID, don’t let this delay your claim. You can get support from a Help to Claim adviser who can help you find what you need to claim.

When should I claim Universal Credit?

Claims for Universal Credit can only be backdated for one month so if you are not expecting any further income it is a good idea to claim as soon as you can.

The date you submit your claim marks the start of a one calendar month ‘assessment period’. At the end of this period you then have to wait up to seven days for the payment to reach your bank account.

This means it can take up to five weeks before you get your first payment.

Example

  • Ben has lost his job and makes a new claim for Universal Credit on 22 July.
  • He needs to wait one assessment period (that’s a calendar month) to 21 August because Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears.
  • He also needs to allow up to seven days for the money to reach his account.
  • He should expect his first payment of Universal Credit no later than 28 August. He will be paid on the 28 of each month.
  • If 28 August is a bank holiday Monday, he should receive payment on the last working day (Friday) before the holiday.

If you are worried about how you will manage for money until you get your first payment, read our guide Support while waiting for benefit payments.

However, if you have been made redundant or are expecting customers to pay you, it can be better to wait until you have received your final money before you make a claim. This is because any income you receive during the assessment period after you’ve made your claim could affect your Universal Credit payment or even reduce it to nil.

Your final pay cheque may also be higher than normal because it has redundancy pay, holiday pay or pay in lieu of notice added to it.

Example

Ben makes a claim for Universal Credit on 22 July and then receives his final pay cheque on 31 July. This will be included as income in the assessment period from 22 July to 21 August.

His first Universal Credit payment due on 28 August is zero because his income is too high to qualify for Universal Credit this month.

He has to live off his final pay cheque until 28 September when he gets his next full Universal Credit payment (based on zero income in the assessment period between 22 August and 21 September).

If he waits until 1 August to make the claim, his income will be assessed as zero during the assessment period between 1 and 31 August, so he should get his first full Universal Credit payment five weeks later on 7 September.

Working out when to claim when you are expecting extra income can be complicated. So if you’re not sure how it will affect you, contact a Citizens Advice Help to Claim adviser to check first.

For more information about leaving work and needing to claim Universal Credit on the Low Income Tax Reform Group (LITRG) website.

Start your online Universal Credit application

To start your application to claim Universal Credit, go to the GOV.UK website.

If you need help getting online to apply for Universal Credit

Help to Claim

If you’re claiming Universal Credit for the first time, Citizens Advice has a dedicated service to help you. Call 0800 144 8444 in England or 0800 024 1220 in Wales. For more information and to find your local Citizens Advice on their website.

In Scotland, call 0800 023 2581, via webchat on the Citizens Advice website or contact your local bureau directly during their usual business hours.

If you’re worried about using a computer to make your Universal Credit claim, it’s important you get help. This is because your claim will not start until you have sent your online form. There is then a five-week wait for your first payment. Any delays can mean you have to wait longer than this.

If you don’t have access to a computer at home, you might be able to use one for free at your local Jobcentre, library, Citizens Advice or council.

Many Jobcentres now offer extra support for people who are struggling to claim online and can also help you get all the paperwork you need together.

If you’re new to computers or haven’t felt confident about using them in the past, now is a good time to learn or get up to speed.

You can find free digital skills support in your area from the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900.

Visit the Online Centres Network to find your nearest training centre and LearnMyWay.com offers free online course to help beginners develop digital skills.

If you can’t claim online because of sickness or disability

Claiming Universal Credit online may be more difficult if you have an illness or disability that makes it hard for you to use the internet or manage things yourself.

If you need help, you can call the Universal Credit helpline to book an appointment for someone to call you back to make the claim over the phone.

The DWP also operate a visiting service if you are unable to leave your home or are in hospital.

A Citizens Advice Help to Claim adviser can also support you throughout your claim for Universal Credit. They can also help you arrange a DWP home visit.

Find out more about the DWP Home visits service on the GOV.UK website.

Contacting the Universal Credit helpline

If you need help with your claim, you can call the Universal Credit helpline free on:

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344

8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday (closed on bank and public holidays). Calls are free.

The helpline is very busy because of the current crisis. If you’ve already started your claim for Universal Credit, it’s best to use your online accountopens in new window if you can.

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