How to access Universal Credit

Read the article

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment from the government. It's meant to cover your living costs and rent if you're out of work or on a low income.

How is Universal Credit calculated?

Universal Credit is 'means tested', which means the government base how much money you get on your household circumstances and your existing income.

They'll assess your circumstances every month, and the amount of Universal Credit you get might change.

You can check your eligibility for Universal Credit here

How much Universal Credit am I entitled to?

You could use the Turn2Us benefits calculator to get an overview of what benefits you could be entitled to. 

From 6th April the government will be increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit for one year. It will increase by £20 per week in addition to the planned annual uprating (This is the planned annual increase). This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants.

This means that a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), could see the standard allowance increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

How do I claim Universal Credit?

You need three things to make a claim for Universal credit

1. Internet access

If you don’t have a computer or  internet access at home, it might be useful to call Universal Credit helpline to see how the DWP can support you in making a claim. 

2. Email address 

If you don’t have an email address, check out this Which? guide to setting up an email account. You’ll need to get one before you can apply for Universal Credit.

3. A phone 

The DWP will contact you to follow up on your claim, usually via phone. 

Setting up an account and making a claim

First you need to set up an online account, once complete you’ll receive instructions on how to make a claim. You’ll need to make the claim within 28 days or your online account will close and you’ll need to set up a new one.

You will be asked for lots of personal information during your application so it’s helpful to have the following information available

  • Bank details

  • Housing information (contracts or references)

  • Details of any savings or investments you have

  • Details of your income (payslips)

  • Details of the cost of childcare if you’re applying for childcare costs

  • A valid form of personal ID (driving licence, passport or debit/credit card)

If you don’t have a valid form of personal ID, you could speak to the Universal Credit helpline to see if there are other ways the work coach can confirm your identity.

Your work coach is your main point of contact whilst you are claiming benefits - their job is to support you in finding work and managing barriers to employment.

What happens next?

Normally after submitting your claim, you would need to arrange a face to face interview with a work coach at your local Jobcentre. 

Until the Coronavirus outbreak is over interviews with your work coach will take place over the phone. You will be given the number to call to book an appointment for this once you have submitted your claim and details of anything you need to prepare. 

The interview 

It can be helpful to share your personal circumstances early on. This will let your job coach create a ‘claimant commitment’ that’s realistic and achievable for you. A claimant commitment outlines what you have to do to keep getting Universal Credit. 

It’ll also let your job coach know if you need more help with budgeting, or if getting paid monthly doesn’t work for you.

You should tell them if you're: 

  • Living with a disability which stops you working

  • Have dependent children (and any other caring commitments)

  • Have trouble reading and writing in English

  • Are recovering from drug or alcohol misuse issues

  • You’re homeless

Getting paid 

If you get approved for Universal Credit, it normally takes five weeks after the date you submitted your claim for you to get the first payment.

If you need money sooner you could apply for an advance on your first payment via your online account.

You could get up to 100% of your estimated first payment, but remember - you’ll repay this advance through deductions from your future Universal Credit payments which will affect how much you have to spend each month.

We hope you’ve found this guide useful. If you need some more 1 on 1 support, Citizens Advice Help to Claim Service is an information service aimed at guiding you from application to your first payment.