The rising living costs have put a financial strain on families all over the United Kingdom, with many worrying about making ends meet.
To help families and individuals out during this difficult time, the government has various benefits, such as Tax-Free Child Care, Marriage Allowance, and Pension Credit. But the big one is Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is a benefit that helps low-income people or households with day-to-day living costs. However, it isn’t just there to help during this cost of living crisis. It’s a government benefit that applies all year round. To claim Universal Credit, you must first apply for it, a procedure that can seem daunting.
Therefore, we’ve created this article to help you determine whether you are eligible for Universal Credit, how to claim it, and what you need to be aware of.
The best way to claim Universal Credit is to apply online using the online government portal. If it’s your first time, simply create a Universal Credit account and follow the application process outlined there.
You will be asked about your personal details, employment status, income and savings, housing situation, and health condition. The alternative is to call the Universal Credit helpline and apply over the phone. However, you may find that applying online is far more convenient. Let’s take a look at the entire claim process in more detail.
Step 1: Create an account
Creating a Universal Credit account is a straightforward process. Simply use the Universal Credit portal and follow the course of action outlined. You’ll need the following information on hand before starting the process:
- A valid email address – To be associated with your account.
- A working mobile number – To be associated with your account (if you don’t have a phone number, creating an account with only your email address is possible).
First, you’ll be required to create a username and password alongside two security questions. These will be the login details through which you will make a claim online and manage your Universal Credit application and details. Therefore, it’s important to never share your login information with anyone.
Once you have entered this information, you will be sent a code to your email address and mobile phone number to verify it’s correct. At this point, your account has been created, and you can move on to applying online for Universal Credit.
It should be noted that if you live with a partner, they must also set up an account. The portal will provide you with a code to link both accounts together.
Step 2: Apply for Universal Credit
Once you log in to your Universal Credit account, you will see a ‘To-do list’. This will present all the remaining tasks you must complete for your online application to be submitted. You will be asked for information on the following:
- Work and employment status
- Income, savings, and investments
- Rent or housing situation
- Childcare provider (if applicable)
- Bank account details
You will be able to edit all the information you’ve entered up until you send your application, so it’s best to double-check everything before submitting it.
Whilst you don’t have to complete the entire application process in one go, you will have to submit your application within 30 days of opening your account. If not, you may find that your first Universal Credit payment is delayed, so completing it sooner rather than later is better.
Work and employment status
Here you will be asked about your work, such as whether you are employed, self-employed, or unemployed. This section is fairly short compared to the others. Still, you will be asked further questions about your work situation when you go to your appointment with your Jobcentre work coach.
Income, savings, and investments
This section will ask you to disclose how much money you receive in income, savings, and investments. This includes money from:
- A job
- A pension scheme
- Dividends and investment payouts
- Stocks & Shares ISA
- Cash ISA
- Rental income
- Insurance plan
- One-off payments, i.e., statutory redundancy pay
- Other benefits that provide income
Please note that if you have savings in excess of £16,000, you will be ineligible to claim Universal Credit.
Rent or housing situation
This section will ask for details related to where you live. Such as:
- Your living address
- How long you have lived there
- Whether you own or are renting the home
- Total number of bedrooms
- If applicable, how much rent you pay and what are your total housing costs (service charges)
- If applicable, the landlord’s contact details, such as address and phone number
- If your name is on the Council Tax bill and if you have Council Tax Reduction
Remember that all details should be as they are on your contracts and agreements. Incorrect information could result in you getting paid less than you should, and if it’s found that you got paid more, you will have to pay it back.
This section will ask if you suffer from mental or physical disabilities, illnesses, or ongoing health conditions which affect your ability to (look for) work. If you do suffer from a mental or physical condition, you will be asked for a ‘fit note’, also called a doctor’s note.
This will be necessary if you have been suffering from this illness for more than seven days and if it's long-term in nature. If you are unable to get a fit note from your doctor, you will have to remove your condition from the application.
If you hire the services of a childcare provider, you will be asked to disclose information such as:
- How much you pay, and how often
- Which dates the payments refer to
- Which child or children they are caring for
- The childcare provider’s registration number, address, and phone number
- Invoices and receipts from the childcare provider
Bank account details
Finally, you will be asked to enter your bank account details and sort code. This bank account is where your Universal Credit will be paid into, so it’s crucial you confirm these details are correct.
Step 3: Verify your identity
Once you’ve applied for Universal Credit, you will then be required to verify your identity. This is so the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can do a background check to verify if your application details are correct. The DWP will want to ensure that you are the person you’ve detailed in your application process and not an imposter engaging in identity fraud.
To do this, simply login to your account and navigate to your ‘To-do’ list. Here, you will be redirected towards the Government Gateway portal, which is where you need a document such as:
- Valid UK passport
- A valid non-UK passport
- Valid driving licence
- National Insurance number
- Your most recent payslip
- Your most recent P60
- Details on your tax credits
Alternatively, you can verify your identity over the phone or in person when you attend your first Jobcentre appointment.
Step 4: Book an interview with your work coach
The next step is to book an interview with your work coach at your local Jobcentre. You must book your appointment within one week, or else you may have to begin the application process again.
The aim of this interview is for your work coach to confirm your details and to explain the ‘claimant commitment’. The claimant commitment explains what tasks you will be required to do in order to continue receiving Universal Credit, which you must agree to.
You will be required to bring some form of evidence with you. You can select which one to bring by completing the ‘Prepare for your appointment’ task on your ‘To-do list’, but they will be one of the following:
- Valid passport or driving licence
- Official letter from a bank or bill that states your postcode
- National Insurance number
- Bank statement with your bank account details
You may be asked to bring additional documents, but you will be notified of what they are.
If you cannot make it to your interview person, you will have to conduct the interview over the phone. To arrange this, call the Universal Credit helpline. Please note that you will need your National Insurance number on hand for the phone call.
Step 5: Complete the remaining tasks on your to-do list
At this point, all tasks should be completed. However, double-check your online account to see if there are any remaining tasks. If not, all that remains is to attend your interview, and your Universal Credit application will be complete.
Once your interview has been conducted and finalised, you will start getting Universal Credit paid into your bank account within five weeks.
Universal Credit is a social security payment made to help low-income people and households with living costs such as housing and caring for children, the ill, and the disabled.
Prior to Universal Credit, the government had six different benefit schemes that people had to apply for, called ‘legacy benefits’. They have now been replaced and consolidated into Universal Credit. Those six legacy benefits are as follows:
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
If you currently receive any of the legacy benefits and you apply for Universal Credit, your existing benefits will cease immediately and cannot be reopened. You will then have to complete the Universal Credit application to receive payments again.
Something to keep in mind is that you may end up with less on Universal Credit than when you were on the legacy benefits. As such, before applying, use the government benefits calculator to determine how much you’ll receive.
You may be eligible for Universal Credit if you satisfy the following criteria:
- Currently out of work
- Working in employment or self-employment (full-time or part-time) but on low income
- Unable to work due to an external reason (i.e., disability or health condition)
- 18 years old or over
- Under the current State Pension age
- Live in the United Kingdom
- Have no more than £16,000 in savings, investments, and cash
Yes, but you must both make a claim separately, even if your partner is not eligible. Both your claims will then be joined into one household claim. They will factor in both your and your partner’s income and savings to determine if you qualify for Universal Credit.
Typically, if you have reached State Pension age, you will be ineligible to make a Universal Credit claim. However, if either you or your partner has reached State Pension age, but one of you hasn’t, you will still be allowed to claim Universal Credit as a household. Once both of you have reached the State Pension age, your payments will stop.
You are eligible for Universal Credit if you are in full-time education and satisfy one of the following criteria:
- You are responsible for a child’s care
- You live with a partner who is eligible for Universal Credit
- You are above the State Pension age but live with a partner who is below the State Pension age
- You suffer from a disability
- You are 21 or under and are studying for an A-level or equivalent qualification without parental support
In some situations, you may still be able to claim Universal Credit if you are a part-time student or if you’re studying a course where finance or student loans do not apply.
If you are an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, you can still claim Universal Credit. However, you typically need settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
A 16 or 17-year-old can claim Universal Credit if they satisfy one of the following:
- You are responsible for a child’s care
- You are responsible for someone’s care who received a disability benefit
- You are pregnant and expecting within the next 11 weeks
- You had a baby within the last 15 weeks
- You do not have parental support
- You have a mental or physical condition with a fit note
If your last Universal Credit payment was less than six months ago, you can start a new claim using your Universal Credit account. If your last payment was more than six months ago, you will have to begin the entire application process again.