Given the restriction measures currently in place due to COVID-19, some rules around claiming and assessments for benefits have been changed or relaxed in the short term. For up to date information, call our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 from 8am to 8pm weekdays or 9am to 5pm Saturdays.
Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit for people of working age on a low income, whether you are in work or not. It has replaced the following existing benefits, which are now known as “legacy benefits”:
Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit
You can hear about Universal Credit and how to claim in our audio Q and A.
Claims can be made by filling in a form online by visiting gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. This online system should meet the guidelines for accessibility and so should work with magnification and screen reading technology on computers and other devices.
If you cannot access the internet and make your claim online, or feel that you need more support to do this, there are other ways for you to make your claim:
Help to Claim Service Citizens Advice (England and Wales) and Citizens Advice Scotland provide a Help to Claim Service. To access this support, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you are unable to claim online, you can make a telephone claim where a Universal Credit Case Manager will set up an account for you, record the data gathered, submit your claim and identify your claim as a phone claim on the system. To access a telephone claim you can call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0345 600 0723 and explain why you cannot apply online.
If you require additional support, you can request access to the DWP Home Visiting Team. This is where the DWP would arrange for DWP staff or a “Local Service Support” to visit your home to complete the online form for you. To request a home visit, you can call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0345 600 0723 and explain why you need this service.
Note that during the coronavirus outbreak, DWP routine face-to-face home visiting service has been suspended, with a few exceptions for vulnerable claimants. If you require support to make a claim, please contact the our Helpline on 0303 123 9999 to discuss the options available to you.
We have created a series of Toolkits to support you in making your claim, obtaining reasonable adjustments, requesting backdating and preparing you for agreeing your Claimant Commitment.
For guidance on how to claim and receive appropriate support and adjustments.
You can request to backdate the start of your Universal Credit claim for up to a maximum of one month if you can show that you were unable to claim sooner due to ill health, disability or if the system has failed, meaning you have been left out of pocket.
If there was a delay in starting your claim due to difficulty getting through on the Universal Credit Helpline since the coronavirus lockdown, you may be eligible for a backdate. Our Backdating Toolkit can support you to make this request.
For guidance on how to request backdating of your Universal Credit claim:
If you need help paying bills or covering other costs while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can apply to get an advance. The advanced payment will cover the amount of your first estimated payment. Note that if you are affected by coronavirus, you will be able to receive up to a month’s advance upfront.
You apply for an advance through your online journal or by calling the Universal Credit Helpline.
You must agree a Claimant Commitment in order to receive Universal Credit. If you fail to carry out the agreed actions, Jobcentre Plus may suspend your benefits. Use our top tips for signing your Claimant Commitment to ensure that your benefits are not suspended.
Note that in light of the coronavirus outbreak, you will not be required to attend a face-to-face interview to accept your Claimant Commitment. DWP has put in temporary arrangements that allow for the Claimant Commitment to be accepted over the telephone, or in some cases via the online journal.
If you are claiming the work capability component of Universal Credit due to disability or illness you will undergo a medical test called the Work Capability Assessment.
The coronavirus pandemic has meant that no face to face examinations have been possible in the past year but they are due to recommence as of May 2021. Examinations are now largely being carried out by telephone assessment. This process will continue in the future, alongside the recommenced face to face process. Future examinations can also now take place by video call. Wherever possible the assessment will be carried out using any paperwork or evidence available about the claimant’s condition but where this is not possible or conclusive, a telephone, video or face to face assessment will be arranged.
For more information about the Work Capability Assessment, please see our factsheet on the topic:
Claimants in receipt of a Severe Disability Premium in their previous legacy benefit may be entitled to what is known as ‘transitional protection’ for this payment. This payment is a fixed-rate amount, dependent on your circumstances and will be included in the Universal Credit award to compensate for the loss of the SDP. Please note that these payments are only available to people who have received a SDP within their Income Support, JSA or ESA in the month before they claim Universal Credit and continue to meet the eligibility conditions.
For more information on how this change may affect you please get in touch to speak with a Sight Loss Adviser by calling our Helpline on 0303 123 9999.
For more information about Universal Credit, who can claim it, how much it is worth and how to appeal a decision, please see our factsheet: