Coronavirus update

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.

What is Universal Credit?

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 Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Child Tax Credit 

  • Working Tax Credit

  • Housing benefit

You can hear about Universal Credit and how to claim in our audio Q and A.

How can I make a claim?

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

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.

Telephone claim

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.

DWP home visiting service

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.

Universal Credit Toolkit Series

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.

Help to claim

For guidance on how to claim and receive appropriate support and adjustments.

Request to backdate

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:

Request an advance

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. 

Agreeing your Claimant Commitment

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.

Work Capability Assessment

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.

At this current time all face to face assessments have been suspended until at least the the middle of June 2020 due the coronavirus outbreak. Assessments are being carried out over the phone, using the information in your UC50 form and by obtaining further medical evidence (where possible) instead. The process will continue in this way until such time as the restrictions are lifted. 

For more information about the Work Capability Assessment, please see our factsheet on the topic:

Severe Disability Premium protection and compensation

End of the Severe Disability Premium Gateway

Since 16 January 2019 there has been a Severe Disability Premium (SDP) gateway in place which prevented people entitled to the SDP as part of their legacy benefit from claiming universal credit. This gateway comes to an end with effect from 27 January 2021. This means that from this date if you are entitled to a SDP within your legacy benefit you will now be required to make a claim for Universal Credit if you have a relevant change in your circumstances.

If you are required to make a claim for Universal Credit in these circumstances, you will be considered for a SDP transitional protection payment. This payment is a fixed-rate amount and is dependent on your circumstances.

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.

Further information and support

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: