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?

People across the UK can make an online claim by visiting gov.uk/apply-universal-credit. This online system should meet the guidelines for accessibility and should work with magnification and screen reading technology.

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. Call the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644 (Textphone 0800 328 1344) Welsh language 0800 328 1744 and explain why you cannot apply online.

DWP home visiting service for people living in England, Scotland or Wales

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 0800 328 5644 and explain why you need this service.

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.

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 can be up to 100% of your first estimated payment. 

You apply for an advance through your online journal or by calling the Universal Credit Helpline. The payment is a loan and must be repaid within 6, 12 or 24 months, depending on certain circumstances.


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.  

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.

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

Severe Disability Premium (SDP) transitional protection

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.

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: