The government say that Universal Credit will be easier to claim than other benefits. Everything related to your claim can be done and managed online.

You can make a new application using the Universal Credit website. If you are part of a couple, you should apply together. After you create your account online and apply, you need to contact your local jobcentre. You have to do this within 7 days or else you application will expire. The jobcentre will arrange an appointment with your ‘work coach’ who is there to help you. They will answer any questions you have and support you find a job.

Once you have submitted your application, you need to keep checking your account. If there are any questions about your application, the government will use this to get in touch. Your ‘online journal’ is there for you to ask questions or for an adviser to get in touch with you. If you don’t answer any questions that pop up on your journal, your claim might be delayed or refused.

Digital Unite have a help guide to guide you through each of the steps when making a new application:

https://www.digitalunite.com/how-claim-universal-credit-online

What do I need to apply?

To make an online application, you’ll need to have a few things ready to use on the website and show in the jobcentre:

  • Your National Insurance number. If you’ve forgotten or lost this, or have never received one then contact HM Revenue and Customs on 0300 200 3500.
  • Proof of your address (like a utility bill).
  • Details of where you want your money paid (like your bank details or building society number.
  • Bank statements or other documentation showing savings or capital you own.
  • An email address which you have access to.
  • Housing details like rent amounts, mortgage statements and your landlord’s contact details.
  • If you are going to apply for childcare help you will need proof of this (like bills or invoices).
  • Proof of your income (if you work or are self-employed) like payslips or your P60. If you have any other forms of income (such as a pension or insurance plan) you will need to bring proof of that too.
  • Valid form of ID (like a passport, EU identity card, UK driving licence or residency permit).
  • Details of any other benefits you receive.

How to prepare for Universal Credit

If you live somewhere that doesn’t have Universal Credit yet, you can still start preparing for it. This will make sure you’re ready to make a claim when it arrives.

You could prepare by:

  • Making sure you have an email address that you have access to
  • Opening a bank account
  • Preparing proof of income and housing payments (rent, mortgage, etc.)
  • Making sure you have internet access or know somewhere you can access the internet. You could try a neighbour’s house or your local library.
  • Making sure you understand how to use the internet and are comfortable with it.
  • Check you have valid ID.

Your responsibilities while receiving Universal Credit

You will sign a document called a ‘Claimant Commitment’ after applying. You will do this together with your work coach in the jobcentre.

This document will lay out what you’re expected to do to keep receiving Universal Credit. For example, if you’re fit to work, this could be working on a CV or applying for jobs.

The biggest responsibility you have when receiving Universal Credit is to budget. You’re expected to use the money you receive to manage your own finances correctly. You’re responsible for paying your own rent or mortgage, utility bills and other living costs.

You are also expected to inform the government of any change in circumstances. If you live in a ‘live area’ you should call the helpline. If you live in a ‘full service’ area, do this online. If you don’t report a change in circumstance you might have your payments stopped or reduced.

This could be anything like:

  • Finding a job or leaving your current job
  • Having a baby
  • Changes in your illness or disability
  • Changes in your rent amounts or mortgage payments
  • Moving house or moving in with a partner
  • Changing bank accounts

If I have children, do I have to look for work?

Your employment responsibilities are different depending on how old your children are. If your children are old enough you’ll have to look for work to keep receiving payments.

If you’re child is:

  • Less than one years old – You won’t have to apply to jobs while receiving Universal Credit.
  • Between one and two years old – You won’t have to apply for jobs but you can talk to your work coach about what you want to do.
  • Two years old – You still don’t have to look for a job, but you will need to have regular conversations with your work coach. They will ask you to start preparing for work with things like your CV.
  • 3-4 years old – Now your child has grown up, you need to work at most 16 hours a week. If you don’t have a job you will need to spend 16 hours a week applying for jobs.
  • Between 5 and 12 years of age – The hours you need to work or search for a job now increase to 25 a week.
  • 13+ – You will now have to apply to jobs or work for 35 hours per week.

Childcare responsibilities

If you receive help with childcare costs you need to make sure you keep record of everything you pay. You should then upload this proof to your online Universal Credit account. If you don’t have an account yet, you can report your payments to the helpline. They will then ask you to take your invoices and proof to your local jobcentre.

You can claim up to either 3 months in advance or 3 months after you’ve paid your child’s childcare provider. You will need to keep a record of their name, address and childcare registration details.

If you’re suffering from a terminal Illness

You need to tell the government if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. This may increase the amount of Universal Credit you get each month.

If your life expectancy is lower than six months and you live in a ‘full service’ area, report the change online. The Department of Work and Pensions will then get in touch with you to tell you what to do next. If you’re not well enough to do this yourself, you can ask a family member or someone close to you to do it for you. They will need to get a doctor to fill out a DS1500 form and post it to:

Freepost

Department for Work and Pensions

Universal Credit Full Service

If you live in a ‘live service’ area, then you should contact the helpline and they will give you the next steps.

If your life expectancy is more than six months, you can use your account or the helpline to report it.

What happens if I don’t meet these responsibilities?

If you don’t meet the responsibilities above, you may get a ‘sanction’. This can reduce your Universal Credit payment or stop it completely. Sanctions depend on your personal circumstances, what you did and how many times you did it.

If you applied as a couple but only one of you did something wrong, you will both get half a sanction.

If you don’t agree with a sanction, you can challenge it online or through the helpline. Citizens Advice can help you do this and guide you through the process:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/sanctions/challenging-a-sanction/

You can apply for a hardship payment if a sanction has left you unable to afford basics like your food or rent. This is a loan to help you until your next payment. You will have to pay this back eventually through future Universal Credit payments.

You must be over 18 years of age to apply. You’ll have to prove that you tried to get money elsewhere, and this is your last resort.

You may have to repay money if you didn’t provide correct information to the government. You will also have to repay money if not report a change in circumstances as soon as it happened. If you receive too much money in error, you will also have to return this.

If you provided false information on purpose, you could face appearing in court.