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How to apply for Universal Credit

A step-by-step digital guide to take you through the Universal Credit application process.

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How to claim Universal Credit

There are 7 steps to take to apply for Universal Credit.

Before following these steps, please read our Universal Credit page to find out more about this government benefit.

Step 1: Check if you are eligible for Universal Credit

To get Universal Credit you must:  

  • be 18 or over (you can sometimes get Universal Credit if you are 16 or 17)  
  • be under State Pension age  
  • live in the UK   
  • have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments. This is the same for a couple as well as single claimants.

Step 2: Check if you will be better off

If you already get benefits or tax credits, they might end if you apply for Universal Credit and you will not be able to apply for them again. You should work out if you will be better off before you or your partner claim Universal Credit.  

To check if you will be better off, you can use a benefits calculator or ask a local benefits adviser.  

Step 3: Make sure you have the right information to hand

You will need:  

  • your name, address and telephone number  
  • your date of birth  
  • your National Insurance number, if you have one (you can find this on letters about tax, pensions and benefits)  
  • your bank or building society account number and sort code  
  • some ID, like a passport, driving licence, debit card, tenancy agreement or energy bill  

You will also need to know:  

  • how much money you earn  
  • how much you pay for rent and service charges  
  • how much you pay for childcare (if you want help to pay for childcare)  
  • how much money you have in savings and investments, like shares or a property you rent out 

You will need to be able to say how your disability or health condition affects your work.  

Step 4: Get someone to help you if you want

If you want some help to apply for Universal Credit, you can:  

  • ask someone you trust to help you  
  • go to the jobcentre and ask for help  
  • ask a local organisation who helps people with their benefits  

Step 5: Apply for Universal Credit

You can apply for Universal Credit online or by phone.   

Online 

If you apply online, as well as the information in step 3 you will need: 

  • an email address 
  • access to a phone 

You will need to create an online account.

After you have created your account, you must complete your claim within 28 days or you will have to start your claim again.    

If you live with your partner, you will both need to create accounts. You’ll link them together when you claim. You cannot claim by yourself. 

By phone 

If you want to claim by phone, contact the Universal Credit helpline:  

  • Phone: 0800 328 5644  
  • Textphone: 0800 328 1344  
  • Relay UK: 18001 then 0800 328 5644  
    - Relay UK is for people who cannot hear or speak on the phone.  

If you live with your partner, you will both need to apply for Universal Credit. 

Applying for Universal Credit If you have a disability or a health condition 

When you apply for Universal Credit, you can say if you have a disability or health condition that affects your ability to work.   

If your disability or health condition means that you are unable to look for work, you will need to provide medical evidence such as a fit note (also known as a sick note) from day 8 onwards.  

You will also have a Work Capability Assessment . The Work Capability Assessment is used to find out how much your health condition or disability affects your ability to work. It assesses what you can do, as well as what you cannot do.  

It is used to assess if you:

  • are fit for work (also known as ‘capable for work’) 
  • need to prepare to work in the future, but have limited capability for work (LCW) 
  • have limited capability for work and work related activity (LCWRA)

It will also assess if you will be paid extra Universal Credit because of your disability or health condition. 

You’ll be asked questions about how your condition affects you in your day-to-day life. It gives you the opportunity to explain if, and how, your health condition or disability may vary over time.

As part of the assessment, you will be sent a Capability for Work questionnaire (UC50). You will be asked to send the completed UC50 questionnaire to the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments by the date requested on the letter.

You might also have an assessment face-to-face, by phone or by video. If you want some help or support, you can have someone with you at the Work Capability Assessment. 

The assessment will include questions about how easy or difficult you find it to do things like:  

  • standing  
  • sitting  
  • understanding information  
  • communicating information  

You should explain if your ability to complete each task varies and if you would need any help or support to do it.  Explain about any pain, tiredness or discomfort you would feel completing each task and if you would be able to do it repeatedly.    

Step 6: Getting your Universal Credit decision

If you are eligible for Universal Credit, you will start to receive payments within 5 weeks of making your claim. Your payments will be paid directly into your bank account.

Before you are paid Universal Credit, you’ll need to accept an agreement called a ‘claimant commitment’. This is a record of what you agree to do to:

  • prepare for and look for work
  • increase your earnings, if you are already working.

What you need to do depends on if you: 

  • have a disability or health condition health condition
  • care for someone 
  • have a child under 13 
  • earn above a certain amount 

You will have a meeting to discuss your claimant commitment. The meeting usually takes place at the jobcentre.  You might be asked to take some ID with you to the meeting.

If you find it difficult to go to a meeting at the jobcentre because of your health condition or disability, you can change where you have the meeting. You can also say if you need to take someone with you to the meeting.

In this meeting you’ll discuss your circumstances and talk about anything that could make it hard for you to do what’s in your commitment. For example, if you have a learning disability , or if you care for someone.

You must do everything you agree to in your commitment or your payment could be reduced or stopped. This is called a sanction.  

If you do not go to your ‘claimant commitment’ meeting, or do not go to a meeting where staff can check your ID, your Universal Credit claim might be closed.    

    Step 7: What you can do if your Universal Credit claim is unsuccessful

    If your application for Universal Credit is unsuccessful or you are unhappy with the outcome, you should contact the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) within one month of the date of decision to request a mandatory reconsideration.   

    You can ask for mandatory reconsideration by using your Universal Credit journal or over the phone, but we recommend that you do it in writing, so you have a record of your request. If you need more time, contact the DWP and ask for an extension.  

    For more information visit the government webpage about asking for a mandatory reconsideration and requesting an appeal.

    If your mandatory reconsideration is unsuccessful, you have one month from the date of the mandatory reconsideration decision letter to appeal the decision. The appeal will be looked at by an independent tribunal. 

    The 'Asking for a mandatory reconsideration and requesting an appeal' page will help you with an appeal

    Frequently asked questions about Universal Credit

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    The information on this page is for guidance only. Mencap hold no responsibility for DWP processes, timescales, decisions and service.

    As well as the DWP you can also contact the Learning Disability Helpline about any general welfare benefit queries.

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