Before you claim
Before you need to make a claim there are really important things you need to do – the sooner you start working on these the easier the change will be. As well as the information on these pages there is a tool on the Money Advice Service website to help you prepare and manage when on Universal Credit here
Universal Credit Claims are made and managed online.
It is vital that you know where to access the internet, how to use a computer to search for information, fill in forms, send messages and keep your claim updated.
There are plenty of places to get help with this and to work out how best you can be online – at home or in the community. Try our searchable directory to find local help.
Once you get used to being online there are lots of other benefits – a recent study found that people living on a low income could save an average of £544 a year getting better deals online. Plus you can search for work more easily, get access to help and advice 24/7 and keep in touch with people and things that matter to you.
If you are new to being online we have a special section with everything you need to know with help training, getting online and choosing what you need.
Click here for more about being online.
Get an account
You will need an account that Universal Credit can be paid into and pay bills out of.
Under Universal Credit all your means tested benefits are paid to you in one monthly lump sum and you will be responsible for paying important bills like rent yourself. To do this you need an account which can make automated payments (standing orders or direct debits). You can choose between:
- Current account with a Bank (make sure it is a free one)
- Basic bank account – gives a debit card and allow you to make automated payments (direct debits and standing orders). Even if you have a poor credit history you can get. They won’t let you go overdrawn. Check if fees are charged if they return items when you don’t have funds
- Credit Union account – these vary and charge fees but do help in lots of other ways including low cost loans and help to budget and manage your money in and out. Rainbow Savers is the local Credit Union for anyone in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. You can also join Eastern Savings and Loans if you live, work, study or volunteer in Norfolk, Suffolk or Cambridgeshire. If you rent from a Housing Association find out if they offer a Credit Union account as well.
For more help with choosing, opening and running an account click here
Get an email account
Setting up an email is straightforward.
If you have your own smartphone, tablet or computer there should be a mail account linked in the settings and you can follow the instructions to set up
If not there there are lots of popular, free email accounts, e.g.
Remember to use a suitable name – you will need this email to correspond with the DWP and future employers as well as friends!
Remember when using an email account to only open attachments from people that you know and trust. For more about internet safety and keeping your equipment free from computer viruses go to staying safe online.
You face a gap in benefits support when you first move to Universal Credit.
When you first claim you will need to close off all your old means tested benefits and make the new Universal Credit claim. The new claim will take 6-7 weeks to come through – this means you need to have some savings and/or get ahead with important bills like rent and heating and lighting so that you can manage for this extra time without any money coming in.
This can be a hard time and it is really important to prepare as much as you can and get help if you are worried. You can also request help from the DWP with an Advance Payment.
More about managing the change to Universal Credit here
Extra help you need
Think about any extra help you may need to manage Universal Credit:
- Help with managing your money (this may be called Personal Budgeting support) This includes sorting out a monthly budget, making and receiving payments, coping in a crisis and knowing where to go for help. It could also include getting more confident dealing with numbers and keeping track.
- Speaking up for yourself – being prepared to assert your needs, challenge other people’s views and get yourself heard is key to every part of Universal Credit – whether you are sorting out money with a partner, agreeing your Claimant commitment with the Jobcentre or explaining difficulties you experience so that you can get an alternative payment arrangement.
- Strengthening your English language reading and writing – if you lack confidence this can hold you back and you may miss out on important opportunities – in saving money, getting what you are entitled to and finding work.
To find out about improving your confidence and skills see more here