Universal Credit

Get ready for the changes that Universal Credit is bringing

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Making a claim

Not everyone can apply for Universal Credit – it is different around the country. At the moment in our area it is new jobseekers and not all of those.

Click here to find out if you are eligible

 How long will my claim take?

If you are eligible your first claim will take around 6 weeks to come through and possibly longer if you are a new jobseeker – assuming that you deal with any questions and attend all the appointments you need to.

It is vital to plan for this as it will mean 6-7 weeks without any benefits money in but still with bills to pay – including rent if you are on housing benefit. You can apply for advance payments but they are not guaranteed, do not cover everything and have to be paid back!

Use our pages on money help to plan for this and be ready.

Get your information ready

Before you start make sure you have all your essential information ready – here is a checklist that you can print off and check before you start.

Checklist of what you need to make a UC claim

Keep this information together safely so that you can also show it to the Jobcentre when you go in for your claim interview.

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Claim online

This is the link for making a claim:

https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

You have to make the claim online and it can’t be saved as you go along so you need to be ready to do it one go. It will take from 40 minutes to an hour. The session will be timed out if you pause for more than 20 minutes so make sure you have everything to hand.

You may find it easier to make the claim on a computer or a laptop with a keyboard. You can book a computer at your local library. The Jobcentre can also make tablets available for you to use.

The local libraries also run job clubs where you can meet others looking for work and build up your knowledge of being online.

If you need help claiming online you can also call the Universal Credit helpline

Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0345 600 0723
Textphone: 0345 600 0743

(Calls on these numbers can cost up to 45p a minute from a mobile – if you do not have phone credit the Jobcentre should provide a phone).

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Jobcentre appointment

Your claim is not finished until you have met with the Jobcentre.

This appointment checks the information you provided in your online claim and checks your ID (If you do not have a photo ID check in advance what they will accept).

You will be given an appointment time for the following week  – watch out for this – they will use your preferred method of contact It is very important to attend this meeting

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Claimant commitment

As well as checking your personal information and identity you will agree a Claimant commitment with the Jobcentre.

This is a very important document – it sets out what you agree to do in return for claiming Universal Credit.

This could be job search, doing a CV, completing training and skills assessments.

You will agree what is in there based on your circumstances and needs.

You must be open with your work coach about your needs and not be shy to point out what you may find difficult.

Once something is in your claimant commitment you are expected to stick to it and if you don’t your benefit payment could be at risk.

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Be prepared to talk about your needs

The most important thing is to be ready and think in advance about your needs and how these affect your search for work and how you will manage on Universal Credit, particularly:

  • your previous skills, training and experience
  • any caring responsibilities – for children or if you look after someone with a disability
  • any other barriers that you face to finding work – e.g. improving your digital, reading, writing or number skills, access to transport
  • how confident you are about managing your money and getting help with money when you need it
  • your housing situation – particularly if you are homeless or live with a partner who is abusive
  • any other needs which may be more hidden, e.g. if you experience problems with your mental health have a disability or problems with addiction.

Try writing all this down before you go so you have notes to refer to as you talk. You can always show the work coach your notes if you find some things hard to talk about.

It is vital to be clear about you needs because it will affect

  • how much you receive
  • extra help you can get to manage on Universal Credit
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How much will I receive?

Universal Credit is made up of different elements:

  • Basic amount – depending on if you are claiming as a single person or a couple and your age (if you are under 25 or aged 25 and over).
  • Housing element – this is the eligible housing costs that used to be paid as  housing benefit
  • Additional elements – there are a number of these based on children and child care costs, your ability to work, any other caring responsibilities you have

Less

  • any earnings above your work allowance are deducted at a rate of 63p in the £
  • any other income or savings above £6000
  • any money you owe for benefit advances, overpayment of tax credits, third party deductions, sanctions or if you are affected by the benefit cap

Entitledto has useful guidance to help you work out your payment Click here to find out more

If you are self employed the rules are a bit different and more complicated – Click here to read this guidance from the Money Advice Service

CARE – Universal Credit is based on a calendar month assessment period – if you are earning and your wages are paid more frequently, e.g. 4 weekly fortnightly or weekly, you are likely to receive more than an equivalent month’s wages in some assessment periods – this will affect your UC payment and may mean you get no payment and come off UC . Always talk to your work coach  period. Check out guidance from the DWP here

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Get support

You can always take someone with you when you attend JobCentre appointments.

If you are worried about your appointment or concerned that you will not express your needs think about someone who can go with you and help you.

If you don’t need to claim just yet don’t just ignore Universal Credit – it will be coming and it will be so much easier if you have prepared for it:

  • Check your benefits regularly – you may be eligible for more than you thought and even get onto a benefit that is not affected by Universal Credit
  • Work out what you can do for yourself and get help if you need it – read through all the pages on this website and look at our services directory for other help.
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Useful websites

Citizens Advice has very useful information on making a claim and preparing for your Jobcentre appointment here

The DWP have a number of videos on their youtube channel with further information.

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