Universal Credit

Get ready for the changes that Universal Credit is bringing

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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

Get online

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.


Get verified on-line

To apply for Universal Credit, you have to have your identity verified on-line. You can do this before you make your application by applying for one of the other government services that are using GOV.UK Verify. The website includes a video that explains what

The easiest way to do this is to check your state pension. Click here to start the process.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t really want to find out about your state pension, just going through the process will mean you get registered with the GOV.UK Verify service and will save time when you come to apply for Universal Credit.

If you find the process of doing this overwhelming, try to get some support now. Try our local services directory to find someone to help. Taking time to do this when you are making your Universal Credit claim will delay how quickly you get your payment and may add to your stress.

You will need to make sure you have ID with you when you do this. The process is straightforward and you just need to work through each step a stage at a time. If you don’t have the ID you need, you can stop the application then try again when you have it. You will also need an email address.

As you follow the process through, you will see that you can get your ID verified by different companies. It doesn’t matter which company does the check for you, answer the questions on identification and depending on what ID you have, you might have a choice or you might have to go with a certain company. If you don’t have a driver’s license, a passport or a bank statement, you might struggle to be verified. Contact your local job centre for advice on what to do and to plan the steps you need to take.


Start saving

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 5-6 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