Applying for Universal Credit

This information applies to England and Wales.

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit. You may be eligible if you:

  • are not working or are on a low income  
  • are under State Pension age
  • do not have savings of £16,000 or more

Check your eligibility for Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

Use the Turn2us benefits calculator to find out what benefits you’re entitled to.

When you make your claim, you must be:

  • in the UK
  • have the UK as your main home

Citizens Advice runs a Help to Claim service. They can support you to work out if you can get Universal Credit.

Help to Claim (Citizens Advice)

Help applying for Universal Credit

You will have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first Universal Credit payment.

After this UC is usually paid once a month. If it's hard to stick to a monthly budget, you can ask if you can be paid more often.

Alternative payment arrangements (GOV.UK)

Warning Advance payments

You can ask for an advance payment of your Universal Credit 5 days after submitting your claim.

You pay the advance back within 24 months by receiving a lower payment every month. You do not pay interest on the advance.

Get an advance payment (GOV.UK)

Support getting an advance payment (Citizens Advice)

Getting extra financial support

Universal Credit elements

Universal Credit has a standard allowance. You may be eligible for extra payments, known as elements. These are extra amounts for things like childcare or housing, or if you cannot work because of sickness or disability.

Check how much Universal Credit you’ll get (Citizens Advice)

Universal Credit and New Style ESA

You may be claiming New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You may also be able to claim Universal Credit at the same time.

A benefits calculator can help you work out if you’ll be better off on both benefits.

Turn2us benefits calculator

New Style ESA counts as income. Any New Style ESA payments will reduce your Universal Credit payments.

Differences between Universal Credit and New Style ESA

There are some differences between the 2 benefits.  

New Style ESA is:

  • if you cannot work due to disability, an illness or health condition
  • based on your National Insurance contributions
  • paid every 2 weeks

Universal Credit is:

  • not just for people who have an illness or health condition
  • means-tested
  • usually paid once a month

Employment and Support Allowance

Eligibility for New Style ESA (GOV.UK)

Universal Credit and legacy benefits

Universal Credit has replaced legacy benefits including:

You may be claiming any of these benefits and have the choice of applying for Universal Credit. These legacy benefits will stop if you do. Check that you will not be worse off.

Turn2us benefits calculator

You cannot make new claims for legacy benefits. Everyone on legacy benefits will be invited to claim Universal Credit.

Universal Credit and disability benefits

You may be claiming disability benefits like:

If you have the choice of applying for Universal Credit it should not affect these.

Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

When you apply for Universal Credit, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will ask if you have a condition that affects your ability to work.

That may lead to a Work Capability Assessment. This will decide how much money you receive.

The assessment usually has 2 parts:

  1. You fill in a form called the 'work capability questionnaire' or 'UC50'.
  2. You have an interview with a healthcare professional called a medical assessment.

Work Capability Assessment for ESA or Universal Credit

UC50 form (GOV.UK)

Warning If you are terminally ill

If it's reasonable to think that your illness could be terminal within 12 months, you can apply to fast-track your Universal Credit application. This would mean you would not need to fill out a UC50 form and would not need a Work Capability Assessment.

Terminally ill people and benefits

After your Work Capability Assessment, the DWP will put you into 1 of 3 groups:

  • Limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA)
  • Limited capability for work (LCW)
  • Fit for work

DWP decisions after your assessment

The Universal Credit group will outline:

  • how much money you receive
  • if you need to complete tasks

Universal Credit: What you’ll get (GOV.UK)

This means they assess you as having limited capability for work and work-related activity.

You do not have to work or prepare for work. You will receive extra money as well as the standard allowance.

Limited capability for work (LCW)

This means they assess you as having limited capability for work.

You do not have to work now, but you need to prepare to work in the future. You will not receive any more money if you’re in this group.

Your work coach may ask you to do some regular tasks to get ready for work, such as:

These are called claimant commitments.

Speak to your work coach if you struggle to manage the requirements.

You can look for work if you want to, but you do not need to.

Fit for work

This is also known as ‘capable for work’.

You must do regular tasks to get ready for work. Your work coach will tell you how many hours you should spend looking for work each week.

You will not receive more money if you’re in this group.

People you live with

People you live with can affect your Universal Credit. 

For example, if you live with a partner and apply for Universal Credit, you will need to make a joint claim. Your partner's income or savings will be treated as if they’re your income or savings.

Only one of you will be eligible for the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity element. The other person may be eligible for the carer’s element of Universal Credit.

Caring overview (entitledto)

You may get a reduced housing element if you live with another adult who is not your partner, for example:

    • your adult child
    • your parent
    • a friend 

This is because the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) thinks the people living with you can help with the housing costs.  

You will not get less Universal Credit housing element if you claim disability benefits like:

 Universal Credit: What if I have another adult living with me? (Turn2us)

If your child gets DLA or PIP

If you have a disabled child, you might get the disabled child element added to your Universal Credit if:

  • your child gets the care component of DLA or daily living component of PIP and
  • your child is under 16 or a qualifying young person

Qualifying young person when your child is 16 to 19 

There are 2 additions:

  1. disabled child addition (low or medium care element for DLA, or standard daily living for PIP)
  2. severely disabled child addition (highest care element for DLA, or enhanced daily living for PIP)

When your child gets the DLA or PIP award, report it to the DWP. You can do this by:

The addition will be added to your next payment. It can be backdated to the date you applied for DLA or PIP.

If you are not a UK national

You have to live in the UK as your main home to claim Universal Credit. You also need to have a right to claim public funds.

Getting benefits if you’ve recently moved to the UK (Citizens Advice)

If you are homeless

You can apply for Universal Credit if you’re homeless. For example, you:

  • have no registered address
  • are sleeping on the streets
  • are ‘sofa surfing’, which means staying with different people you know
  • are staying in a hostel

Applying for UC: information for homeless people (GOV.UK)

You can also get general help and advice from your local council if you’re homeless.

Enter a postcode where you have a local connection (GOV.UK)

Emergency local authority housing

Work and claiming Universal Credit

You can apply for Universal Credit if you work and are on a low income.

Work and claiming benefits

If you’re self-employed

If you're self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, you’ll need to show your income and expenses every month.

Self-employment and benefits

Self-employment and Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

Help applying for Universal Credit

You can apply for Universal Credit online.

How to claim Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

There is also support available if you need it.

Universal Credit helpline

Call the Universal Credit helpline to:

  • get more information about how to apply
  • apply over the phone if you cannot apply online

You can also call to get a form in:

  • Braille
  • large print
  • audio

Contact Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

Citizens Advice Help to Claim

Citizens Advice runs a Help to Claim phone service. It can give you support filling in your application form.

Help to Claim (Citizens Advice)

Help with the work capability questionnaire

If your condition affects your ability to work, you will have to fill in a work capability questionnaire (UC50 form).

Get ready to fill in the work capability form for Universal Credit (Citizens Advice)

Work Capability Assessment for ESA or Universal Credit

There are also local organisations that can help you fill in the form.

Advicelocal

Find an adviser (Turn2us)

Someone else can apply for you

You may not feel you can manage your own application or be able to find the information you need. You can ask another person or organisation to apply for you.

If a friend or family member already manages your benefits, they can apply for Universal Credit on your behalf. This is called being an appointee.

Becoming an appointee

Managing money for someone else


Evidence when you apply for UC

You need to give DWP information about:

  • whether you have an illness or condition that affects your ability to work
  • how much rent you have to pay
  • how much you earn
  • any savings or investments
  • how much you pay for childcare if you want help with childcare costs

How to claim Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

DWP cannot access your NHS records without your permission.

If they ask to see your pay slips, bank statements or other information, you do not have to show them. But there’s a risk that they could close your application if you do not.

Evidence that you cannot work

The DWP will ask for evidence that your health or condition affects your ability to work.

You need to send this with your work capability questionnaire (UC50 form).

Fill in the work capability form: how your conditions affect you (Citizens Advice)

You can ask your medical staff to write a letter for you. For example, your:

  • GP
  • nurse
  • hospital consultant
  • occupational therapist
  • physiotherapist

There may be a charge for this.

It will not matter if you do not have an official diagnosis. But you will need to show evidence that you cannot work.

There is other evidence you can use. For example:

  • your prescription for medication
  • results from an X-ray or scan
  • a letter when you were discharged from hospital

Citizens Advice may be able to give advice on finding medical evidence.

Help to Claim (Citizens Advice)

How to show evidence

When you apply for Universal Credit, you create a Universal Credit account and then upload the evidence to your account.

Create a Universal Credit account (GOV.UK)

If you’ve claimed Universal Credit before, you can sign into your account to do this.

Sign into your Universal Credit account (GOV.UK)

Call the Universal Credit helpline for support in how to upload your evidence.

Contact Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

You can also post a message on your journal to ask what evidence you need.

Fit notes

A fit note is a document from your GP to say you cannot work. It is the same as a sick note.

It covers you if you’re waiting for a Work Capability Assessment or waiting to hear the outcome of a Work Capability Assessment.

You will not need to get fit notes again if you’re put into:

  • Limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA) group
  • Limited capability for work (LCW) group

You should not pay for a fit note. You need to upload it onto your Universal Credit journal.

If your fit note runs out in a few weeks, make sure you contact your GP to keep it renewed.

Ask your GP to backdate the fit note if:

  • you cannot get an appointment before it runs out
  • they take a long time to renew it

Getting extra financial support

If you’ve applied for Universal Credit but are struggling to afford your bills, there is support available.

Rent arrears

If you’ve missed a rent payment and owe money to your landlord, this is called being in rent arrears. Advance payments could be a way to pay off some of your rent arrears.

Rent arrears

If you are 2 months or more behind with rent, your landlord can ask for the housing element of your Universal Credit to go directly to them. This means you receive a smaller payment each month.

Check if rent arrears will be taken out of your Universal Credit payments in the future.

You could also ask for housing element payments to go straight to your landlord in future. This might help if you struggle to manage your rent.

Check your benefits

Use a benefits calculator to see if you’re receiving all the benefits you’re entitled to.

Turn2us benefits calculator

Help with food, bills and essentials 

There are places where you can get free or cheap food. 

Free food and food banks

If you need support with energy bills, there is some support available from government and local authorities.

Help with gas and electricity bills

Advice about debt

If you’re in debt or getting into debt, there’s advice available.

Help and advice when you are in debt

Budgeting tips

Mental health and benefits

The benefit process can be stressful. There are things you can do if it’s affecting your mental health. These can include:

  • accessing mental health support
  • talking to a mental health charity about how you are feeling
  • talking to other disabled people on our online community

Support if claiming benefits affects your mental health

If your mental health means you find it hard to work or do daily tasks, you could claim benefits. These will depend on the criteria but can include depression or anxiety.

Benefits and mental health

Last reviewed by Scope on: 10/06/2024

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