Claiming Universal Credit

You will need to make a claim with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

How to claim Universal Credit: step by step (GOV.UK)

Easy read: Universal Credit (GOV.UK)

Contact Citizens Advice about applying for Universal Credit.

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 UC application. You also are exempt from the claimant commitment and face to face assessment.

Terminally ill people and benefits

Universal Credit payments

Universal Credit is usually paid once a month. If you have difficulty budgeting monthly, you can ask your case manager for more frequent payments. You will have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first payment.

Alternative payment arrangements (GOV.UK)

Moving to Universal Credit

Advance payments

You can ask for an advance payment of your Universal Credit 5 days after submitting your claim. You must pay the advance back within 24 months but you do not pay interest.

Get an advance payment (GOV.UK)

Support getting an advance payment (Citizens Advice)

Help claiming

Citizens Advice runs a Help to Claim service to help you:

  • work out if you can get Universal Credit
  • fill in the Universal Credit application form
  • prepare for your first job centre appointment
  • check your first payment is correct

Help to Claim (Citizens Advice)

Benefits and mental health

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

If your child gets Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (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 Personal Independence Payment 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:

  • disabled child addition (low or medium care element for DLA, or standard daily living for PIP)
  • severely disabled addition (high care element for DLA, or enhanced daily living for PIP)

When your child gets the DLA or PIP award, report it to the Department for Work and Pensions (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.

Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

If you have a condition that limits your ability to work, you must report this to the DWP.

You need to provide a fit note from your doctor.

You will usually have a Work Capability Assessment. 

If you are transferring from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and you are already in a group, you will not be reassessed.

A WCA will decide if your condition affects your ability to work. You will need to fill in a form about how your condition affects you. You may also have a medical assessment.

Work Capability Assessment

Depending on how your condition affects you, the DWP assessor decides what you must do to claim Universal Credit.

You can go into 1 of 3 ‘activity groups’:

Limited capability for work and work-related activity

You do not have to work or prepare for work.

Limited capability for work

You do not have to work, but your Work Coach may ask you to do some regular tasks to get ready for work, such as meeting them or doing training.

Speak to your Work Coach if you struggle to manage the requirements.

Fit 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.

Appealing DWP decisions

You might want to appeal if you think your Work Capability Assessment is wrong and that you should not be looking for work or doing tasks to get ready for work. For example, the DWP says you are fit for work.

Check you’re in the right Universal Credit work-related activity group (Citizens Advice)

Appealing a benefits decision

Starting work and pay rises

You can work and claim Universal Credit. You must contact the DWP if you start a new job.

As you earn more, your Universal Credit reduces but you should still be better off.

You may keep more of what you earn if you or your partner have limited capability for work.

How much you can earn on Universal Credit

Probation periods

Contact Jobcentre Plus to tell them when you start working.

If your job is affecting your health, get advice from your doctor and send evidence to your Work Coach.

Talk to your Work Coach if you do not pass your probation period.

You may lose benefits if your employer dismisses you.


Your Work Coach may ask you to prove that your work is useful and productive. They call this 'gainful' employment.

They'll probably ask about your:

  • clients
  • suppliers
  • appointments
  • business plan

You might not have to do this if the DWP says that you do not need to look for work.

Self-employment and benefits

Finishing work due to ill health

If you resign and the DWP does not think you had a good reason, they could cut or reduce your benefits. Get written evidence to show that stopping work was not your choice. This could be a letter or email.

Stopping work and ill health retirement


You may be able to claim Universal Credit and other benefits if you are made redundant.

Redundancy and your rights

Could reasonable adjustments help?

Your employer should work with you to find reasonable adjustments that could support you to keep working. This could include equipment or a change in duties.

There is no set definition of what is ‘reasonable’. It depends on:

  • your job
  • your employer
  • your condition

If your employer does not work with you to find reasonable adjustments, this could be discrimination.

Disability discrimination at work

Reasonable adjustments

If you become disabled or your condition changes, your employer should make reasonable adjustments to help you carry on working.

You could get an Access to Work grant to help pay for reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments at work

Work and claiming benefits

Students claiming Universal Credit

The rules for students are complicated. Get advice before you start studying.

Call the Disability Rights UK Students Helpline to get advice

Apply for other benefits as soon as you can

Most full-time students are not eligible for Universal Credit. But you can claim Universal Credit as a full-time student if all the following apply:

  • you receive PIP
  • your Work Capability Assessment says you have a 'limited capability for work'
  • you have limited capability for work before you start your studies (this applies to UC claims on or after 15 December 2021) 

A claim for ESA can take more than 4 months. Claim as soon as you can.

How to claim 'new style' Employment and Support Allowance (GOV.UK)

If you think you may be eligible, apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Student finance, loans and scholarships

Your student income can affect how much Universal Credit you receive. Student income includes:

  • student maintenance loans
  • student grants
  • scholarships from a college or university for anything that is not travel costs, books, equipment or childcare
  • bursaries, like a teacher training bursary

Loans for tuition fees do not affect your student income or the Universal Credit you receive.

How student finance affects your benefits

Change in circumstances

You may need to claim Universal Credit if:

  • you are claiming an older legacy benefit that Universal Credit replaces
  • you have what the DWP calls a “change in circumstances”

Older 'legacy benefits’ that Universal Credit is replacing

Universal Credit is replacing 6 benefits. The DWP calls these legacy benefits:

  • Housing Benefit
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Child Tax Credits (CTC)
  • Working Tax Credits (WTC)
  • Income Support

Warning Changes in circumstances

If you have what the DWP calls a ‘change in circumstances’, you may need to claim Universal Credit. If this happens, you would not be able to re-claim any legacy benefits.

What changes in circumstances might trigger a move to Universal Credit (entitledto)

Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to choose if you move onto Universal Credit. Speak to a benefits adviser if you are not sure.

Find a local benefits adviser (advicelocal)

Scope helpline

Last reviewed by Scope on: 14/08/2023

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