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Page created: 22 April 2021

Applying for Universal Credit (UC)

You must apply as a couple if you and your partner live together. You do not need to be married. The Universal Credit team might phone you after you have sent your application if they need more information or if you cannot verify your identity online. On this page you can find out more about how to apply.

Most applications for Universal Credit should be made online. Claimants can apply here.

By following the web link above, claimants will need to go through an online application and gateway. You will need to set up an email address and password that the online UC account can be attached to.

If you need help with the online application process for whatever reason, you can contact the Citizens Advice service ‘Help to Claim’ on 0800 144 8 444.

If you still need further help, you can call Universal Credit directly via their helpline on 0800 328 5644.

Once you have made your online application, you will have an online account where you can see the full breakdown of your Universal Credit payable amounts, your online journal where you can contact your job coach directly, and also report any changes of circumstances, make requests, complaints and ask for revisions on your account.

NB: It is highly advisable to write down your UC account email and password and put this somewhere safe. If you lose or forget these details, getting back into your UC online account could be very difficult.

Claimant Commitment

Every new claimant under Universal Credit will need to sign an agreement called a ‘Claimant Commitment’. This is a set of responsibilities agreed with your designated job coach to look for work or get ready for work.

You must sign your Claimant Commitment in order to begin receiving UC.

What these responsibilities will be under your agreement will depend upon your specific circumstances. Claimant Commitment responsibilities can include work-related activities such as:

  • writing a CV.
  • Looking for and applying for jobs.
  • going on training courses etc.

Couples will each have a Claimant Commitment and set of their own responsibilities.

If you fail in your responsibilities under your Claimant Commitment, the DWP can apply sanctions to your claim, reducing the maximum amount of Universal Credit you receive each month. If you are a couple and only one of you fails to meet your responsibilities, only half a sanction will be applied.

You should be aware that your Claimant Commitment is an ongoing agreement, therefore your responsibilities can be renegotiated with your work coach as and when your situation changes.

NB: Vulnerable claimants (those with a disability or long-term illness) should make their difficulties known to their job coaches immediately and have their commitments amended to avoid any sanctions. 

If you are having difficulties with your Claimant Commitment, with your job coach, or having sanctions placed upon you under Universal Credit, please contact the Disability Law Service for expert advice on how to resolve your situation on 0207 791 9800 (option 5).

Work Groups

Once you have signed your Claimant Commitment, you will be placed into one of four different work groups. Again, this will depend upon your specific circumstances:

  • Group one – No work-related requirements. In this group there will be no work-related requirements placed upon you.
  • Group two – Work-focused interview requirements only. In this group you will only be expected to attend interviews and discuss returning to work with your job coach.
  • Group three – Work preparation and Work-focused interview requirements. In this group you will be expected to develop your skills and undertake training programmes, work experience, CV building etc.
  • Group four – All work-related requirements. In this group you will be expected to look for and prepare for work for 35 hours per week. UC guidance states that this group should be seen as a full-time job.

Depending upon your circumstances, you can be excused from a work group or even placed into a group that best suits your situation. To find out which group best suits your particular circumstances, please take a look at this useful web page from Citizens Advice.

Getting Paid

Getting paid your Universal Credit will be incredibly important to you, so it is vital that you understand how long it takes to receive your payments each month.

Payments usually take around five weeks to be received. This is because the first payment is made up of a one-month ‘assessment period’, plus up to another seven days for the payment to reach your account.

For example:

Geoff has just made an online application for Universal Credit on 18 September. His first assessment period runs for one month up to 17 October, with a new assessment period beginning the following month on 18 November.

Geoff will now receive his payments no later than the 24th day of each month – seven days after the end of each assessment period.


If you are a new claimant for Universal Credit, waiting five weeks for your first payment could be too long. In this case, you can request an advance of up to 100% of your estimated UC maximum amount within a few days of making your online application.

You should be aware that advances will need to be paid back to the DWP out of your monthly Universal Credit payment. The terms of the repayment are typically 25% per month, stretched over 24 months, but this will also depend upon your specific circumstances.

If you refuse these terms at the time of requesting the advance, the DWP will likely refuse you the advance. There is no right of appeal against advances terms.

If you accept the terms of repayment and later find that this is putting you in severe financial hardship, you can request that the terms of repayment be changed, but again there is no right of appeal against terms of repayment for advances.

Alternative Payment Arrangements

Some claimants will struggle with the way Universal Credit payments are made; therefore, you may be able to arrange for alternatives to the way your UC amounts are paid to you.

Alternatives can include:

  • • Housing costs paid straight to your landlord.
  • • UC maximum amount paid twice a month – instead of monthly.
  • • Payments split and paid into two different bank accounts instead of one.

Arrangements can be made at any time but will start at the beginning of your next assessment period. Arrangements will be kept under review and can be removed if the DWP find it is appropriate to do so.