Millions of people are receiving Universal Credit, a Government scheme for people who are on a low income, out of work or unable to work.
Figures show a total of 5,461,352 people in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) are on UC, including 415,510 in the West Midlands.
Many people applied for Universal Credit due to the impact of coronavirus on the economy.
But there have been concerns about the application process, with the National Audit Office finding some people slipped through the net due to misunderstandings and mistakes over the information required.
Some have revealed they delayed putting in a claim for UC because they did not know what to do, or thought they would get another job quickly.
But one fifth of people held off from claiming the benefit because of “a level of fear” after hearing about bad experiences.
So what is the best way to apply for Universal Credit?
How to claim
Before beginning the application process you need details of these six things to hand.
According to Gov.uk, you need:
- Your bank, building society or credit union account details. This needs to be a current account, not a savings account, and should be in your name.
- An email address
- Information about your housing, including your address and postcode, how much rent you pay and who lives with you
- Details about any earnings or other income you or your partner have, such as payslips. The claim process will ask for a National Insurance number. This is so your income can be automatically tracked – via payroll information registered by employers with the HMRC – to adjust Universal Credit payments accordingly.
- Details of savings and any investments, like shares or a property you rent out. Anyone with savings of £16,000 or more won’t be eligible for Universal Credit.
- Details of how much you pay for childcare, if you are applying for help with childcare costs
If you already receive other benefits, you’ll also be asked about those.
But note that if you are on Working Tax Credits that money will come to an immediate halt when you start an application and cannot be reinstated.
Housing Benefit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Income Support all carry on for another two weeks after you’ve claimed Universal Credit, to help bridge the financial gap between your old benefits and your new Universal Credit payment.
It’s also worth mentioning that you have to apply as a couple if you and your partner live together, even if they are not eligible for Universal Credit and not applying for it themselves.
You can begin your application for Universal Credit here.
Gov.uk says you should have your mobile phone with you.
If you’re struggling with the application process, Citizens Advice has a service called Help to Claim.
This is a free, independent, confidential and impartial service provided by trained advisers from Citizens Advice.
They can help with things like how to gather evidence for your application or how to prepare for your first Jobcentre appointment. Details of how to contact Help to Claim can be found here.
Once you have applied for Universal Credit you will need to provide information so that the Department for Work and Pensions know you are who you say you are.
Claimants verify their identity separately to the Universal Credit claim process – it requires proof of identity such as a driving licence, passport or debit/credit card. You can verify your identity here
You need an online account with Gov.uk to claim Universal Credit and must submit your claim for the benefit within 28 days of creating this account.
The account enables you to see details of your claim and the payments you will be receiving as well as leave messages for advisors.
If you live with your partner, they also need to set up an account – even if they aren’t claiming Universal Credit themselves. You will be given a code to link the accounts together.