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How to apply for Universal Credit

If you’re eligible to claim Universal Credit, you can apply in one of the following ways:

When you apply online, you’ll need to create an account to make your claim and manage your ongoing claims. You’ll need to complete your initial claim within 28 days, or you will need to start again.

You don’t need to apply for each individual element; your entitlement to these will be decided by the information you give in your application. It’s important, though, to be aware of all the elements available to you when you apply.

During your application, you may receive messages asking you additional questions, so that your entitlement can be accurately decided on.

If you think you haven’t been given an element you’re entitled to, you can appeal this decision.

Using the Universal Credit account

You can use your Universal Credit account to communicate with the Universal Credit office while you’re applying and once you begin to receive payments. It can also be used to view any upcoming appointments or meetings, to see a breakdown of what you’re entitled to, and when you’ll be paid.  

The online account also contains a section called the ‘journal’. This is where you can communicate with your work coach. A work coach is provided for people who claim Universal Credit and are able to work. They will help with your job search and provide support such as helping create or improve your CV and helping you to prepare for job interviews. 

How will I be assessed?

Once you’ve submitted your initial application, you’ll be asked to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre. 

You’ll need to take documents that prove your identity, such as your passport or driver’s licence, as well as a recent a bill with your address. If you are unfit for work, you’ll also need to take evidence of this. This could be a ‘fit note’ from your GP, for example. 

A further ‘work search interview’ will then be arranged following your first interview, or on another day. At the work search interview, you’ll meet a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) adviser, who is called a work coach. 

They will discuss your work prospects and the support you need. A ‘claimant commitment’ will then be drawn up, which is a record of any conditions (or ‘requirements’) you’ll have to meet to continue receiving Universal Credit in full. 

This can include requirements such as actively looking for work. If you have a limited capability for work, you will need to go through a Work Capability Assessment. You can ask your work coach to suspend any job-seeking requirements until after this assessment.

How is Universal Credit paid?

Universal Credit is paid monthly or twice a month for some people in Scotland. It can take five weeks or more to receive your first Universal Credit payment. Once you’ve received your first payment, you’ll be paid on the same date each month, unless the dates fall on a weekend. 

If you are facing financial hardship because of this five-week wait, or you’re in need of urgent financial assistance, you can request a Universal Credit advance payment. You can do this via your online Universal Credit account, by speaking to your work coach, or by calling the Universal Credit helpline. 

You can also claim this advance if you’ve experienced a change in your circumstances and are waiting for your payment to be increased to reflect this. If the monthly payment schedule does not work for you, you can ask for your payment frequency to be increased but this is at the discretion of the DWP. 

Do I have to claim Universal Credit if I’m currently receiving a legacy benefit?

If you currently receive a legacy benefit, for example Housing Benefit, you can stay on it until 2029 when you will have to move to Universal Credit, unless:

  • You’ve received a letter from the DWP telling you to claim Universal Credit by a certain date
  • Your situation has changed – for example, you’ve moved to a different council area

If you decide to claim Universal Credit, any legacy benefits in payment at that time will stop.

If you’re not sure whether to claim Universal Credit or not, get advice for your local Citizens Advice or call the Universal Credit helpline.

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