How do I apply for Universal Credit?

Last updated: 28/09/2022

You apply for Universal Credit online. There may also be some work related tasks you must agree to complete in order to keep being paid.

Related information

Apply for universal credit online:

Universal credit helpline:
0800 328 5644

0800 328 1344

Information you need to make a claim

There are several pieces of information you will need to make your online claim for Universal Credit.

These will include:

  • Your national insurance number
  • Your postcode
  • Details of your bank/building society account
  • Housing details including your landlord’s address and phone number
  • Details of earnings and other money like benefits, savings, shares or pensions
  • Childcare costs
  • Child Benefit reference numbers for the children you are responsible for.

The application  takes around 40 minute to complete so it is useful to have all the information you need to hand before you start.


Your online account

After you claim Universal Credit you will be given a username and password for your on-line account. It will be your responsibility to keep all your personal details and information on your account up to date.

This account is where you will be able to:

  • Report any changes in your circumstances like starting work, having a baby, requesting help to pay for childcare, flagging up a disability, changes to your hours of work, etc
  • Check when your next payment of Universal Credit will be
  • Look at your claimant commitment
  • Check your to-do-list and add any notes in your journal

If you do not have a computer at home you might be able to use one in a library or your local Jobcentre.


The Jobcentre Plus interview

Around 2 weeks after applying for Universal Credit you will be asked to take part in an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus office, by video or over the phone. You will need to provide evidence of the information you have entered in the on-line application form.

This interview is with a Jobcentre Plus staff member who’ll become your work coach. You will talk to them regularly for help getting ready for work or to find a job.

If you miss this interview your application will be cancelled, you’ll not be entitled to any Universal Credit and will have to apply again.

The Claimant Commitment – agreeing the steps to find work

To complete your claim for Universal Credit you need to agree to a Claimant Commitment. You will do this during the interview after you have made your online application.

The Claimant Commitment is a contract between you and DWP and will include:

  • How many hours a week you must spend looking for work
  • How many hours a week you are expected to work
  • Any caring responsibilities you have
  • Any disabilities affecting your ability to work or jobs you can apply for.

It is also a record of tasks you must complete, called work related activity, to remain entitled to Universal Credit.

Your work-related activity depends on your circumstances and the age of your children. It can include writing a cv, attending training, applying for and taking a job

Generally single parents have:

  • No work-related activity if they are pregnant and within 11 weeks before the expected date of delivery or are within 15 weeks of having a baby even if the baby did not survive, have limited capability for work and work related activity, have a child under one year old or get Carer’s Allowance. You will have no work related activity for 13 weeks after you have been a victim of domestic abuse. You need to report the abuse to DWP.
  • Work focused interviews if their youngest child is one year old or under 3 if you are a single parent and get ESA
  • Work preparation (not including applying for or taking a job) if you have limited capability for work or a child of two years old
  • All work-related activity (including applying for and starting work of 35 hours per week) if your youngest child is three or over.

If you have a child under 13 you can restrict the hours you can work to fit with your child’s school hours but would still be expected to look for jobs around 25 hours per week.

If you do not get Carer’s Allowance but care for one or more severely disabled people for at least 35 hours per week, you may be asked to do some work related activity. The work related activity may be minimal if you can show your caring responsibilities make it difficult to complete.

These responsibilities should be put into your Claimant Commitment so your work coach is fully aware of all the restrictions you have.

Once these things are agreed you’ll sign your Claimant Commitment. Any changes to your Claimant Commitment must also be agreed with your work coach.

It is very important that you consider carefully what is included in your Claimant Commitment as your Universal Credit can be stopped if you do not follow it.

If your circumstances change you will need to update your Claimant Commitment

Claiming Universal Credit if you have a life limiting medical condition

If you have a medical condition that is expected to end your life within 12 months you can claim Universal Credit under special rules. You or a family member can ask your doctor to fill out form SR1 and send it to DWP. Your claim for Universal Credit will then be completed quickly without the need for an interview.

If you are already getting Universal Credit when you are told your life is expected to end within 12 months you can report this in your online account. You may then receive a higher amount of Universal Credit depending on how much you were already getting.

You may also be able to get Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to help with day to day living costs.

For more details on Personal Independence Payment see: Financial help if you have a disability or long term illness.



Your Universal Credit could be reduced if you do not carry out the tasks in your Claimant Commitment. This is called a sanction.

The length of sanction depends on:

  • The work-related activity you are expected to do
  • The activity you failed to complete and
  • The number of times you didn’t complete it.

There are four levels. Each reduces your Universal Credit for a different period of time:

  • High: at least 91 days
  • Medium: at least 28 days
  • Low: at least seven days
  • Lowest: until the task that was not carried out is completed

More than one sanction can be applied at the same time. A second or third sanction will start when your current sanction ends. It will increase the length of time your Universal Credit is reduced but not the amount of money you lose each month.

If you get a high, medium or low-level sanction, you will lose an amount equal to the standard allowance of your Universal Credit for the length of the sanction. If you have a child under three years, you will lose an amount equal to 40% of the standard allowance from your Universal Credit.

Single parents with a child under one year old, or who have limited capability for work related activity, cannot be sanctioned.


Jon has two children aged eight and ten. He is not working. He is given a medium level sanction for not attending a job interview. This means he will lose the personal allowance from his Universal Credit for 28 days.

After a week Jon is sanctioned again for refusing to accept a job offer. This time he is given a high level sanction so he will lose the standard allowance from his Universal Credit for 91 days. This sanction will start when his first one ends meaning Jon’s Universal Credit will be reduced for 119 days in total. Jon can apply for a hardship payment to help with his drop in income.


Hardship payments

If your Universal Credit is reduced because of a sanction, and you have less money for food, heating, housing and hygiene products, you may get a hardship payment. This payment is equal to 60% of the standard allowance of Universal Credit.

Any hardship payments received must be repaid when the sanction has been lifted. If you start work, and earn more than the equivalent of 16 hours per week at national living wage, the hardship repayments will be stopped. They will be written-off if the employment continues for at least six months.