How do I claim universal credit?

Last updated: 14/07/2021

You must claim universal credit online. If you have problems doing this you can call the Universal Credit Helpline for where to get help.

Related information

Apply for universal credit online:

Universal credit helpline:
0800 328 5644

0800 328 1344

Your online account

You will be given a username and password for your on-line account and 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 to 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.

Information you need to make a claim

There are several pieces of information you’ll need to hand to apply for universal credit on-line.

These will include:

  • 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 any children you have

After applying on-line you will be asked to take part in an interview at the Jobcentre, by video or phone, usually within two weeks of your claim. You’ll need to provide evidence of the information you have entered in the on-line application form. It’s worth spending a bit of time getting everything together before you apply and to take to your interview.

The Jobcentre Plus interview

This interview is with a Jobcentre Plus staff member who’ll become your work coach. You will talk to them regularly for support to help you 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.

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 claim.

The claimant commitment is a contract between you and DWP and will include:

  • How many hours a week you must look for 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.

Single parents have:

  • No work-related activity if they are pregnant and within 11 weeks before the expected date of delivery, have limited capability for work and work related activity or they have a child under one year
  • Work focused interviews if their youngest child is one year old
  • 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 work you are looking for to school hours but would still be expected to look for jobs around 25 hours per week. This should also 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. 

Reduction in universal credit if you don’t fulfil your claimant commitment

Your universal credit could be reduced if you don’t 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 undertaken

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 are subject to high, medium or low-level sanctions, 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 an interview for a job. 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 17 weeks 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 no money for food, heating, housing and hygiene, you may be entitled to a hardship payment of 60% of the standard allowance of universal credit.

Any hardship payments received must be repaid when the sanction has been lifted, unless you move into work and earn more than 16 hours per week at national living wage. In this case the hardship repayments will be stopped and written-off if the employment continues for at least six months.