Universal Credit was created as a way of bringing together several existing benefits for people in the UK. It is a way to get financial support with living costs if you have low or no income.

To claim you must live in the UK, be 18 years of age or older, be under state pension age and have less than £16,000 in money, savings and investment.

If this is you, then you could be able to apply for Universal Credit. This lesson will help you understand what tools and resources there are to help. It will also help you begin to apply online.


  • Know what Universal Credit is and how it can help.
  • Know if you or someone you know is able to apply.
  • Have a list of tools and resources to help.
  • Begin to apply online.

Read time

14 mins

Chapter 1


Read time

3 mins

What is universal credit?

Universal Credit offers financial support to people in the UK with low or no income. It replaces some of the older types of benefit like housing benefits by bringing them into one simplified process. It will give you a monthly payment to help with the cost of living. If you’re in Scotland or Northern Ireland, this may be paid twice a month.


Universal credit replaces all of these benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit – to help pay for the costs of child support. This is for any children you are responsible for
  • Housing benefit – to help pay for rent
  • Income support – to help with you living costs when the sum of any money you earn does not pay for all your costs
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – to help with costs when you are looking for work
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – to help with living costs while you’re unable to work. This may be due to a disability or health condition that effects how much you can work
  • Working Tax Credit – to support with day-to-day expenses


Claim all in one place

You can now apply for all of these benefits in one place. This is the purpose of Universal Credit.

It is normal for the amount being paid to vary from person to person. It all depends on their life and employment circumstances. This is why you might have to supply a lot of information to get your benefits. It helps the government to get a picture of your circumstances and what support they can offer you.


Why claim?

There are lots of reasons you may be unable to work, not currently working or not making enough to make ends meet. No matter what your reason, if you are struggling to pay for the day-to-day costs of living, you should consider applying for Universal Credit.

In the next chapter, we will help you to check if you are able to apply and the kind of benefits that can help you. First, let’s look at what you can get through Universal Credit.


What you can get

What you will get is one payment for all the benefits you are eligible for. This will be paid either monthly or twice a month. What changes, between each person and over time is the amount you will get.

This will depend on your income and your situation. You will usually get a standard allowance, plus any added amounts if, for example – you have children or a disability. This will be checked every month and can change over time. You can find out more about the standard amounts and added amounts here.

Chapter 2


Read time

1 min

Is this you?

  • You are out of work or have low income
  • You live in the UK
  • You are over the age of 18
  • You are under the state pension age – click here to calculate yours (generally this is 66 years of age or older, but it depends on the date you were born)
  • You have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments


If this sounds like you:

It is likely you are eligible to apply for Universal Credit. If you are unsure, there are free calculators which can help you to check what you are eligible for. You can access them by clicking here.

There also might be reasons you are, for example if you’re 16 or 17 and have a health condition or disability. In this example and a few others, you may still be able to claim even though you don’t fit all the criteria above.

There may also be other factors that mean you are or are not able to apply for Universal Credit despite meeting the above criteria. We will give you some useful tools and resources in chapter 4 to check your eligibility in full.

Chapter 3


Read time

8 mins

Who is applying?

For Universal Credit, you can either apply by yourself or you can apply with a partner. This will change the process of applying and it will also change the standard allowance you may be able to get. Your standard allowance will be higher together as you are calculated together. You will also be paid in a one joint payment to a single bank account.

If you are worried in any way about getting access to this money or your share of it, you can phone the helpline on 0800 328 5644. In Northern Ireland, you can ask for this to be paid into two accounts.


Let’s take a look at how to apply:

Step 1 – Before you begin

To work out how much Universal Credit they can give you, the Government need quite a bit of information. It is helpful if you can ready your documents and information before you start.


You will need:

  • An email address
  • Your phone number
  • Your postcode
  • Your National Insurance Number - you can find this on your online tax account. You can also find it on old documents like a P60, a payslip or on a letter about tax, pensions or benefits. If you can't access or find these, then you can ask the Government for help. Details on this are here
  • Details of your bank, building society or credit union account - You will need a bank account to receive your benefit payment. If you are applying with your partner, you only need one account to receive the benefits for both of you. If you need help setting up a bank account, we have a ‘banking online’ lesson you can look at later
  • Details of your current living situation - This includes type, how much you pay and who your landlord is, if you have one. It is helpful to have details of your property nearby
  • Details of any savings or investments you have
  • Details of any income from work or otherwise (e.g. private pension).
  • Details of any other benefits you receive - This will include how much you receive from each of them
  • The cost of child support - If you are asking for help with the cost of supporting child dependents, you will need to say how much you pay for childcare. You may also need the details of your childcare provider if you have one
  • Details of any health conditions or disabilities, including any fit note or evidence for your inability to or lessened ability to work. This evidence is often called a ‘fit note’, you can ask your doctor for this. If you can’t get a fit note, you should include any information that would help. This can include things like details of appointments, letters from specialists, prescriptions, and anything else you think can help

Step 2 – Set up an account

The first thing you need to do if you think you are eligible is go to the gov.uk website and set up an account. You can do this by clicking here. Once you create your account, you have 28 days to submit your form. If you need help, you can ring the helpline on 0800 328 5644.

When you apply with a partner, both of you will need to set up an account. You will then receive a code to link your accounts together.

Step 3 – Complete your ‘to-do list’

When you log into your account, you will see something called a to-do list. This is a list of questions you need to answer before you can submit. You have 28 days from creating your account to submit your claim. You should also note that if you aren’t using the site for 30 minutes you may need to log back in again.

If you need to edit any of your answers you can do so at the end, but you’ll need to finish your to-do first.

You should have everything you need to complete this if you have done step 1. Again, if you need any support with your claim, you can phone the helpline on 0800 328 5644.

Finally, if you’re applying with a partner, remember to link your account first, as you might not be able to answer all the questions on your to-do until you do.

Step 4 – Double check your details

It’s important that your answers on your to-do list are correct. Before you submit it’s best to check them one last time and update anything that doesn’t seem right.


If your details aren’t right:

  • You claim could be wrongly rejected
  • You could be given less than you’re entitled to
  • You could be given more than you’re entitled to. You will need to pay this extra money back

Step 5 – Add and update your details

Life and income can change quickly. If anything changes after you’ve submitted your claim, you need to log into your account as soon as possible and update it. If your information is found to be incorrect, your payments could be stopped or reduced, so always remember to update your account.

There may also be details you didn’t have when you submitted your claim. For example, you might have been waiting for a fit note. If this is the case you will need to update your account as soon as you have the new details or documents.

Step 6 – Verify your identity

Verifying your identity just means you need to prove you are who you are. This can be done through the Government’s ‘verify’ system. If you can’t do this, you can still prove who you are in person in the next and final step of the process.

Step 7 – Interview

If it is right for your circumstances, the final step will be a phone call or appointment with a Jobcentre work coach. The work coach will be able to help you verify your identity if you were unable to do so online.

Before you go to this interview, they will likely need you to do some further tasks, so it’s a good idea to check your to-do list online before your appointment. Here you will find a ‘prepare for your appointment’ section where you can answer all the questions the work coach will need. Once you’ve answered these questions you will be given a phone number to help you book.

If you can’t hear or speak on the phone you can use Relay UK to type what you want to say by calling 18001 first followed by the number you wish to call. This comes at no extra cost.

If you use British Sign Language, there is a Video relay you can use. It will call the Claim helpline directly from your device, so only click the link when you are ready. You can call them by clicking here.

In your interview you will create a commitment with your work coach. This will be to do things like look and apply for jobs as well as admin commitments like paying rent or reporting changes in your circumstances.


How you will be paid

Your payment will be paid into the bank, building society or credit union account you share the details of in your to-do. You will receive one payment each month, but if you’re applying in Scotland or Northern Ireland, this may be two.

You may get money to help you pay for you housing in this. If you do, you need to give this to your landlord. If you don’t, this may be because you are either not eligible for housing support, or your payment has been made direct to your landlord. This will be made clear to you.


How long will it take to get Universal Credit?

It can take up to 5 weeks to get your first payment after you submit your claim. If you are eligible, your first payment date will always be 1 month (4 weeks) after you submit. It can sometimes take up to a week longer to become available in your bank account.

With this in mind, it is always best to apply as early as possible. This is even true when you are not yet eligible, or you think your situation might change. It is easier to cancel your claim than to start from scratch when you’re in quick need of money. You do need to balance this with the 28 days you have to submit your claim once you create an account.

If you need financial help before the first payment, you can apply for an advance online on through your work coach. You will need to pay this back. You can find out more information on how to apply here.



If you need help applying at any point. You can phone 0800 328 5644 or textphone 0800 328 1344.

Chapter 4


Read time

2 mins

Here are some of the key links to apply and get help:

  • Go to the source – If you want help starting, the best place to go for information is the UK Government’s website on Universal Credit. You can find it here
  • Apply online – if you’re ready to start your application, you can click here


If you need help with your claim

The first place to go for help should be the Universal Credit helpline. You can call it by phoning 0800 328 5644.

If someone needs Welsh language, the number is 0800 328 1744.

The textphone number is 0800 328 1344.

If you can’t hear or speak on the phone you can use Relay UK to type what you want to say by calling 18001 first followed by the number you wish to call. This comes at no extra cost.

If you use British Sign Language, there is a Video relay you can use. It will call the Claim helpline directly from your device, so only click the link when you are ready. You can call them by clicking here.


If you need help while you wait

5 weeks can be a long time when you are waiting for financial support. If you need help while you wait, there are a number of places you can go to help on top of applying for an advance.


You can:

  • Use your local welfare assistance scheme – if you are in immediate or urgent need of help, you can ask your local council if they have a welfare assistance scheme that can help you. If you don’t know your local council, you can search by your postcode here
  • Citizen’s advice – If you need help with more complex needs, you can get help from local services and trained volunteers at Citizen’s Advice by calling 03444 113 111
  • Local online centres – if you need help with your digital skills before you apply, you can get help at a local online centre. If you need help with your digital skills, click here
  • Money Advice Service – If you need free and impartial money advice, you can phone the Money Advice Service on 0800 138 7777
  • Local food banks – If you are unable to feed yourself or your dependents, you may be able to get food from local food banks. To find yours, click here
  • Claim other benefits – if you have low or no income and you want to apply for benefits that don’t need to know how much you or your partner have in savings, you can apply for the ‘new style’ Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or the ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). These don’t take into account your partner’s income either
  • Get help with heating, housing and other bills and support – The Government have a conclusive list of additional support, where you can get help over and above Universal Credit here


If you’re in Scotland or Wales

There is different support for people in Scotland and Wales. If this is you, you can find out more here: different support in Scotland or different support in Wales.


Module complete!

Well done on finishing this lesson. You should now know what Universal Credit is, how to start applying and where to go for help.


Up next for you:

Next module: Banking online

Back to: Using online services

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 15th Sep 2023.