Claiming Benefits – Universal Credit Guide

This guide will provide you with an overview of what happens when you claim Universal Credit and what you need to do. 

First, you need to make sure you can get it. The government's list of when you should think about claiming Universal Credit is below:

  • you’re struggling to pay the bills

  • you’ve lost your job and have no income

  • you have a disability or illness that stops you from working

  • you have expensive childcare costs

  • you’re caring for someone

You usually need to be 18 years of age but you can get it at 16/17 years old under some circumstances, if you are a care leaver this will be when you:

  • have limited capability for work;

  • are awaiting an assessment to determine whether you have limited capability for work and has a statement given by a registered medical practitioner which provides that the person is not fit for work;

  • are responsible for a child;

  • are a member of a couple and the other member of which is responsible for a child or a qualifying young person (but only where the other member meets all the basic conditions of UC entitlement);

If you are not a UK citizen the rules can be complex, below are two links which can help and if you have someone supporting you speak to them for advice.

When you claim Universal Credit there are requirements attached to it and you will be put into one of 4 groups. These are called Work Groups and they mean that you have to do certain things to make sure you still receive Universal Credit. They are:

All work-related requirements - People in this group are deemed ready for work and are expected to look for and be available for work.

Work preparation- People in this group are not considered ready for full-time work but are expected to prepare themselves for working. This includes people with a disability or health condition which means they have a limited capability for work. It also includes people with a two-year-old child.

Work-focused interviews - In this group you are not expected to look for work but are required to attend occasional work focused interviews to make sure you do not lose touch with the labour market. This group includes lone parents and primary carers for children aged one.

No work-related activity - People in this group have no work condition as they are not considered to be able to work at all. This includes people with a disability or health condition which prevents them from working or who are carers, lone parents or the primary carer for a child under the age of one. This would also include those who meet the criteria as full-time students. 

Another important thing to know about Universal Credit is something called Sanctions.

Basically, when you claim Universal Credit you have to agree to something called a Claimant Commitment, this sets out what you agree to do and is linked to the 4 workgroups we looked at before. 

If you don’t meet what is in the Claimant Commitment and don’t have a good reason (which is accepted) you can be sanctioned, this basically means you will have money taken away from your benefit claim and in serious cases, your whole payment can be stopped. 

Here are some examples of when a sanction might be applied:

You have an interview arranged and miss the interview



You miss an appointment with your job coach

Sanctions can be high and will really affect your finances, they can also last a long time (up to 91 days) and are charged on a daily rate. If you are under 25 this is set at £8.40 per day. 

There are hardship payments available for some people who are sanctioned, but these are loans and would need to be repaid. 


While some of this information can sound scary it should not put you off from claiming benefits. 

If you're able to apply and you need the support that is what they are there for and you have a right to claim them. 

It is important to get help and advice and make sure you understand everything about the system before you apply. 

Click here to find out where you can access other help and advice. 


Apply for Universal Credit

You can click the link below to be taken directly to the government website to make a claim for Universal Credit. To make a claim you have to set up an online account and make sure you make a claim within 28 days of setting it up.

Applying online is the easiest way to apply for Universal Credit but if you can't access the online application you can ring the number below to make a claim.

0800 328 5644

To make a claim you will need the following information:

  • your bank, building society or credit union account details (call the Universal Credit helpline if you do not have one)

  • an email address

  • information about your housing, for example, how much rent you pay

  • details of your income, for example, payslips

  • details of savings and any investments, if you have any

  • details of how much you pay for childcare if you’re applying for help with childcare costs

You also have to verify your identity online. You’ll need some proof of identity for this, for example, your:

  • driving licence

  • passport

  • debit or credit card

(If you can't confirm your identity online because you don’t have the right ID they will call you.)

Universal Credit in Action have produced a useful video guide for care leavers claiming Universal Credit. You can access the video on the link below: