An increasing number of people are now eligible for Universal Credit (UC) as both Birmingham and Coventry have reached the second stage of the introduction of UC. The details of who can claim at the moment are available in the article Are You Eligible for Universal Credit. The groups of people who can claim UC will be continue to change in the future and we will put the current details on this website when this becomes available.
How to claim Universal Credit
Most people are expected to claim Universal Credit online at https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit . You can do this using a computer but also using a tablet or smartphone. If you are not able to do the claim online yourself you can ask the DWP to help with this. Their free helpline phone number is 0800 328 9344 (or Textphone 0800 328 1344). These numbers are available from Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm.
If you do not have computer access then there will be computers available at the DWP Jobcentres and other places across Birmingham and Coventry. If you are unable to use a computer you are now able to make your claim over the phone. This new procedure is in place since December 2018 and DWP have advised that this will be available to people who due to disabilities, language issues, learning difficulties, lack of computer skills or having a corporate appointee will be identified and offered a telephone claim when they contact DWP. If you feel you cannot manage to make and manage your claim online you shoudl tell the DWP. You can also ask for an online claim to be converted to a telephone claim if this is identified after your claim is made. You shoudl speak to your Jobcentre workcoach about this.
Before you go ahead with making your claim you need to have the relevant information available for yourself and your partner if you have one. The information you need is
- your postcode,
- your and your partner’s national insurance number,
- details of your bank account
- your rent agreement,
- details of your income, savings and capital
- details of earnings
- details of any other benefits received
You need to answer the questions carefully as otherwise you may wrongly rule yourself in or out of UC.
You can correct any mistakes you make on the online claim as you go through this and you should check it carefully before you submit it at the end. You cannot save the form and return to it later so make sure you have enough time to complete it. It would be best to allow yourself plenty of time to do this perhaps an hour or more if your situation is complex or if you are not confident with computers. In Coventry City libraries you can book to use a computer free for up to 2 hours and in Birmingham City libraries you can book a one hour computer session.
After you have made your claim the next stage is done face to face.
Attending the Job Centre
You will receive an invitation for you and your partner if you have one to attend at the meeting at the Job Centre. This interview could be called a work search interview or a claimant commitment interview. It is important that you and your partner make every effort to attend this interview.
If you can’t make the interview because of an emergency you need to contact Universal Credit straightaway and rearrange the interview. Their contact numbers are
- Telephone 0800 328 9344
- Textphone 0800 328 1344
They are open Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm.
The interview will only be rearranged if you have a good reason such as a hospital appointment.
You and your partner will be given separate interviews. The interview is to:
- Check you are who you say you are
- Explain how Universal Credit works and what will happen next
- Decide on your appropriate claimant commitment category and identify any steps you need to take (link to claimant commitment)
- Inform you about Universal Credit Advances (link to section in what to do if you have no income) and check whether you need any support with budgeting.
It is important that you let the DWP know in advance if you or your partner will have difficulties at the interview such as an illness or disability. You can ask for any adjustments you may need such as the interview to be held somewhere you can get to more easily or a sign language interpreter. You may also consider taking someone with you. Use the numbers given above to let the Job Centre know of your difficulties. You may also want to read the section about Universal Credit and Vulnerability.
You can always take someone with you to assist you in your interview at the job centre or for support. This can be a friend, relative or a professional who is supporting you.
Documents needed at the interview
It is important that you take with you all of the documents you will need for your job centre interview. The documents you need are:
- Evidence of identity. This could be your passport, driving licence or EEA national identity card. If you don’t have any photo ID the Jobcentre might ask you security questions and use other evidence. This could lead to your claim being delayed and they may need to reschedule the interview while they carry out checks to confirm your identity.
- Evidence of your address. This could be an official letter from a bank or energy company
- Your NI number. You can find this on a payslip or a letter from HMRC
- your bank, building society or credit union account you can find details of this on a bank statement or bank card
- how much rent is paid – this should be on your rent agreement or a letter from your landlord
- your landlord’s address – this should be on your rent agreement or a letter from your landlord
- your savings and any other ‘capital’ investments or details of property. A bank statement will be needed
- any income that’s not from work, e.g. from a pension or insurance plan
- details of earnings eg recent payslips
- payments for childcare, e.g. an invoice or receipt
- a P45 if you have left work
- details of any other benefits paid e.g. benefits letters or a bank statement
- birth certificates of your children
- child benefit reference numbers for your children. You can find these on any letters you have had about Child Benefit. The number will start CHB and will be followed by 8 numbers. Generally the number of your eldest child will be quoted on the statement when the payment goes into your bank account.
More details about the DWP evidence requirements and what to do if you have lost documents is available here
If you haven’t got all of the evidence you need you should make a list of the evidence that is missing and ensure that you send this in as quickly as possible. Your claim will not proceed until all the evidence has been provided. You need to get any missing documents in within one month of your interview. You should keep a careful record of what you have taken in. If you have difficulties with this you should seek advice.
The claimant commitment
This interview will look at your claimant commitment and determine the appropriate level of claimant commitment. The work coach who interviews you will look at your personal circumstances and decide the appropriate group for you. They should take into account your vulnerabilities.
You should try to work out for you, which is the appropriate claimant commitment group before your interview and the reasons for this. You will need to tell the job coach about these reasons at your first interview so you can try to ensure that you are given the right claimant commitment group.
The actual tasks you will be asked to do should be the result of a two way conversation between you and the job coach so you need to have thought this through before the interview and be honest with the coach about what you can and can’t do and what barriers you face. More information about this is in the section on vulnerabilities.
You will also discuss the type of work you are looking for. Think in advance about what skills you have that will be relevant. Skills can come from being a parent, hobbies, education and doing community or voluntary work as well as paid work.
You also need to identify any relevant qualifications you have, the salary you are aiming for, the number of hours you can work, your work travel limits and the actions you will take to look for work. You may be expected to travel up to 90 minutes to commute but less can be agreed if you have a good reason.
The claimant commitment will be prepared by the Job Coach during the interview and you will be asked to sign it. It is important that you read this carefully before you sign it. If you think it is asking you to do more than is reasonable you should try to get it amended by the work coach during the interview. You may be given some time after the interview to agree this so you should ask the job coach about this if you feel unhappy with the agreement and seek advice. You will not get paid Universal Credit until the claimant commitment is signed so in some situations it may be better to agree this if you cannot get it changed and then ask for it to be reviewed later.
Payment of Universal Credit
Your first payment of UC will be about 5 to 6 weeks after your interview. You can ask about this at the interview. You should be told about advance payments if you do not have enough money to last until then. If you need an advance payment it would be best to ask about this at the interview. More information about advance payments in the section about Universal Credit waiting periods.