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As of March 2020, all face-to-face contact in relation to a UC claim has been suspended. This is as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

UC is administered by the DWP. It is an online system, (but see below for alternative ways of making a claim), and claims should be made via www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit You register your details, set up an online account and then make a claim, adding details of employment, income, savings, sickness, housing costs and other people who live with you. If you live with a partner, you will need to set up separate online accounts and then link your claims so your joint circumstances are considered when your UC entitlement is calculated.

After submitting a claim, you will need to contact the DWP to arrange your first interview at the nearest jobcentre and what evidence you need to bring. A text message or email will confirm the details. At this appointment, you will also be asked to confirm your identify (if you have not verified your ID online) and any requested documents will be checked. You are then taken through your claim details and must sign a form to confirm that you accept/understand the elements that make up your UC payment. You will then discuss and sign your ‘claimant commitment’, which details what actions you will need to do to maintain your UC claim and avoid sanctions.

Claiming UC can be fraught with difficulties. The first issue is getting online in the first place. This potentially excludes people who do not own a PC, smartphone or tablet, do not have a broadband connection or broadband access or do not have the digital skills to browse the internet and successfully undertake online activities. Call the UC helpline on 0800 328 5644 , Welsh language 0800 328 1744, Textphone 0800 328 1344. These number are for England, Scotland and Wales. For Northern Ireland call 0800 012 1331. Call into your local Jobcentre and explain your difficulties getting online, or seek advice from Citizens Advice, who are being funded by the DWP to provide Universal Support.

A second issue is delays between setting up your account and making your UC claim. The main delays are caused by evidence gathering, especially for more complex claims where rental costs, childcare costs and income are involved. Do not delay in making your claim and booking your Jobcentre appointment. You can then use the intervening period to gather evidence that you will need to take along to this appointment.

A third issue is caused by not responding to action requests after your claim is made. Make a note of the deadlines to submit information, book Jobcentre appointments and add partners to your claim. Your UC account will have a “To Do” list tab which details the actions you need to complete, and the date that you need to complete them by. Ensure that you check and complete this “To Do” list regularly, particularly in the early days of your claim to ensure that you supply information, respond to requests and complete actions within the deadlines.