Universal Credit replaces some other benefits for people in the UK. You can use it to get financial help with living costs if you have low or no income.

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

If this is you, then you might 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

What is Universal Credit?

Read time:

3 mins

What does Universal Credit do?

Universal Credit can help people in the UK with low or no income. It replaces other benefits and tax credits by bringing them into one place. With it, you get a monthly payment to help with the cost of living. If you’re in Scotland or Northern Ireland, this may be twice a month.


Universal Credit replaces these benefits:

  • Child Tax Credit - To help pay for the costs of any children you’re responsible for
  • Housing benefit - To help pay for rent
  • Income support – If the money you earn doesn’t cover your living costs
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – To help with costs when you’re unemployed and looking for work
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – To help with living costs while you can't work. This may be due to a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work
  • Working Tax Credit – To support with day-to-day expenses


Claim all your benefits in one place

Universal Credit makes it easy to claim for these benefits in one place. The amount paid can vary from person to person. This depends on your life and employment status, so they might ask for lots of information to get your benefits. It helps the government understand your circumstances and what support they can offer you.


Why claim?

There are lots of reasons why you might claim. You might not be able to work. Maybe you’re recently unemployed or your wage just doesn’t cover your bills. Whatever your reason, if you’re struggling to pay for the day-to-day costs of living, you should consider applying for Universal Credit.

In the next chapter, we’ll help you check if you can apply and how to do this. First, let’s look at what you can get through Universal Credit.


What do you get?

You’ll get one payment for all the benefits you can claim for. They’ll pay you either monthly or twice a month.

How much you get will depend on your income and your situation. You’ll usually get a standard allowance, plus any added amounts if, for example, you have children or a disability. They check this every month and it can change over time.

Find out more about the standard amounts and added amounts here.

Chapter 2

Check you can apply

Read time:

1 min

Is this you?

  • You’re out of work or have low income
  • You live in the UK
  • You’re over the age of 18
  • You’re under the state pension age – click here to calculate your state pension age (generally this is 65 or older, but it depends on your date of birth)
  • You have £16,000 or less in money, savings and investments


If this sounds like you

You may be able to apply for Universal Credit. If you’re unsure, there are free calculators that can help you check what you can claim for. You can find them here.

Even if you don’t answer yes to all those questions, you may still be able to claim. For example, if you’re 16 or 17 and have a health condition or disability.

There may be other factors that impact your application for Universal Credit, even if you meet the criteria. We’ll give you some useful tools and resources in Chapter 4 to check in more detail.

Chapter 3

Applying online

Read time:

8 mins

Who is applying?

For Universal Credit, you can either apply by yourself or with a partner. This will change how you apply. It also changes the standard allowance you may be able to get. Your standard allowance will be higher if you apply with a partner as they calculate you both together. You’ll also be paid in one joint payment to a single bank account. If you’re worried 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 money to go into two accounts.


How to apply

Now we’re going to take you through how to apply, step by step. Select each step to find out more

  • To work out how much Universal Credit they can give you, the Government needs quite a bit of information. It’s a good idea to get the right documents and information ready before you start.


    You’ll need:

    • An email address
    • Your phone number
    • Your postcode
    • Your National Insurance number – You can find this on your online tax account. It’s also on old documents like a P60, a payslip or letters about tax, pensions or benefits. If you can't access or find your National Insurance number, ask the Government for help here
    • Details of your bank, building society or credit union account - You'll need a bank account to receive your benefit payment. If you're applying with your partner, you only need one account to receive the benefits for both of 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
    • Details of any savings or investments you have
    • Details of any income - From work or elsewhere (such as a 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're asking for help with the cost of supporting children, you'll 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 evidence for your fitness to work - This is a 'fit note', and you can ask your doctor for it. If you can't get a fit note, add any information that would help. This may include details of appointments, letters from professionals, prescriptions, and anything else you think can help
  • If you think you can claim, 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. Need help with this? Call the helpline on 0800 328 5644.

    If you're applying with a partner, both of you need to set up an account. You'll then receive a code to link your accounts together.

  • When you log into your account, you'll 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. Be aware that if you don't use the site for 30 minutes, you may need to log back in again.

    If you need to change any of your answers, you can do this at the end, but you'll need to finish your to-do first.

    You should have everything you need to complete this if you've 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. Until you do this, you might not be able to answer all the questions on your to-do list.

  • 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:

    • They might wrongly reject your claim
    • You could get less than you’re allowed
    • You could get more than you’re allowed. You’ll need to pay this extra money back
  • Life and income can change quickly. If anything changes after you've submitted your claim, log into your account as soon as possible and update it. Any information that isn't right could mean your payments stop or go down, 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. So you'll need to update your account once you have the new details or documents.

  • Verifying your identity just means you need to prove you are who you say you are. You can find out how to do this here. If you can't do this, you can still prove who you are in person, in the next and final step of the process.

  • If it’s right for your circumstances, the final step will be a phone call or appointment with a Jobcentre work coach. The work coach can help you verify your identity if you couldn’t do this online.

    Before you go to this interview, you might need to do some further tasks. So it’s a good idea to check your to-do list online before your appointment. In the ‘prepare for your appointment’ section, write down the answers to the questions the work coach will need. Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll get 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. To use this free service, call 18001 followed by the number you want to call.

    If you use British Sign Language

    There is a Video relay service you can use. It will call the Claim helpline directly from your device, so only use this link when you're ready.

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

How they pay you

Your payment will go into the bank, building society or credit union account you told them about. You’ll get one payment each month. If you’re applying in Scotland or Northern Ireland, this may be two payments.

This amount may include money to help pay for your housing. If so, you need to give this to your landlord. You might not get this type of help. This could be because you can’t claim for housing support. Or your payment might go straight to your landlord. Either way, they’ll make this clear to you.


How long it takes to get Universal Credit

It can take up to 5 weeks to get your first payment after you submit your claim. If you’re successful, your first payment date will always be 1 month (4 weeks) after you submit. Sometimes, it takes up to a week longer to appear in your bank account.

This is why it’s best to apply as soon as you can. Even if you can’t claim yet, but you think your situation might change. It’s easier to cancel your claim than to start from scratch when you’re in quick need of money. Bear in mind you have 28 days 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’ll need to pay this back. You can find out more information on how to apply here.

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

Chapter 4

Tools and resources

Read time:

2 mins

Here are some helpful links

  • Go to the source – Need help to get started? Go to the UK Government’s website on Universal Credit. Find it here
  • Apply online – if you’re ready to start your application, you can do it here


Need help with your claim?

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

If you speak Welsh, 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 the free service, Relay UK to type what you want to say. Simply call 18001, followed by the number you want to call.

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 use the link when you’re ready. Call the Claim helpline Video relay here.


Need help while you wait?

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


Here’s where you can get some help

Lesson complete!

Well done on finishing this lesson. You should now know what Universal Credit is, how to start your application and where to go for help. We recommend the next lesson in Getting started online, Banking online. This lesson will help you understand the benefits of online banking plus how to set up and use it.


Up next for you:

Next lesson: Banking online
Back to: Get started online


Bank of Scotland Academy 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. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 8th November 2023.