Universal Credit

It’s UC, You See

What claimants would tell other claimants about UC

Quids in! magazine and our partners at Clean Slate Training & Employment called on claimants to feed back on all they’d learnt about Universal Credit so we can share it with other claimants. They were a mine of great top tips and fab advice…



  • Check we’re getting all the benefits we’re entitled to
  • Claimant commitment, relaxes at £1,000 per month
  • Top limit of earnings when UC is cancelled
  • In and out of work
  • Delays in payments
  • First claim cancelled by a glitch
  • Tapers, signing off, earning thresholds
  • 16 hours – no signing off
  • Beware of assessment dates: if poss, don’t change circumstances until after that date
  • Online system: requires concentration (not great, if not well) – ‘most people won’t like it’
  • Email address – new claim, new email/ mobile
  • Logging on: username/ email, password and three security questions
  • ‘All’ benefits paid direct to you once a month
  • First payment can take a long time
  • Lump sum, p[aid in arrears
  • Managing budget is important
  • Benefit cap applies
  • Beware of assessment dates – if there are any changes to your claim
  • Claimed when earning, if low income
  • Different information from different people
  • Council tax reduction is separate
  • Missing appointments treated seriously
  • £252, then JCP less interested
  • Claimant commitment – seek support, not flexible
  • UC calculator
  • Alternative Payment Arrangement
  • Risk of debt
  • Working with landlords, dealing with arrears


  • Debt is a real likelihood, we have to prepare for that – know who to turn to
  • Find out where the debt advice agencies are
  • Let your landlord know about the changes to your benefits
  • Could have obtained an Advance or loan from DWP
  • DWP could be behind with payments
  • Early application for support, eg, loan
  • Could have budgeted to put aside savings, stockpiling food, travel vouchers
  • Do whatever you can to speed up time between meetings, taking actions
  • Prioritise getting the UC claim set up and work everything else around it, eg, getting someone you trust to look after children if it’s that or missing an appointment
  • Apply for Council Tax Reduction and Discretionary Housing Payment

Quids in! says: The DWP says the minimum waiting period for the first monthly payment of Universal Credit is six weeks but many people across the UK have had to wait 12 weeks. Forewarned is fore-armed, though. Think how you’d cope without any income for two months or more


  • It can be hard to think straight when you’re not well, gotta ask for help
  • A UC claim takes lots of concentration, we might want support
  • We have to be careful we know what we’re signing, like the Claimant Commitment – if we agree to look for work and then don’t, or can’t, payments could stop
  • It’s important to be clear what’s going on before agreeing to actions we might not be able to manage
  • We have to find help or support, or ask again, if there is something we’re not clear or happy about
  • If we don’t speak up, the system carries on… until it stops because we’ve not done the right thing
  • It’s so important to have all the right information
  • Try to prepare as much as possible, to reduce the amount of trouble-shooting: Look up what paperwork will be needed and have it to hand
  • Contact local authority as there could be help for more vulnerable people, eg, Discretionary Housing Payment
  • Rent payments will be paid to the claimant who needs to pay the landlord, if headspace is an issue talk to the landlord about the easiest way to stay on top
  • Ask for things to be explained fully by the Work Coach, explain if you’re struggling
  • Check you’re on all the benefits you’re entitled to – get advice or go to www.turn2us.org
  • Read up on how UC works and know your rights in case things go wrong
  • If not online, get started – there’s help online
  • Health advice from GP and specialist service/ advocacy/ CPN – could be a fluctuating condition

Quids in! says: Many people are reliant on benefits because their health is not as good as it could be. Whether it’s a mental or physical health problem, or even just anxiety brought on by money worries, it can be harder to cope with big, complex changes. Find out who you can you turn to


  • Be prepared, not only for changes to your life but for changes to how benefits will be dealt with too
  • Make sure ID is up-to-date, especially if moving is what triggers the UC claim
  • As things are changing, make sure the Work Coach knows exactly what’s going on
  • Try to keep things stable once the UC claim has gone in, at least until the assessment is finalised as more changes could cancel the claim
  • Try to prioritise getting the UC claim set up – work family life around it, if need be. Don’t miss appointments if there’s anyone you can trust to look after the kids, for example
  • If you can’t do something you’ve agreed to, make sure your Work Coach knows – and knows why
  • Get a bank account before moving, while all your ID is for your current address
  • Make notes when you’re given information or ask for print out
  • Once the claim is set up, keep logging in and check your Journal to see if there’s something they’re expecting you to do
  • Understand what happens if you cancel appointments – it causes delays
  • Set up your ‘dream team’ as part of the process. Who could to look after kids, give you a lift, give or find some advice, look things up on the internet?
  • If someone’s left home, could rent out a room or downsize to smaller home

Quids in! says: The Universal Credit system is strangely delicate and the slightest thing can cause your claim to be restarted – creating further delays. It is ironic that changes to your home or work life may trigger your initial claim but unless you’re careful, they could also mess it all up


  • Don’t be afraid of a computer
  • Get more familiar with a computer and the internet – do anything
  • Start by setting up an email account and joining Facebook, looking up friends and family and looking up pages for people interested in what you’re interested in
  • Ask family for help with getting online
  • Practice basic computer skills – try designing a poster on Word or filling out a survey online
  • Check your benefit entitlements online
  • Do a search for a job, a second job or a better paid job
  • Ask the Job Centre or your landlord about where to get online for free
  • Train up in basic computer skills, online forms, etc
  • Bedroom tax – lodgers or downsize
  • Is there specialist support available, eg, if disabled?
  • Can family help more? Maybe you just need to ask
  • Check out how IT can save money, keep you in touch with friends and family, and finding more work
  • Shop around for cheap broadband deals, from as little as £8 per month
  • Buy a cheap computer – maybe from £100 secondhand or £150 for a basic but decent tablet
  • Check security when using public WiFi
  • Find training
  • Use the internet to shop around, research prices, switch gas and electricity suppliers
  • Join forums, clubs, and information services

Quids in! says: The world is going online and if we don’t keep up, we’ll be left behind. There are loads of good reasons for getting onto the internet anyway but Universal Credit gives you no choice. It can be daunting but it usually just takes a little time trying out what a computer can do


  • Make sure you have the right type of bank account. Will it pay direct debits for rent and bills? Will it allow me to go into debt and then charge me for it?
  • Try to avoid overdraft and the risk of debt
  • Be clear about any charges
  • Online and mobile banking helps us stay in control
  • Check your balance and what’s come in/ gone out frequently
  • Current account: card access to money/ making payments
  • Is it a Basic Bank Account I need? They don’t let you go overdrawn
  • Double-check what’s in the account at any one time
  • Plan through the month – when will money come in and bills go out?

Quids in! says: Although you don’t have to have a bank account to receive UC payments, other options are not always available. At the least, we need something in place that can receive electronic payments and can pay out rent and bills by direct debt and generally help us budget and steer clear of debt (and charges)



  • Could rent out a room or downsize to smaller home – speak to the landlord about options
  • Be prepared for some lifestyle changes – looking out for risks, (eg, taking in a lodger), and re-organising finances
  • Savings for rainy days – have a contingency fund in a separate bank
  • Realistic
  • Shop around and switch, eg, utilities
  • Citizens Advice often will offer budgeting advice
  • Prioritise expenses – which ones must be paid, which can be cut?
  • Look at income, can it be increased? Are we missing any benefits or is there more work we could get paid for?
  • Know what you have coming in and when – keep a diary one month
  • Know what you have going out and when – make a mental note where you are
  • Apply for Council Tax Reduction and Discretionary Housing Payment

Quids in! says: Usually we only look at what’s coming in and going out when we’re baffled how we’ve nothing left when we need it. With UC, especially before having to wait a couple of months for a payment, checking enough will be available at the right time becomes an urgent issue