The biggest challenge we’ll face as we’re moved to UC is that we’ll have to go around five weeks without any money before suddenly getting a large amount. It should take five weeks but some claimants have had to wait twelve weeks. The best way to manage this is to be prepared.
The whole of this guide is about getting ready for UC, and as you’ve probably already picked up, it focuses on three key things that we need to have in place; a bank account, broadband internet access and a budget. Without any one of those three things we’re going to really struggle to cope with the change.
First we need to arrange an appointment to see a Work Coach at Jobcentre Plus. The appointment will usually be about a week later. Assuming that goes well we’ll get our first Universal Credit payment four weeks after that. That payment will only be for one month’s money. Then on the same day in every calendar month after that we’ll get a whole month’s payment.
The information we need to make a claim
We need to provide loads of details before we can complete our claim, so try to have the following information to hand at the start. Having to go away and check will only delay the set up and, in the end, our first payment. For couples who claim, both partners need the same information.
- Proof of I.D. (eg Passport, driving licence or EAA ID card)
- National Insurance Number
- Our email address
- Our phone number
- Our address
- Our landlord’s address
How much rent we pay (proof may be required, such as a tenancy agreement or recent rent statement)
- Our bank details
- Details of any savings we have
- Full details of our salary or any other income (including other benefits)
If we have children
- Their details
- Child Benefit number
- Childcare Provider’s address and registration number
The Jobcentre appointment
Your first claim appointment is an interview with your ‘Work Coach’ (since Covid many of these have been done over the phone). Here you will agree a ‘claimant commitment’ that outlines what you are expected to do to find a job if you’re unemployed or better paid work if you only earn a little. It is vital you explain everything holding you back. If you agree to more than you can do and don’t keep to the commitment you may be sanctioned.
You can ask to change your Work Coach. Importantly, most sanctions have been overturned on appeal so if you are sanctioned contact an advice agency straight away.
When do I move on to UC?
New benefit claims or where the claimant’s situation has changed, (eg, new home or child), will trigger a move on to UC. Other claimants are expected to migrate over at some time before September 2024 – the DWP will notify them.
Got the T-shirt
We asked people who had already moved to Universal Credit what their advice would be – they told us:
“Don’t be embarrassed to inform people around you”
“If you live in social housing it is essential you should inform your landlord”
“One change in your circumstances during the setup period can mean the claim starts over”
“To tide you over in the first few weeks, stockpile dried food, tins, frozen food, etc”
“I saved a few quid in the bank in case the car broke down”
“I was scared my partner would take my money, but you can ask to have a separate meeting and separate payments”
“Don’t suffer in silence”
“Use a food bank if you have to. They are friendly, non- judgemental and there to help individuals and families in just this position. You can always donate time, money or food once you’re settled”