© Crown copyright 2021
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: email@example.com.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-homeless-people/universal-credit-and-homeless-people-guide-for-supporting-organisations
This guide will help you support a claimant make and manage a claim to Universal Credit. It also provides information on the support they can expect to receive from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and other organisations.
About Universal Credit
Universal Credit replaces 6 existing benefits (Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Working Tax Credit). If the claimant already receives these benefits they cannot claim Universal Credit at the moment.
It’s usually paid monthly - or twice a month for some people in Scotland and is made up of a standard allowance and any extra amounts that apply to them, for example, if they:
- have children
- have a disability or health condition
- have housing costs
Universal Credit does not include help to pay for Council Tax. When the claimant has their own tenancy they will need to claim this help separately. They should contact their local council or apply online.
What is needed to make a claim
There are a number of things that are needed to make the Universal Credit claim:
- address (this can be a care of address)
- email address
- phone number
- bank account
- evidence of identity
- where the claimant has a tenancy, we will also need to see a recent tenancy agreement and proof of housing costs
If the claimant does not have a permanent address, there are options available to them.
They can use a care of address, like the address of a family member or trusted friend, if they are staying at a hostel they can use the hostel address as their address or in exceptional circumstances they can use their local jobcentre.
If the claimant is staying at a hostel they will not get the housing element as part of their Universal Credit payment.
They will need to make a separate claim for Housing Benefit through their local authority to get support with housing costs.
If the claimant does not have an email address they can get help to set up an email address by phoning the jobcentre or the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service.
Opening a bank account
Universal Credit should ideally be paid into a bank, building society, or credit union account that is in the claimant’s or their partner’s own name. If the claimant has previously tried but not managed to open or access traditional bank accounts we can make a payment using a different method:
- Post Office Card accounts (only in exceptional circumstances, these are being phased out from 2020)
- payments into third party accounts
- the Payment Exception Service (used to be Simple Payments)
If they are paid using one of the above methods they should then be offered access to money advice.
In order to claim Universal Credit, the claimant’s identity must be confirmed. This can be done online using Verify.
If they don’t have any identification
They should call the Universal Credit helpline, tell them that they have no identification but want to claim Universal Credit, we have processes in place to enable a claim to be made.
Having a representative
We call someone who deals with information on a claimant’s behalf, a ‘representative’. A representative is different to someone being appointed to act – it is not a legally based appointment.
A representative can be any person or organisation making enquiries on the claimants behalf if, for example, they feel unable to:
- find the information they need
- understand things about their claim
We must have the claimant’s permission to allow another person or organisation to act for them and have access to relevant information about them. This permission is called explicit consent. This can be done by the claimant in writing, using the claimant’s journal or over the telephone.
Explicit consent does not last forever and it can be withdrawn by the claimant at any time:
- by making an entry on their online journal
- by calling the Universal Credit helpline (The telephone number to call is 0800 328 5644. For Welsh Language call 0800 328 1744 and if they need to use textphone call 0800 328 1344)
Phone lines are currently busier than normal because of coronavirus (COVID-19). You can also contact Universal Credit using your online account.
When a claimant is incapable of managing their own affairs, because of mental or other incapacity the Secretary of State may, on receipt of a written application, appoint a person aged 18 or over to act on their behalf. We refer to this person as an appointee.
Duty to refer (England only)
The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force in April 2018 it places a duty on local authorities to get involved earlier with the aim of preventing homelessness.
If the claimant is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless they can now be referred to a local authority for housing support regardless of priority need, local connection or if they are suspected of being ‘intentionally homeless’.
From 1 October 2018, the HRA places a duty on jobcentres in England to offer to refer a person who presents as homeless or threatened with homelessness to the local authority of their choice in England, with the claimant’s consent.
If English is not the claimant’s first language they can arrange for someone to translate for them. If they do not have anyone who can do this for them please advise them to let a work coach or helpline agent know as we can arrange for a translator to support them.
Claims to Universal Credit are generally made online.
We can also refer them to our Citizens Advice Help to claim service if the claimant cannot use the computer to make their claim.
Making the Universal Credit claim
Claims for Universal Credit are made online, however, if the claimant is unable to use the Universal Credit online service, we can offer alternative ways to make their claim.
Universal Credit can provide help over the phone to complete the claim. The claimant will need to call the Universal Credit helpline and the agent will book an appointment for them to complete the claim. They will need to have access to a computer for the duration of the call. This call can take around 40 minutes and they will need to enter the data themselves.
If they are unable to use the online service, an agent can complete the online form over the phone for them. The information entered and its accuracy is the claimant’s responsibility.
Once the claim has been submitted, the claimant needs to call the Universal Credit helpline to make an appointment with a work coach in the jobcentre.
The claimant can ask for an advance payment of their Universal Credit if they are in financial need while they wait for their first payment. For example, if they cannot afford general living expenses.
To apply for a Universal Credit advance they can either:
- apply through the online account
- speak to their work coach
- call the Universal Credit helpline
If they want to apply for an advance online through their online account they should click on the ‘apply for an advance’ button.
If the claimant is part of a couple they will also be asked if their partner agrees to taking the advance.
If they want to apply for an advance they will need to:
- explain why they need an advance
- provide account details where the advance should be paid
- have had their identity confirmed at a jobcentre interview
They can apply for up to 100% of the amount of Universal Credit we expect them to qualify for. Deductions are then made from their Universal Credit payments to repay the advance.
When a claimant receives a new claim advance they must usually pay it back within:
- 24 months if they apply on or after 12 April 2021
- 12 months if they applied before 12 April 2021
Once they’ve started repaying it, if something happens to the claimant that means that they’ll be in financial hardship if they continue with their repayments, the claimant can ask for them to be put on hold for up to 3 months. This will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.
Help to Claim
From April 2019 Citizens Advice (England and Wales) and Citizens Advice Scotland will deliver ‘Help to Claim’ to claimants making a new Universal Credit claim or moving from a legacy benefit to Universal Credit because of a change of circumstances.
Citizens Advice Help to Claim offers tailored, practical support to help people make a Universal Credit claim up to receiving their first full correct payment on time.
It will be available online or over the phone through local Citizens Advice services.
Partner organisations can signpost claimants to Help to Claim at any time if they are struggling to get their correct payment sorted.
Other support available
There are 3 significant financial changes that Universal Credit brings:
- a single household payment
- being paid monthly
- housing costs, in most cases being paid directly to the claimant then the claimant pays their rent to their landlord directly
DWP can help with these changes in two different ways:
- by arranging money advice
- by changing how they are paid
Money advice can be offered online, by phone or face-to-face usually by organisations with expertise in this area like Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Service or local authorities. If the claimant is digitally capable they can use an online tool. If they are not digitally capable, their work coach will refer them for money advice from their local authority.
Changing how people are paid
If the claimant cannot manage the single monthly payment, DWP can consider:
- arranging managed payments to a landlord
- changing how often the claimant is paid if they are finding it difficult to budget monthly, they can ask to have their Universal Credit payment divided over the month so it is paid more frequently, for example, twice monthly or, exceptionally, four times a month
- splitting the payment of an award between partners
These are called Alternative Payment Arrangements (APA). An APA can be requested at any point during the claim including as soon as they have made their claim. Speak to a work coach or helpline agent for more information.
There are a number of other benefits which the claimant may be able to claim depending on their individual circumstances. The list is not exhaustive so please use a benefit calculator to ensure the claimant applies for the right benefits.
The other benefits that someone may be able to claim are:
- New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance
- New Style Employment and Support Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Basic State Pension
- New State Pension
- Child Benefit
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Local Welfare Provision (contact the relevant local council for information)
- Carer’s Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Bereavement Benefits
- Maternity Allowance
Maintaining the Universal Credit claim
Disclosing issues to the work coach
We understand that it is sometimes difficult for the claimant to open up about issues or challenges that they are experiencing but the work coach is there to help them. As a Claimant Commitment needs to be agreed in order to receive Universal Credit, it is really important that the claimant tells the work coach about any issues they may have, like being homeless, at risk of homelessness, drug/alcohol addiction or poor mental health. The sooner the work coach knows, the sooner they can start giving the claimant the support they need. The Claimant Commitment sets out what the claimant has agreed to do to prepare or look for work in return for receiving Universal Credit and so it will be tailored to take account of the claimants circumstances.
The Claimant Commitment should be reviewed regularly. Please advise the claimant to speak to their work coach if at any point they are struggling with the tasks in their Claimant Commitment or if their situation changes.
Ways of managing the claim
Because Universal Credit is an online system the claimant will usually need to check their account to see if their work coach has set them actions to complete, these are called ‘to dos’. If they don’t have regular access to a computer the claimant can phone their local jobcentre.
If the claimant is homeless or at risk of homelessness their work coach will establish if they can apply an easement temporarily to allow the claimant to secure stable accommodation. The easement is normally applied for up to one month, but can be extended depending upon the claimant’s circumstances. The easement will be reviewed regularly to check the claimant is resolving their accommodation issues. The claimant will need to be actively looking for stable accommodation and will have these steps noted on their Claimant Commitment.
Reporting a change
Please advise the claimant to report any changes in circumstances, this could include:
- getting their own tenancy
- any medical conditions they have
- if they are at risk of homelessness
- find or have finished a job
This list is not exhaustive, more information is available on changes of circumstances.
Changes in circumstances can be reported by either:
- signing into their Universal Credit account if they have one
- calling the Universal Credit helpline if they don’t have an online account
If the claimant does not meet their responsibilities without good reason or do what is agreed in their Claimant Commitment, their Universal Credit could be stopped or reduced. This is called a sanction.
To reduce the risk of a sanction being applied:
- make sure the claimant attends any appointment their work coach has asked them to attend and if they cannot attend please ensure they re-arrange their appointment by calling the Universal Credit helpline
- make sure the claimant tells their work coach about their circumstances as the work coach can tailor the Claimant Commitment to take their personal situation into account
If the claimant disagrees with a decision about benefits they can ask for the decision to be looked at again - this is called a ‘mandatory reconsideration’. They can do this if any of the following apply:
- they think the office dealing with their claim has made an error or missed important evidence
- they disagree with the reasons for the decision
- they want to have the decision looked at again
The claimant must ask for mandatory reconsideration within one month of the date of the original decision. They can ask for a mandatory reconsideration by putting a note in their journal, by phone or in writing (by letter or filling in and returning a form).
If they are not sure whether to ask for mandatory reconsideration or what evidence to give, they should call the Universal Credit helpline. They’ll be able to explain the reason for their decision and answer any questions.
When the claimant makes the mandatory reconsideration they need to give:
- the date of the original benefit decision
- their name and address
- their date of birth
- their National Insurance number
- explain what part of the decision is wrong and why
For more information please advise them to speak to their work coach, an organisation like Citizens Advice or read the mandatory reconsideration guidance.
Help if the Universal Credit payment is stopped or reduced
If the claimant is sanctioned they can ask for a hardship payment if they cannot pay for rent, heating, food or hygiene needs. A hardship payment must be paid back so their Universal Credit payments will be lower until they pay it back.
To receive a recoverable hardship payment the claimant or each member of a couple must demonstrate they are now meeting their work-related requirements. They must be 18 or over and will have to show that they’ve tried to:
- find the money from somewhere else
- only spend money on essentials
Call the Universal Credit helpline to ask for a hardship payment.
Flexible Support Fund
The claimant may be eligible for financial help from the Flexible Support Fund (FSF). This is a locally managed budget that work coaches can access. It can be used to provide training and education that moves them further towards getting a job. It can also be considered to remove barriers that are stopping them:
- searching for work
- from accepting a firm job offer or moving into self-employment
- smart clothing for interviews or to start work
- essential work wear (but not safety wear as the employer has a duty to provide this)
- essential tools and equipment
- travel costs
Please advise them to speak to their work coach for more information about the Flexible Support Fund.
If the claimant receives Universal Credit there may be additional support they can get, for example, free school meals and help with health costs, amongst others.
If the claimant lives in England, use the Universal Credit and other benefits guide for reference.
If they live in Scotland, use the Universal Credit (Scottish choices) guide for reference.
If they live in Wales, use the eligibility criteria for passported benefits and other schemes guide for reference.
Housing, service charges and Council Tax
When a Universal Credit claimant takes over a tenancy, they usually have to pay rent directly to their landlord. If they rent from a private landlord, we will need the claimant to provide a tenancy agreement and tell us how much their rent is in order for DWP to include money for housing costs (rent) in their Universal Credit payment.
For social landlords we verify the rent with the landlord and don’t need to see a tenancy agreement. The landlord can confirm which service charges are included in Universal Credit and how much the claimant may need to pay.
In some circumstances the housing costs awarded as part of the claimant’s Universal Credit award may not fully cover all their rent. Discretionary Housing Payments are a temporary solution to financial difficulty. If the claimant is having financial difficulties advise them to contact their local authority as they may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment or they can read more information about Discretionary Housing Payments
If the claimant is liable for Council Tax, they may be able to get a reduction. The help they get depends on where they live and their circumstances, for example their income and if any children or adults live with them. Please advise them to speak to their local council about claiming Council Tax Reduction or apply for Council Tax Reduction online.
If the claimant moves into supported housing or temporary accommodation they will need to claim Housing Benefit for help towards their housing costs. Please advise them to contact their local council to make a claim to Housing Benefit.
Claiming in Scotland (Scottish Choices)
If the claimant is making a new claim in Scotland, they will be asked if they want to get paid once or twice a month.
When the claimant moves into accommodation they will be asked if they want the housing amount to be paid straight to their landlord. The landlord will be notified if they choose this.
Claiming in Northern Ireland
Universal Credit is normally paid twice a month to a household, however, the claimant may request a monthly payment.
They may also get money to help pay their housing costs. Their eligibility and how much they get depends on their age and circumstances. The payment can cover:
- mortgage interest (Support for Mortgage Interest)
- some service charges
- interest on a loan secured against their home
These payments will be paid directly to the claimant’s landlord or mortgage lender. They can request for it to be paid to them, allowing them to pay their own rent.
Refer claimants to the following websites if they need more help with their claim:
- information to help set up an email address
- information about Universal Credit
- a series of YouTube videos that gives more information on Universal Credit
- information on opening a bank account
- additional information on bank accounts
- information about Universal Credit
- Money Advice
Refer claimants to the following organisations if they need further support:
- Shelter – Shelter is a housing and homelessness charity, for non urgent issues they can be contacted on 0808 800 4444 and if the issue is urgent call 0808 164 4660)
- Samaritans – If the claimant needs to talk about something that’s getting them down call 116 123
- Crisis is the national charity for homeless people – Check their website for information on how they can help. If the claimant has a housing issue you can contact the housing team on 020 7426 5685 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
- St Mungo’s provide direct support to prevent and respond to homelessness and to enable people to rebuild their lives
- The Big Issue exists to offer homeless people or people affected by poverty, the opportunity to earn a legitimate income by selling an award-winning magazine to the public. Vendors buy magazines for £1.25 and sell it for £2.50, keeping the difference. The Big Issue Foundation is the organisation’s charitable arm, which exists to link vendors with the vital support which will help them address the issues which have led or contributed to their circumstances. The Foundation works exclusively with vendors, offering support, advice and referrals.
- Addaction supports people to make positive behavioural changes, most notably with alcohol and drug misuse, and mental health
- Centrepoint supports young people who are affected by or at risk of homelessness – If they’re under 26 and are worried about their housing situation, they can call Centrepoint’s free and confidential Helpline on 0808 800 0661 for information, advice and support
- Money Advice Service on 0800 138 7777 – Set up by government the Money Advice Service gives free impartial advice to help people manage their finances
- StreetLink – StreetLink exists to help end rough sleeping by enabling members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them
- Homeless Link is the national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England – Check their website for information on services in your area
- Mind – Mind is a mental health charity who offer support and advice to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Check their website for information on services in your area.
We have provided 2 scenarios to demonstrate different claimant journeys for those claimants who become homeless or who are sleeping rough. The content of the examples in this guide are for illustrative purposes only.
Example 1: Claimant 1
A single parent who became homeless after the breakdown of her relationship, was living at her friend’s home with her daughter. This arrangement was temporary as the 2 bedroom property already housed her friend and her own 2 children.
When she attended the jobcentre, as part of her new claim to Universal Credit she told them about her current circumstances and that she did not have an identity document as this had been lost in the move. She used her friend’s house as a care of address and the work coach asked her a few questions that verified her identity.
The work coach organised an advance payment of her Universal Credit to be made as she had no money for food before her first payment date. She and her work coach discussed the Claimant Commitment and it was agreed that a domestic easement would be appropriate for 4 weeks, this meant that she would not be required to look for work and could really focus on finding accommodation for her and her daughter. She agreed to the offer of a referral to the Local Housing Authority and this was sent immediately outlining her situation.
At her next appointment at the jobcentre her circumstances were reviewed with her work coach. With help from the Local Housing Authority she had found a property to rent. The work coach helped her to record her change in circumstances and explained that her Universal Credit payment would now include money towards her rent. The amount of money in her award for housing costs would not cover all the rent, so she was advised to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment from her local council. The work coach also advised her to claim the local Council Tax reduction from the council.
She explained she had previously struggled keeping on track with her bills, so to help her manage her money she was referred for personal budgeting support. It was also agreed that the housing costs would be paid directly to her landlord to prevent her from falling into rent arrears.
Once she had moved into her new home she was able to focus on looking for work and her Claimant Commitment was adjusted to reflect the change in her situation.
Example 2: Claimant 2
Claimant aged 18, became homeless after leaving care, he sofa surfed, often staying with different friends. His support worker advised him to claim Universal Credit but he couldn’t use a computer. His support worker referred him to Citizens Advice Help to Claim who would help him make his Universal Credit claim. As he couldn’t use his family or friends address as a care of address, the member of staff helping him with his claim advised him to use the jobcentre as his care of address.
At his Initial Evidence Interview the work coach asked him a series of questions to verify his identity as he had no identification. He attended his New Claim Interview where he shared with his work coach that he sleeps on his mates’ sofa. He told his work coach that his support worker was trying to get him into supported accommodation. The work coach recommended a temporary easement of his work search requirements for 4 weeks to allow him to focus on securing accommodation. He asked him to come back in 2 weeks time to see how things were going.
The work coach then explained that Universal Credit is paid monthly and it would be 5 weeks until he was paid. He was very worried about waiting that long so the work coach advised him that he could have an advance and explained that he would need to repay it. They also discussed Alternative Payment Arrangements and money management as he was concerned he would not manage monthly payments. The work coach agreed that, under the circumstances, he would manage better if he received his Universal Credit more frequently than monthly.
At his next appointment at the jobcentre he advised his work coach that he had a place in supported accommodation and was moving in a week’s time. The work coach advised him to claim Housing Benefit to cover the costs of his supported housing which he did with the help of his support worker.
He told his work coach that he would be able to start thinking about work when he moved into his supported accommodation. The work coach arranged an appointment for a fortnight’s time to review his Claimant Commitment and identify opportunities to help him prepare for work.
Appendix 1 – Acceptable identity document list
The issuing source is government and has strong registration procedures with robust checking processes contained within the face to face application. Documents contain many developed security features, which make them more difficult to forge or counterfeit.
The primary documents listed below must be current where necessary.
As an exception to the Common Standards for Identity Verification (CSIV), Universal Credit Full Service claimants can use expired documents however the document must show a true likeness of the claimant.
- passport showing that the holder, or a person named in the passport as the child of the holder
- full or provisional UK photo driving licence
- any national identity card, except those issued under the UK ID Card Scheme
- a residence permit, registration certificate or document certifying or indicating permanent residence issued by the Home Office or the United Kingdom Border Agency to a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland
- a permanent residence card issued by the Home Office or the Border and Immigration Agency to the family member of a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland
- a Biometric Residence Permit issued by the United Kingdom Border Agency to the holder which indicates that the person named in it is allowed to stay indefinitely in the United Kingdom, or has no time limit on their stay in the United Kingdom. (Please note that in the case of a refugee who has no other forms of ID, the Biometric Residence Permit can be accepted as sole evidence of identity)
- passport or other travel document endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the United Kingdom, has the right of abode in the United Kingdom, or has no time limit on their stay in the United Kingdom
- Young Scot card showing a PASS hologram
- citizen card
- an Immigration Status Document issued by the Home Office or the United Kingdom Border Agency to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the person named in it is allowed to stay indefinitely in the United Kingdom or has no time limit on their stay in the United Kingdom
- a certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen, which indicates the holder is entitled to take up employment in the United Kingdom
- Northern Ireland claimants in Northern Ireland only can use their electoral ID card
Additionally, in the absence of the above information, a claimant can use their bank card as a primary evidence of identification. This bank card must show the claimants name, sort code and account number or be supported by a recent bank statement. This should correspond with the details the claimant has declared on their claim.
Documents can be government or non-government issued and contain some security features (though not significantly developed) to assist the authentication of the document. However, documents can be forged or counterfeited with relative ease. Usually issued by remote channels of application but can be issued by face to face in some cases.
Ensure documents where necessary are current and original or are a certified copy.
As an exception to the Common Standards for Identity Verification (CSIV), Universal Credit Full Service claimants can use expired documents however the document must show a true likeness of the claimant.
- any form of primary evidence (not already used as a primary evidence)
- certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen
- original birth certificate issued in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland (or certified copy from registrar)
- foreign birth certificate
- original (or certified copy from registrar) birth/adoption certificates
- Young Scots card
- citizen card
- building society passbook
- local authority rent card
- council tax documents
- life assurance/insurance policies
- mortgage repayment policies
- recently paid fuel/telephone bills in the customer’s name
- original marriage certificate
- original civil partnership certificate
- divorce/annulment papers
- dissolution of civil partnership papers
- certificate/contract of employment in Her Majesty’s forces
- certificate/contract of employment under the Crown
- certificate/contract of employment in the Merchant Navy
- current Police registration certificate
- current firearms certificate
- current/recent wage/pension slip that includes payee name and National Insurance number
- letter from employer/contract of employment
- Deed Poll certificate
- current bank/ building society/Post Office card account statements (6 months old or less if the claimant has used their bank card as a primary ID then any bank statements must be for a different account)
- current/open saving account book
- personal cheque book
- current debit/switch card (unless claimant has used this as a primary ID)
- current charge card
- trade union membership card
- travel pass with photograph affixed
- apprenticeship indentures
- vehicle registration/motor insurance documents
- expired passport
- form B79, a form used to notify Department for Work and Pensions staff that a person has been discharged from prison and has been advised to claim benefit
- bail sheet
- correspondence from HMRC
- tenancy agreement for current property
- invoices (self-employed)
- letter from accountant containing information which helps to establish identity
- letter from solicitor containing information which helps to establish identity
- current/recent instrument of court Appointment for example, Probate or court registered Power of Attorney
- stock transfer certificate (Director)
- certificate of incorporation (Director)
- memorandum of association (Director)
- NHS medical card
- student ID card (student)
- letter from educational institution (student)
- student loan documentation
- non-UK driving licence
This list is not exhaustive.
How DWP collects and uses information
We will treat your personal information carefully. We may use it for any of our purposes. To learn about your information rights and how we use information, please see our personal Information Charter.