How to apply
What is Universal Credit?
Universal Credit is a monthly payment for people who are aged between 18 and 65 on a low income or out of work. It replaces six working age benefits that you may previously have been entitled to:
- Jobseekers Allowance (Income based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (Income based)
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
How to claim your benefits
New social security claimants will have no choice but to make a claim to Universal Credit as it has now fully rolled out across Northern Ireland. This same process applies and it is wise to get guidance from your local Advice Centre before applying.
Before you apply
If you currently claim benefits do not do anything until you receive a letter from Department for Communities telling you that you are required to move from your existing benefits to Universal Credit.
When you receive this letter, it will invite you to apply for universal credit online you will then need to make contact with jobs and benefit office within seven days of applying for Universal Credit to verify your identify. There will be at least five weeks between the date that you apply for universal credit and when you receive your first Universal Credit payment. Remember, you will not receive any benefits during this five week wait.
Once you get your letter from Department for Communities you should contact your local advice centre for a full benefits check so that you know your entitlements.
Setting up your account.
To set up a Universal Credit online account you must have:
- Internet access
- An email account
- A bank account
- A mobile phone
If you need help setting up your email account and Universal Credit account you can book a Universal Credit online training session at a Belfast City Council Community Centre by calling 028 9027 0644 . Staff cannot input your personal details for you but they can talk you through the entire process. Some Advice Centres, Libraries or your local jobs and benefits office have computers or devices that you can use or book to use with internet access.
Keep your logon details memorable so that you do not forget them and do not tell anyone your logon details. You will need these to access your Universal Credit account regularly to make sure you receive your benefit and to know when it will be paid.
Your Universal Credit interview
When you have your Universal Credit account set up you should prepare paperwork to verify your identity, you will also need to provide details of any costs you intend claiming and recent payslips if you are currently working. Otherwise your first payment may be delayed.
You must bring the following items to your interview if applicable:
- Two forms of paper identification this may include your passport or a household bills
- National insurance number
- Bank details (sort code and bank account number)
- details of other income such as other benefits you are in receipt of or have been on for example PIP, pensions, savings and capital
- details of your housing provider and how much rent you pay including any service charges, and proof of your tenancy agreement.
- details of everyone in your household
- details of your employers name, address and recent pay slips
- details of your childcare provider and costs.
Getting your benefits
Once your claim has been processed you will receive alerts by text to tell you to logon onto your Universal Credit account for updates and instructions on what happens next. You payment should automatically go in to your bank account. If you haven't recieved a message in your online account after five weeks, call the Universal Credit helpline 0844 306 9189
Don’t ignore your Universal Credit text alerts. Your payment date may change every month so check your Universal Credit online account regularly as there may be communication about future payments, or you may need to follow up on instructions. If you fail to act on actions requested, you may receive a sanction, meaning your payment could be reduced or even stopped.
You will have to wait five weeks for your first payment so you need to be prepared and budget as much as you can. Many will struggle during this waiting period.
You can access a Discretionary Support payment. A short term advance payment to help you over the five week waiting period, however, it is important to note that an Advance Payment is a loan and it will be deducted from your future Universal Credit payments. If you have applied and received an Advance Payment, you may be eligible to apply for a grant from the Contingency Fund. You should ask your work coach about the application process.
If you think that you will be moving onto Universal Credit you should start budgeting now or if you need help with this your local advice centre or Consumer Council can help you put together a household budget.
Things you can do to help with the five week wait for payment:
- Buy a little extra non-perishable (tinned or dried) food each week
- Make a shopping list and plan meals weekly
- Put extra money on gas, oil or electric when possible
- If you can, save a small amount of money each week
- Try to reduce unnecessary spending