Last updated:

28th November 2023

Universal Credit

What Universal Credit benefit is and how to apply for it

What Universal Credit is

Universal Credit is a monthly payment to help with your living costs. It is paid as a single payment for your household into your bank, building society or credit union account, in arrears. It replaces the following benefits:

  • Jobseekers Allowance (income-based JSA)
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income-related ESA)
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credit / Working Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit

If your payment includes housing costs to help with your rent, you'll need to pay this to your landlord yourself.

Universal Credit is live in Wokingham Borough. That means you will need to apply for Universal Credit instead of making a new claim for one of the benefits listed above.

If you have a change of circumstances so that you need to re-apply for benefits or tax credits you may have to apply for Universal Credit instead. 

Unless one of the following applies

  • You are of State Pension age - check your State Pension age on the website
  • You are resident in 'supported exempt accommodation' – e.g. hostels or sheltered housing
  • These exempt groups can continue to claim Housing Benefit

How Universal Credit differs from Benefits

Universal Credit works differently from the benefits it replaces. Here are the differences you need to be ready for before making a claim

  • Most people will be paid Universal Credit once a month direct to their chosen account
  • You'll get a single payment for your household 
  • If your Universal Credit includes rent you'll need to pay this to your landlord yourself 
  • You'll be expected to make and manage your claim online 

Use the Universal Credit Personal Planner to help prepare for the changes, such as paying rent to your landlord yourself.

Details you will need for your application

Before you apply for Universal Credit, you'll need the following details for you and your partner

  • Your postcode    
  • Your National Insurance (NI) number - you can find this on a payslip or letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Your email address  (If you don’t have an email address you will need to create one)
  • Details of your bank, building society, credit union or Post Office card account (if you don’t have one of these, you'll need to open an account or use simple payment)
  • The type of accommodation you have, e.g. private rent, council tenant, or housing association tenant - make sure you check this before you apply
  • How much rent you pay - this can be found on your rent agreement, contact your landlord for a copy if you don’t have one
  • Your landlord’s address - this can be found on your rent agreement, ask your landlord for a copy if you don’t have one
  • Your landlord's phone number
  • Details of any savings you have and any other ‘capital’ investments, e.g. shares or property that you don’t live in
  • Details of any income that’s not from work, e.g. from a pension or insurance plan
  • Details of how much you earn from work, e.g. recent payslips
  • How much you pay for childcare (if you want to claim for childcare costs)
  • Details of any other benefits you’re getting, i.e. what benefit and how much you get
  • Child Benefit reference numbers for any children you have. This can be found on letters to you about child benefit, it will start with 'CHB' - phone the Child Benefit Office on 0300 200 3100 if you need help

You will need to use the Verify service - have proof of your Identification (ID) to hand to speed up this process.

You may find it helpful to watch a YouTube video on making a Universal Credit claim.

You will also need to tell us if you want help paying your Council Tax. This is not included in Universal Credit and you will need to apply for Council Tax Reduction.

Apply online

All applications for Universal Credit have to be made online on the website.

The start date of your claim will be the date you submit your application to the Department of Work and Pensions. So apply now – you may lose out if you delay.

Access to a computer / internet

If you don’t have a computer at home, you can try accessing one free of charge at

You could also ask a friend or relative if you can use their computer.

Free phone helpline

For more help, call the Universal Credit helpline free of charge on 0800 328 9344 (or text phone 0800 328 1344)  Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.

You will be contacted for an interview

Within a few days of submitting your application, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you to arrange the interview to complete the application. This could be by phone call, text, email or letter - you'll have chosen how to be contacted on your online claim form.

Payment will take around 6 weeks

You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you're waiting for your first payment. If you don’t get an advance payment you won’t get any money until at least 5 or 6 weeks after you apply for Universal Credit.

Advance payments

You should ask for an advance payment at your interview if you don’t think you’ll have enough money to live on between when you apply and when you’ll get your first payment.

The advance payment is a loan - you’ll have to pay it back, but you won’t need to pay any interest. The repayments will be automatically deducted from your Universal Credit payments until the advance is fully paid back. This will take several months, and you’ll get less money until then.

Support will be offered when you apply for Universal Credit

Personal budgeting support is about helping you adapt to 3 key changes that Universal Credit (UC) brings

  1. A single household payment
  2. Being paid monthly
  3. Rent being paid directly to you and not to your housing provider

Personal budgeting support will support you to manage your money and paying your bills on time as you transition onto Universal Credit.

Phone or face to face support 

Personal budgeting support will be offered to you when you make a claim for Universal Credit. You should let your work coach know, at your Universal Credit interview, if you think you need personal budgeting support. They will then make a referral to us on your behalf.

Help will be offered to you, first by phone, and then if necessary a face to face interview appointment will be made where we can discuss your financial circumstances directly with you. 

Personal budgeting support you can get  

Advice will be given to you on

  • Maximising your income by assisting in the application process for Council Tax Reduction, Discretionary Housing Payments and utility reductions.
  • Budgeting advice will be given on how to manage money
  • Examining your income and expenditure
  • Signposting you to other organisations for more intensive support

Discretionary Housing Payments

If the level of housing costs you receive in your Universal Credit payment is not enough to cover your rent, you can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

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