Making a universal credit claim
This page gives a summary of how to make a universal credit claim and explains the difference between single and joint claims.
Content on this page:
Single or joint claims
You can make a single claim or joint claim for universal credit. There are specific rules which set out when you should make a single claim and when you should make a joint claim. You should check your circumstances carefully to make sure you make the right claim.
There are special rules for polygamous couples.
Couples and joint claims
For universal credit, a couple means:
- two people who are married to each other and members of the same household
- two people who are not married to each other but are living together as if they are
- two people who are civil partners of each other and members of the same household
- two people who are not civil partners of each other but are living together as if they are.
In most cases, members of a couple must make a joint claim for universal credit. This includes where one member of the couple is receiving education or has reached their state pension age and the other has not.
Couples and single claims
There are some situations where you will need to make a single claim for universal credit even though you have a partner and meet the definition of a couple explained above under ‘couples and joint claims’. You may make a claim as a single person if your partner:
- is not yet 18 and cannot get UC as a person under the age of 18
- is not treated as ‘in Great Britain’
- is a prisoner
- is part of a religious order and is fully maintained by that order or is serving a sentence of imprisonment whilst detained in hospital.
- is subject to immigration control
In this situation, your partner’s capital and income will be treated as yours when working out how much universal credit you are entitled to.
You can also make a single claim if you have a partner and meet the definition of a couple explained above, but your partner is temporarily absent from your household. This applies if the absence is expected to, or does, exceed 6 months. This is separate from the usual temporary absence rules.
Mixed age couples
If you are part of a couple and you have both reached your state pension credit qualifying age then you will not qualify for universal credit. You may be able to claim pension credit instead, depending on your circumstances.
Mixed age couples are where one member of a couple has reached their state pension credit qualifying age but the other has not. Generally, if you are in this situation you must make a joint claim for universal credit because most mixed age couples can no longer claim pension credit. However there is one exception to this for mixed age couples who were in receipt of pension age housing benefit on 14 May 2019 and have continued to receive it. If you think this exception may apply, you should speak to a specialist welfare rights adviser.
If you are not part of a couple, then you should make a single claim.
How to make a universal credit claim
Universal credit is usually claimed online, via the GOV.UK website.
You will need access to a computer to claim and there are instructions explaining how to complete and submit the claim on the GOV.UK website. Sometimes, local libraries, welfare groups or jobcentre offices can offer help accessing computers.
DWP will allow you to claim by telephone, or even face to face, in exceptional circumstances where you cannot use a computer or doesn’t have access to a computer. To make a claim by phone contact the universal credit helpline. In Northern Ireland you can contact the universal credit service centre.
Both members of a couple must claim universal credit. In polygamous marriages, only the earliest parties to the marriage claim as joint claimants, while later partners claim as single claimants.
To make a joint claim, you will both need to open a universal credit account. DWP recommend that you take it in turns to set up your universal credit accounts. During the claims process, if you are the first person to claim you will be asked if you have a partner for universal credit purposes. If you answer yes, you will be prompted to ask for a linking code. When your partner opens their account they will also need to select that they have a partner who they live with and they can enter the linking code you gave them as well as your name and postcode. This will result in the claims getting linked together as a joint claim.
Help with claiming
DWP also offer a British sign language video relay service for queries relating to universal credit.
Citizens Advice offer a help to claim service.