factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“Claims can only be made online”

The short answer:

That’s a myth … you may be able to claim by phone

You usually have to claim universal credit online using the government’s Apply for Universal Credit service.

However, if you can’t access, or are unable to use, the online claims process, even with assistance - for example, if you can’t read or write, are excluded from accessing the internet due to a criminal conviction, or can’t interact with others face to face to get support with entering claims information - you can apply by phone. In addition, DWP internal guidance advises that irrespective of any difficulties you have with online claims, if you insist that you want to make a telephone claim you should be allowed to do so.

Tip: When asking the DWP to enter your claim details for you over the phone, give as much information about the difficulties you have claiming online and why you can’t be assisted to enter claims information yourself. If you have a medical condition that limits what you can do, make sure you let the DWP know about this, and seek advice if you are not supported with your claim.

In practice, it can be difficult to persuade the DWP to help you make a claim by phone without you entering information online yourself, as they will try and direct you to other support, such as from your local council, or assisted support services from jobcentre staff. If these options don't work for you, the DWP can arrange a home visit to help you make your claim. in addition, DWP internal guidance advises that

Law and case law:

Regulation 8 of the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 provides for how claims can be made, including the option to claim by phone.

Official guidance:

ADM Chapter A2 Claims (from paragraph 2028) for guidance on claiming universal credit.

Universal Support 2018/2019 Guidance from gov.uk.

Assisted digital overview (last updated March 2019) from the House of Commons library, for guidance on local sources of claims support, jobcentre support, and circumstances where claims information can be entered for you by the DWP.

Home Visits (last updated March 2019) from the House of Commons library.

FOI response from DWP (August 2019) includes details of the process DWP staff follow when setting up accounts for claimants who cannot claim online.

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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