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New Arrivals

How to make a claim for universal credit (UC), housing benefit (HB) and council tax rebate (CTR)

This page is for new arrivals. If you are a housing adviser please click here for information more relevant to you.

Universal credit (UC)

You make a claim for universal credit from the DWP. If you are a couple you make a joint claim. You claim universal credit online. You can call the helpline if you need help to make your claim: 0800 328 5644.

If you claim UC before January 2019 the online form will tell you if you live in a UC area (from January you will be able to claim UC in every area of the UK). If UC does not yet operate in your area you should claim HB instead (together with any passport benefit from the DWP if you need it).

After you have lodged your claim you will be asked to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre Plus office where you will be asked to sign a claimant commitment that sets out what you will do to find, or get ready for, work. You will also be asked to provide any evidence and information that is needed to complete you claim.

Transferring from housing benefit to universal credit

If you are under pension age and you are awarded housing benefit (HB) before your area converts to UC you will continue to get it until either:

  • your circumstances change and you are no longer entitled to it (e.g. income or capital increase);
  • you move outside your local authority area; or
  • you claim UC because one of your legacy benefits ends due to a change of circumstances.

Whenever you claim UC because one of your legacy benefits has ended this automatically ends all of your other legacy benefits and you cannot claim them again (unless you move outside a UC area). Your other legacy benefits end when you have a change that means you are no longer entitled to it (for example, if you get income-based JSA and start work, or you get income support and your youngest child reaches age five years).

Housing benefit (HB)

Housing benefit is assessed and awarded by your local authority. A claim can be made directly to the local authority. You can always start a claim in writing (e.g. by writing a letter saying you want to claim). Most local authorities now accept online claims, and some accept online and telephone claims.

If you are also claiming income-based JSA, income-related ESA, income support, or pension credit  you can start your claim for HB from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - which will normally be by telephone (0800 99 1234 for claims for pension credit; 0800 055 6688 for all other benefits). If you start a claim at the DWP the local authority can also ask you to complete their own claim form (either in writing or online).

Council tax rebate (CTR)

A claim for council tax rebate (CTR) must always be made directly to your local authority (the council). It can be made in writing, online (if your authority accepts online claims), or by telephone, if the authority has published a number for that purpose. You cannot claim CTR at the DWP either when you claim UC or a passport benefit. If you claim UC or a passport benefit the DWP will ask you if you would like to make a claim for CTR and pass the information on to the authority: this does not constitute a legally valid claim for CTR.

Registering and completing your claim for UC/HB/CTR

You can register your intention to claim UC/HB/CTR in whatever form the DWP/council accepts (in writing, online, email or phone) and if you do you have one month to complete you claim.

Your claim is complete only if you have answered all of the questions and provided all of the evidence and information according to the instructions on the form (whether the form is in writing or online).

If you claim online your claim is only complete if the computer accepts your form and you provide all of the evidence and information. If you abandon the claim before the process is complete then the DWP/ council does not have to process it. If you claim by telephone your claim is only complete if you answer all questions.

If you complete your claim is completed according to the instructions on the form but the DWP/council require further information the DWP/council must decide your claim even if you do not provide the extra evidence.  

Backdating a claim for UC/HB/CTR

UC/HB/CTR can normally only be awarded from the date you start your claim. Sometimes a claim can be backdated but the rules are strict - if you delay your claim to get further advice (including advice about your immigration status) backdating is usually refused.

Regardless of how good your reasons are, the maximum period of backdating allowed for UC/HB is one month from the date you first asked to claim, or if you are claiming a passport benefit, three months if your passport benefit is also backdated.

In England your council can backdate your CTR for a maximum of three months if you are of pension age but set its own rules if working-age (including not accepting any backdating). In Wales your council can backdate your CTR for three months, or longer if its own scheme rules allow.

Information and evidence to complete your claim for UC/HB/CTR

To complete your claim the DWP/council can ask you to provide any documents or certificates that it 'reasonably requires' to prove you meet the conditions. You may be asked to provide evidence of any or all of the following:

  • you and your partner's national insurance number (e.g. NINO card), or
    • any evidence that will enable the authority to establish what it is (passport, birth certificate, etc); or
    • if you do not have one, an application for one to be allocated together with any evidence required to do this
  • your identity (e.g. passport)
  • immigration status (passport / national identity card / UK residence card)
  • your address (typically a recent utility bill or bank statement)
  • your tenancy agreement or other contract with your landlord
  • your income and capital (benefit award letter, payslips, bank statements)
  • anything else that is reasonably required to establish your entitlement.

The first item (national insurance number) is compulsory: your claim must be refused if you do not comply. There is only one exception: if you are a member of a couple but only one of you is subject to immigration control, in which case it only applies to the person who is eligible for UC/HB/CTR.

Otherwise the DWP/council should give you time to provide the evidence to complete your claim: usually one month - but they can allow longer if it is reasonable to do so (e.g. if you are waiting for the Home Office to return your documents). The DWP/council can only ask you to provide what it is reasonable. It cannot ask you to provide documentary evidence if none exists. For example, your tenancy agreement with your landlord may be verbal (in which case it may verify it by asking for other evidence).

Some councils apply the DWP's security guidance rigidly and only accept original documents - but this is guidance only and tribunals are not bound by it.

Are there any particular problems?

Migrants often face delays whilst their claims are processed. Sometimes the councils will postpone making a decision until you have been allocated a national insurance number (for example, following the grant of refugee status). This is wrong: the claim can be processed once the application for a NINO has been made, provided that the NINO application includes the information and evidence needed to process it.

Chartered Institute of Housing

Background Topics

Chartered Institute of Housing