Universal Credit FAQs

There are a lot of issues around Universal Credit for corporate appointees and deputies. On this page we look at some of the issues which are raised most frequently and provide answers or information which may help.

We will keep adding to this page so check back for updates.

  1. Why might we need to claim Universal Credit?
  2. Online or telephone claim?

Q1. Why might we need to claim Universal Credit for our clients?

A. Usually this is because the client gets an income related benefit and something happens which means they need to claim UC. This then stops the income related benefit. Or it might be a new claim for a client who hasn’t been getting income related benefits previously.
See Universal Credit – the basics page for more information.

Q2. Is it better to make an online claim or a telephone claim?

A. You can choose whichever works best for you. If you are able to set up email addresses for your clients an online claim means you then have online accounts. You can use the online accounts to report changes of circumstance, check payments, raise issues and ask questions, report fit notes and more.

Telephone claims mean no online accounts so you will usually need to phone the UC Helpline to raise any issues, report changes of circumstance and so on.

UC is not paper based although you should be notified in writing of any decisions – that is the law. For online accounts decision notices will be attached to the journal, not sent by post. If there is no online account you should receive decision notices by post – it appears this might be a bit hit or miss in practice so please let us know if you have any problems.

3. We have to say the client will look for work when making the claim – but our clients are not jobseekers. How can we manage this?

A. Accepting a “high level” claimant commitment is built into the claim process. You can’t proceed with a claim unless you click to accept this. Once the claim is submitted you can speak to a work coach, or preferably the person responsible for vulnerable claimants (see Who can help? below), at the jobcentre to explain your client’s circumstances.

The law states than an appointee cannot accept a commitment on behalf of a claimant. If your client lacks capacity to accept a commitment themselves (which is likely to apply to the majority of Deputyship clients) they should no claimant commitment.

The claimant commitment page on the journal might simply state a requirement to report changes through the online account. This is fine.

Q4. Who can help us sort out problems with UC for our clients?

A. Deputyship teams are generally finding it helpful to contact the DWP Partnership Manager in their area to discuss how best to manage UC for their clients. You should be able to find out who your Partnership Manager is by phoning a local jobcentre. If you have a welfare rights service in your area they should also have the contact details for the Partnership Manager.

Or you can find the contact details for the overall Partnership Manager for each area here. They will have contact details for the Partnership Manager for your specific area.

In addition each jobcentre will have a “Vulnerable person SPOC (Single Point of Contact)” whose contact details can be provided by the Partnership Manager.

We have found DWP staff don’t have a good understanding of what Deputyship teams do and it has been very useful to meet up with the Partnership Managers and/or the SPOCs to discuss this. For example, in Northumberland we have an agreement that proof of identity and other evidence required for a claim is provided by secure email. Teams that do not have a secure email have been able to make other suitable arrangements – you can often find information about these on the Forum.

Q.5 UC Helpline operators are telling us they cannot speak to us unless the client is with us even though we are the appointee.

A. This does sometimes happen because unfortunately some DWP staff don’t understand appointeeships. If you are appointee Deputy or both, you are in effect the claimant and deal with their benefits. You do not need consent from your client and all DWP services should deal with you as if you are the claimant. If you are having problems with this you can ask to speak to a supervisor. You can also refer them to the DWP Agents, appointees, attorneys, deputies and third parties: staff guide.

Q6. We are taking over the appointeeship for a client who is already on UC. Do we have to make a whole new UC claim?

A. This is an issue with UC which we hope might get resolved properly without too much (further) delay. UC do not seem to understand letters of relinquishment and do not have a consistent process for dealing with this.

If you have the log in details for the client you can access their online account but you may not be able to change the security questions. Your local Partnership Manager may be able to help you resolve this by providing a new Personal Security Number (PSN) but we have found this does not always work in practice.

Until this is properly resolved within the UC system you may need to set up a new claim and request either by phone or on the online journal (report it as a “service issue” so it goes to the case manager) that it is linked back to the previous claim.

Q.7 We are reporting fit notes using the client’s online journal but UC tell us they have not been logged on their system.

A. For UC you need to “report a new fit note” on the online journal and send or email it to the jobcentre to be logged on the system.

Q.8 How can someone be getting Employment and Support Allowance and UC at the same time?

A. Because the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be contribution based and the UC will be the means tested top-up. Under the legacy benefit system ESA has both a contribution based and an income related part. Some people are entitled to both if their income is low enough or they need to claim for a partner. Under the UC system contribution based ESA is termed “new style” ESA and it does not have an income related part. So it can only be topped up with UC.

If a person getting “old style” contribution based ESA topped up with income related ESA migrates to UC, their contribution based ESA continues and the means tested top up becomes UC.

Q.9 Our client had a baby on 4 April but we didn’t report this to UC till 2 months later. UC say they will not backdate the child element.

A. Unfortunately this is correct. A change of circumstances which means the client is entitled to more UC usually only takes effect in the assessment period you report it in.

However, if you do report it in the assessment period in which it happened the extra UC is normally paid for the whole of that assessment period (AP). So if your client had the baby towards the end of her AP she would be entitled to the child element for the whole AP provided you report it in that AP.

Q.10 We made a new UC claim for a client but sadly they died before we had received any payment for them. UC say we are not entitled to a payment at all.

A. This is also correct, if the client died during the first assessment period. UC treat this as though the change (in this case the client’s death) happened at the start of the assessment period. So no UC is payable for that assessment period (AP) at all and as it was the first AP, no UC is payable at all.