Maintaining a claim

Unlike some benefits, which do not require much action from the claimant once payments have started, you will need to take regular action to ensure that your Universal Credit payments continue.

This includes providing relevant personal information, evidence that you continue to meet your work-related requirements, and details of your income.

You will be assigned a Work Coach by the Department, and they are responsible for supporting you to meet the requirements laid out in your Claimant Commitment. This includes providing you with access to relevant training and additional financial support.

Online Account

Universal Credit is ‘digital by default’, which means that most people will need to manage their claim through their personal online account. The online account has three sections:

  • Home
  • To-do list
  • Journal

You will be expected to log in regularly to your online account to check the To-Do list and submit information about your activity. Work Coaches will also use the Journal to send you messages.

The online account is also used to report any relevant changes – it is best to do this as soon as possible to try and prevent overpayments, which almost always have to be repaid. However, if something is particularly urgent, it may be advisable to contact the Universal Credit Service Centre by telephone.

People who are unable to manage their claim for themselves can request that someone else do this on their behalf. This could be a representative, such as an advice worker, an appointed friend or family member, or any person with legal power of attorney.

More information about using the online account and reporting information to Universal Credit is available online:

Assessment Period (AP)

Universal Credit payments are calculated over a monthly Assessment Period (AP), which runs from the date the claim is made. The amount of Universal Credit paid in each AP can vary according to your circumstances and income.

Because Universal Credit is paid in arrears, first payments are only made about five weeks after claiming. Regular payments are made twice a month, although they can be made monthly on request. Claimants can also split payments with their partner.

In Northern Ireland, housing costs will usually be paid direct to the landlord. Support with childcare costs, on the other hand, will be paid to the claimant.

Information about employed earnings will be captured automatically by the Department for Communities using Real Time Information from HMRC and should not need to be declared. However, if you have self-employed or cross-border earnings, or income from other sources, you will need to report this before the end of the Assessment Period.

If you have any doubt about the amount of Universal Credit you have received, get in touch and our advisers will help you to figure out whether the payment is correct.

More information about payment of Universal Credit can be accessed at nidirect:

Meeting the Claimant Commitment

All Universal Credit claimants need to agree a Claimant Commitment at the outset of their claim to establish what they will do to prepare for work, look for work or increase their earnings, depending on their circumstances.

Certain groups, such as those in work, with caring responsibilities or managing health conditions and disabilities, will have reduced or even no work-related requirements.

Failing to adhere to the requirements laid out in the Claimant Commitment without a good reason can lead to sanctions, which reduce benefit payments. However, you can dispute a decision to impose a sanction, so get in touch with your local advice centre if you feel that a sanction has been applied incorrectly or unfairly.

More information about the conditions for receiving Universal Credit can be accessed at nidirect: