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Universal Credit and Coronavirus

There have been a number of changes made to the way you can claim universal credit and the rules that apply to it as a consequence of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Claiming universal credit

During the coronavirus outbreak, the universal credit helpline (0800 328 5644; textphone: 0800 328 1344) will be very difficult to get through to. Consequently, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is asking claimants to avoid using the line where possible and conduct all dealings with them online. If you cannot verify your identity online (using the the government's Verify system, or the Government Gateway account if you already have one of these) the DWP will phone you to help verify your identity. For more on claiming universal credit, go to 'How do I claim universal credit?'

The universal credit interview

During the outbreak, you will not be expected to attend the Jobcentre for the universal credit interview that will follow your claim; this will be done over the phone instead.

Universal credit advances

When you apply for universal credit, you can claim a repayable month's advance payment of the benefit without needing to attend the Jobcentre.

Limited capability for work

If you have coronavirus or self-isolate on government advice during the outbreak, or if you are caring for a child or qualifying young person who has coronavirus or is in isolation, you can be treated as having a limited capability for work. You will not need to provide a fit note as evidence of this. Contact your work coach using your universal credit online journal to explain your situation. The work capability assessment face-to face consultations have been suspended for three months from 17 March 2020; this period may be extended if necessary. 

Your responsibilities

You must normally meet work-related requirements to keep getting universal credit paid in full. These are recorded in a claimant commitment. The commitment and sanctions were temporarily suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak and the consequent lockdown. The suspension has now been lifted in England, Scotland and Wales. The suspension will continue until 7 August in Northern Ireland. If you are making a new claim for universal credit, you will now need to accept a claimant commitment. If you are already getting universal credit, your claimant commitment will be reviewed and updated to take account of the current situation. If you are shielding or have childcare responsibilities, this must be taken into account. You should not be sanctioned if you do not have an up-to-date claimant commitment.  

The rates

The standard allowance of universal credit has been increased by £20 a week (recalculated to a monthly amount) for one year above the normal increase for inflation.


If you are self-employed, the minimum income floor (an assumed income level if you earn less than the DWP expect you to earn) will not be applied if you have coronavirus or self-isolate on government advice, or if you are caring for a child or qualifying young person who has coronavirus or is in isolation. The rules can otherwise be relaxed for a period of 8 months from 13 March 2020 at the discretion of the DWP.

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