Ask CPAG Online - How do you apply for a universal credit advance?

You must apply for a universal credit advance in order to be awarded one. This section looks at the time limits the DWP apply, what you need to do to make an application, the time limits the DWP apply, what information you should provide and how your application is dealt with.

How do you start your application?

The DWP encourage you to apply by phoning the Universal Credit Helpline:

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Welsh language: 0800 012 1888

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

All Universal Credit telephone lines are freephone numbers. 

You can also claim at your initial UC interview at the Jobcentre Plus office (an interview is arranged when you make your online claim), although in practice you may be advised to phone the Universal Credit Helpline. If you are unable to speak on the phone tell the person at your interview and ask them to apply on your behalf.

You can also apply in writing, although this is likely to take longer to process, and you should use the phone or ask at your UC interview if you can. If you do apply in writing, usually the DWP will phone you to process your application.

What are the time limits?

The law does not set out time limits for applying for a universal credit advance. However, official guidance says that under ‘universal credit policy’ there are timescales for requesting a universal credit advance.

The time limits are as follows:

  • For an advance in a ‘benefit transfer’ case, you can apply at any time during your first monthly assessment period for UC;
  • For an advance where you have made a new claim but it is not a benefit transfer case, an advance ‘cannot be considered’ if you apply for the advance within 3 working days before the end of your first monthly assessment period for UC;
  • For an advance following a change of circumstances, an advance ‘cannot be considered’ if you apply for the advance within 3 working days before the end of your first monthly assessment period for UC.

Although the official guidance does not say so, you can ask the DWP to reconsider a refusal to consider your application because you did not meet these time limits. Try to do this during the conversation in which you are told that your application is not accepted. You do not have the right of appeal. For more, see How do you challenge a decision about a universal credit advance?.

What information should you provide?

When you apply, try to:

  • supply details about your UC claim (for example, what benefit you claimed and when you claimed it);
  • explain how you are in financial hardship and that you need an advance payment of benefit (for example, you don’t have money for the gas/electricity meter or for food) and how do not have access to other sources to support you (for example, you do not have wages or other benefit owing) – see When can you get a universal credit advance/Financial need?. You can say how much you need, but the DWP may not agree to award you that amount;
  • include your contact details (address and phone number).

Official UC guidance also says that if you apply by phone you will be told that the following will apply:

  • you must provide your identification (things like your passport, driving licence, birth certificate, national insurance number, bank details, utility bills);
  • you must have your bank details ready;
  • if you have made a joint claim for UC with your partner, both of you are available to accept any advance offered and the recovery terms.

For a sample statement for an application for a universal credit advance, see the Ask CPAG – universal credit advance sample statement. You could use this to help you when talking to the DWP when making your application, or it could be adapted for use as a letter. If you have an adviser who is making the application on your behalf, they should be sure that they can show that they have your authority to act for you. Note however that CPAG are aware of cases of the DWP not accepting that advisers can act for claimants regarding UC claims, so it is always better if you make the application yourself.

How is your application dealt with?

Official guidance sets out how your application is dealt with. It says that if you are making a new claim for UC, an application for a universal credit advance can be considered without you having already accepted the UC Claimant Commitment, as long as it is considered likely that you will.

Your application is dealt with either by a ‘telephony agent’ where you make your application by phoning the Helpline, or by an ‘account developer’ if you applied in writing, in which case the agent contacts you on the phone where possible.

The agent checks to see if your case is a benefit transfer case (i.e., if you were getting a qualifying benefit in the six months before your claim for UC). Then the agent checks that your identity can be verified, before going on to consider if you can be awarded an advance.

The agent may discuss with you how much your advance would be, and at what rate you would repay it.

Your application should be decided quickly. Usually, if you apply by phone you will get a decision on the same day or at least early on the next day.

You are advised of the outcome of your application usually by phone. If an advance is to be offered to you, you are told of the amount and the repayment conditions, and asked either to accept or reject the offer. A notification of the outcome will be sent to you, (but if you have refused an offer, a notification will not be issued).

If your application is refused, you should be advised that you may be able to get local welfare assistance from your local authority.