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Waiting for a Universal Credit claim to be processed

What to do and where to go if you haven't got any money because you're waiting for Universal Credit.

Waiting for your Universal Credit claim to be paid

You should get your first payment one month and 7 days after you made your claim for Universal Credit, although many claims have been affected by a 7-day 'waiting period' at the start of the claim. So it could be up to 6 weeks before you get your first payment.

The waiting period is abolished from 14 February 2018.

However, the government announced in the November 2017 budget that waiting times will be reduced in the near future. Check the welfare benefits news for information about this.

If you find yourself in financial difficulty while waiting for your claim to be processed, the following may help.

Short term benefit advance

This is a repayable advance of benefit which may be available, for instance, if you have applied for benefit but a decision has not yet been made. To get an advance you must have already made a new claim for Universal Credit. Jobcentre Plus cannot make a decision or make a payment right away, but try to make sure that you request a payment within the first 21 days of your claim.

To qualify for the payment the Jobcentre Plus needs to accept that you are in 'financial need' and they must think that you are likely to be entitled to the benefit you have claimed. You'll be asked to repay the advance from future benefits. You should be advised about this when you apply for the payment.

To class you as in 'financial need' Jobcentre Plus needs to accept there is a serious risk to the health and safety of you, your partner (if you have one) or children (if you have them) if a payment is not made. If you are within the first month of your UC claim after moving from another benefit, you will be accepted as being in financial need.

If you are within the first month of your UC claim, you can apply through your online account.

At present, there's no application form to apply for a Short Term Benefit Advance. You can contact Jobcentre Plus by phone to request a payment, tel: 0800 328 5644. For further information please see the factsheet attached to this page: 'What can I do until I'm paid?' and Universal Credit − advance payments and alternative payments to help you budget.

Otherwise contact your Work Coach or request a payment by phone tel: 0800 328 5644. For further information please see the factsheets attached to this page.

Help from the Derbyshire Discretionary Fund and referrals to food banks are not intended to be an alternative to short-term advances but they may assist you in other circumstances.

Derbyshire Discretionary Fund

The Derbyshire Discretionary Fund provides help to help people during an emergency or crisis situation and to support people to continue to live independently or cope with exceptional pressure when they have no money to help their situation, such as:

  • an emergency cash payment can help people when they cannot pay for food, heating or emergency travel which could lead to an immediate and serious risk to the health and safety of the person or their family
  • an Exceptional Pressure Grant can help people who are on certain benefits and have particular difficulties because they need help to live in the community, ease the exceptional pressure that they and their family are facing or meet certain travelling expenses

Food banks

Food banks are there to help people who are in financial crisis, not just benefit problems, and who cannot get enough to eat. You may need to be referred to your local food bank by your GP, Citizens Advice, a social worker or a local charity. There may be a limit on the number of times you can use the food bank.

There are 23 food banks in Derbyshire. You can find your nearest food bank.

Bills and housing costs


If you think you'll miss essential bill payments while waiting for your claim to be paid, talk to the companies involved, such as energy suppliers, to discuss what you can do. They may be able to offer support such as energy grants or lower tariffs.

If you know the date your Universal Credit claim is going to be paid, you can set up direct debits or standing order to come out of your bank on or after that date. You may need to change the date you usually pay your bills.


Unlike housing benefit, Universal Credit is usually paid to you rather than your landlord. If you're worried about paying your rent while waiting for your claim it's important you talk to your landlord straightaway and let them know you are waiting for the money to be paid.

If you're already in rent arrears talk to job centre staff about setting direct payments to your landlord. This means your rent payments will go straight to them until you can get back on your feet again.

The housing element of your Universal Credit payment may not cover all your housing costs if you have too many bedrooms for your needs or your rent is higher than the amount that you are entitled to.

If you are facing a rent shortfall, talk to your local council about applying for a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Sanctions if you're already claiming Universal Credit

If the job centre thinks that you haven't made enough effort to look for work, or you've failed to apply for a job, failed to take up a job, or done anything else that indicates you're not doing all you can to find work, your Universal Credit can be 'sanctioned'. This means you payment could be reduced or stopped.

The attached factsheet 'Sanctions and hardship payments' has further details about how sanctions work and how to claim a Hardship Payment.

Debts and managing money

If you're worried about getting into debt while waiting for your claim to be paid, you can get more advice on managing money and debt.