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Benefit claimants launch guide to demystify applying for Universal Credit

Posted on 22 June 2023

Benefit claimants are offering a new resource to help guide the 2.6 million people moving onto Universal Credit from tax credits and other benefits.

The first claimant-led guide to Universal Credit

This is the first claimant-led guide to Universal Credit, in collaboration with researchers at the University of York and Ulster University, and is designed to be user-friendly, supportive, and informative with the use of short videos and first-hand accounts of claimant experiences.

Universal Credit works differently across Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. This new guide focuses on Northern Ireland but contains information relevant to all four countries, highlighting the differences and how things run in each country.

Supportive information

Dr Ruth Patrick from the School for Business and Society at the University of York, said: “We know that the benefit system can be very complicated to navigate and understand. As almost three million face migrating onto Universal Credit from other benefits, this guide will provide vital, supportive information about how to cope with this transition. 

“This guide is the UK's first to be made by people on Universal Credit for people moving onto the benefit, and this is reflected in the informal and supportive feel of the guide itself.”

Direct experience

Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick from the School of Law at Ulster University, said: “The Universal Credit guide is very unique, as it is written by people with direct experience of claiming Universal Credit. They have an inside view of the barriers that may be faced by new claimants and the increasing numbers of people who will be moved to UC in NI – estimated to be around 100,000 people in Northern Ireland.

“We hope that the guide provides them with an important source of information and confidence to support a smoother journey into Universal Credit.” 


Universal Credit requires claimants to manage most aspects of their own claims. The new guide aims to support and help people to apply and manage their application for Universal Credit, recognising that many people are concerned about moving onto the benefit.  

As part of the guide, claimants offer advice about where to go for extra guidance and where to turn for support with mental health when/if this is affected. 

Minefield of information

Caroline Rice, a member of UC:Us who helped to write the guide, said: “Navigating Universal Credit can be daunting and the minefield of information thrown your way with jargon after jargon lends to many of us just scrolling through and not actually reading it all, missing out on valuable information. 

“We want this guide to allow people to better understand the services, how to navigate the system, and where to go for guidance and help. The relaunch couldn’t have come at a better time as we see areas of N Ireland now being put into migration phase.”


Dr Patrick said: “The guide starts from and works with the expertise that comes with experience - something that is still all too rare in policymaking and research on poverty and social security.” 

The guide can be accessed here: UC:Us - a guide to Universal Credit for claimants, by claimants

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