Hello and welcome to my latest Universal Credit blog!

Since my last post, I’ve received a few requests to talk about one particular part of the claiming process: the interview at the jobcentre. I understand that, for many people claiming Universal Credit, the interview at the job centre can feel like a daunting prospect, so in this month’s blog I’m focusing on what you can expect to happen during the interview and what you can do to prepare.

Making the appointment

You should arrange your interview within 7 days of submitting your online Universal Credit claim. Doing so any later could result in your claim being cancelled, meaning you would have to make a claim from scratch again.

To arrange your appointment, call the Universal Credit service centre; you’ll need your National Insurance number during the call, so be sure to have it to hand.

An adviser at the service centre will book an appointment for you at your local jobcentre and advise you of the location, date and time of the appointment, as well as any documents you’ll need to bring. It’s important to know that you won’t be sent a letter to confirm the appointment, but all the information will be available in your online UC journal.

If you are claiming UC as a couple, then please note that you will both need to attend the interview.

Preparing for the Appointment

Before the appointment, make sure you:

  • Have the right details concerning the date, time and location.
  • Plan your route to the jobcentre, so you can get there with ease.
  • Leave with plenty of time and aim to arrive about ten minutes before your appointment time.
  • Bring all the documents you were asked to (originals or copies as requested).

If you feel anxious about attending the appointment, you can bring a friend or relative with you for support. You should contact the jobcentre in advance to let them know.

If you are unable to attend your appointment, you need to inform the jobcentre as soon as you can. The staff will want to know why you can no longer attend and will arrange a new appointment with you. Missing your appointment without telling the jobcentre could lead to your claim being cancelled, so it is vital that you keep them updated.

What to expect at your Appointment

Your appointment will consist of two parts:

  • an identity check
  • a meeting with your work coach

Identity check

This is done to confirm that your identity matches your online claim. You will need to do this even if you verified your identity online.

You’ll be advised on which documents you should bring for the identity check when you call the UC service centre. Generally, accepted documents include:

  • Your passport (UK or EEA accepted)
  • UK photo driving licence
  • National identity card
  • Residence permit or card
  • Immigration status document
  • Registration or naturalisation certificate

Depending on the information you submitted in your online claim, you may also be asked to provide:

  • your tenancy agreement or an up to date rent statement (which you can request from Southway)
  • wage slips
  • a bank statement
  • proof of savings

When bringing your documents, ensure that they are in good condition and can be recognised easily. Documents which are torn, have photos or text that is faded beyond recognition or are expired may not be accepted, which could delay your claim.

Meet your work coach

When you submit your online claim, you will be told if you will be expected to search for work. If you are, you will be assigned a work coach, who you will meet at your jobcentre appointment. They will be available to support you in looking for work, in addition to advising you on managing until your first payment.

When you first meet your work coach, they will advise you on how Universal Credit works. They will also:

  • Agree a plan with you, aimed at improving your work situation
  • Draw up your “Claimant Commitment”, an outline of what actions you agree to take in return for receiving UC. Everyone’s commitment is different, as it is based upon your individual situation, taking into account factors such as your capacity to work and your family situation.

If you’re claiming as a couple, then you will have separate discussions with your work coach.

At the end of your appointment, your work coach will advise you on when your next appointment will be and how often you will need to attend the jobcentre for follow ups. The details of any of your future appointments at the jobcentre will be available in your online journal.

Need more advice?

I hope this guide has provided an outline of what to expect at your Jobcentre appointment; if you have any further questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by clicking here, through Southway’s Facebook page or by calling 0161 448 4200. I'll be happy to make an appointment with you