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Claiming Benefits - How long does it take to process a claim?

Benefits and tax credits are payments from the government to certain people on low incomes, or to meet specific needs. Read our guide to find out more about them and how to claim.

How long does it take to process a claim?

The time taken to process a benefit claim can vary depending on the benefit being claimed and which benefit office deals with the claim.

For all benefits, you can help make sure your claim is processed as quickly as possible by completing the claim thoroughly and providing any further information requested promptly.

HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) targets

HMRC has a target to process Tax Credit and Child Benefit claims and changes in an average of 22 working days, which is between 4 and 5 weeks.

In 2016/17, Child Benefit and Tax Credit claims were being processed within 16 working days on average, which is between 3 and 4 weeks.

HMRC's Where's my reply? tool can be used to check how long it should take to:

  • send you a claim pack
  • deal with a new claim
  • send you an award notice

If you are concerned about the amount of time it is taking to process your tax credits claim, you can Contact HM Revenue and Customs for an explanation.

If you are not satisfied with the explanation for the delay, you can make a complaint. See the Gov.UK website for more information on how to complain to HM Revenue and Customs.

Local authorities' targets

Local authorities should process Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support claims within 14 days. In reality it may take longer than this.

In 2016/17, Housing Benefit claims were being processed within 22 calendar days on average, which is between 3 and 4 weeks. This is an average so some claims may have taken less time and more complicated cases may have taken longer.

DWP (Jobcentre Plus and The Pensions Service)

DWP aim to deal with benefit claims within a ‘reasonable length of time’.

In practice they set a target to process customer claims within an average number of working days (Monday - Friday). As these benefits are processed in different ways, their targets are different.

In 2015/16, the targets were:

  • Income Support: 10-14 working days
  • Jobseeker's Allowance: 10-14 working days
  • Employment and Support Allowance: 10 working days
  • Pension Credit: 10-14 working days

Each target is an average, it recognises that not all claims can be processed within that time. Some claims will be more straightforward and therefore easier/quicker to process than others.

You will usually receive your first payment of Universal Credit around 6 weeks after you claim.

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