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Health and school meal costs help on Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is paid monthly in arrears. The calendar month over which your UC is worked out is referred to as an 'assessment period'. This will be shown on your online UC award notice.

The entitlement to full help with NHS costs depends upon your circumstances in your last complete assessment period before your health costs arose.

Health costs

You'll need your UC award notice to support your claim for help with NHS costs. You'll need to show the section stating your take-home pay in the last UC assessment period.

Seek advice if you have problems showing that you're entitled to UC for your health costs. UC is claimed and manage online and so you will not have a printed letter to show to NHS providers.

You're entitled to maximum help with prescriptions, dental treatment, sight tests and glasses, wigs and fabric supports and fares to receive NHS treatment if:

  • you receive Universal Credit and had no earnings or net earnings of £435 or less during your most recent assessment period
  • you receive Universal Credit which includes an element for a child and/or limited capability for work or limited capability for work related activity, and you had no earnings or net earnings of £935 or less during the most recent assessment period

If you are part of a couple, the threshold applies to your combined net earnings.

If you're unsure whether you are entitled to help with health costs, for example because you are waiting for your Universal Credit claim to be decided or to receive an award notice, you should pay the relevant charge and ask for a refund form at the same time. For prescription charges, you'll not be able to get the refund form (FP57) at a later stage.

Once you have received your UC award notice and can prove your entitlement to help with health costs, you may claim a refund.

Remember, you may be exempt from some health costs owing to your age or because you have a specific medical condition. If you don't qualify for full help and your income is low, you may apply via the NHS Low Income Scheme.

School meals

Until 1 April 2018, all claimants of UC could claim free school meals.

From 1 April 2018 for new claimants, you can claim free school meals on UC provided you have an annual net earned income of no more than £7,400. This is assessed by earnings from up to 3 of your most recent assessment periods.

If you were already receiving help with school meals prior to 1 April 2018 or you gain eligibility after 1 April 2018 you will continue to receive free school meals for a 'transitional' period which is expected to last until 31 March 2022, and then after this help will carry on until the end of your child's current phase of education (primary or secondary school).

This help will apply even if you cease to meet the criteria after you've become eligible.