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Universal Credit - what's happening now and in the future

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit which will eventually replace Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. DWP refers to these as 'legacy benefits'.

The UC 'full service' has now been introduced throughout Derbyshire.

The full service of UC affects all new means-tested benefit claims for people of working age and will apply to all sorts of claimants, even those who are working.

Now the full service is in place, it is not usually possible to make a new claim for any of the benefits that UC replaces. However, some severely disabled claimants cannot claim UC and can make new claims for legacy benefits.

Existing benefit claims may not change until between 2022 and late 2026, but your claim could change to UC before then if you have a change of circumstances which means that you need to make a new claim for means-tested benefit.

Between November 2022 and late 2026, the DWP aims to move all existing legacy benefit claims over to Universal Credit under a scheme called 'managed migration' or 'Move To UC'.

This information explains what is scheduled to happen in Derbyshire between now and 2026.

The dates are very likely to change as there will be inevitable delays owing to the coronavirus outbreak. This information will be updated as soon as DWP announces any changed dates.

You are of working age but your partner is a pensioner

If you're making a new claim for means-tested help, you'll have to claim UC as a couple and you cannot usually claim Pension Credit until both of you are of pension age. Existing claims for Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit for people of pension age will remain unless there is a change in your circumstances which stops both benefits. Seek advice, as the rules (changed in May 2019) are complicated.

Universal Credit full service

The UC full service will eventually replace all claims for means-tested legacy benefits.

The full service applies to all types of claimant - those who are out of work, those who are ill or disabled, those in part-time work or full-time work, employees, self-employed, carers.

Full service UC means that you make your claim and manage your claim online. You send information (such as notifying changes of circumstances) to the DWP and receive updates and decisions from them electronically instead of by telephone or post.

If you have problems getting access to or using computers, seek advice and support.

Universal Credit does not replace any other benefits. For instance it is still possible to claim Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance that you have earned through your National Insurance contributions. You may need to claim UC as a top-up benefit if your income is too low, but you are not obliged to claim UC instead of these benefits. 

If you're already claiming legacy benefits

Your claim will not be changed over to UC straight away. Until at least 2022 and as late as 2026 (or later owing to the coronavirus outbreak), you should remain on the same benefit unless you have a change of circumstances which means that you would need to make a new claim for a means-tested benefit.

In this situation, instead of claiming a new legacy benefit, you must usually claim UC, but there is an important exception for some disabled people. When you move to UC, all your existing legacy benefits will be replaced by UC.

Once you are on UC, you'll remain on UC and you cannot go back to legacy benefits unless the exception for disabled people applies to you.

Examples of claims that may mean you need to make a UC full service claim:

  • you are on legacy benefits but you move in to a new local authority area and you need to make a new claim for help with your rent
  • you are on Income-Related Jobseeker's Allowance but you fall ill, your JSA stops and you need to claim as sick
  • your first child is born and you need to claim for means-tested help (NB Child Benefit is not replaced by UC)
  • you start a job and your working hours and/or pay are too high for your claim for Income-Based JSA or Income-Related ESA to continue
  • you are single but you move in with your partner
  • you were part of a couple but you have separated and must make separate claims
  • you are on Income Support as a lone parent and your youngest child reaches the age of 5, and you are no longer entitled to Income Support for any other reason
  • you have been on Income Support as the carer for a disabled person but you cease to be their carer
  • you start your first tenancy or take a new tenancy after not renting for a time, and need help with your rent

All of these are cases in which a new benefit claim would be needed.

Examples of claims that do NOT require a UC full service claim:

  • you have a change in income which affects the amount of benefit you get, but does not stop the claim
  • you already get Child Tax Credit and you become eligible for Working Tax Credit also
  • you already get Working Tax Credit and you become eligible for Child Tax Credit also
  • you receive legacy benefits and move home within the same local authority area - this is just a change of address, not a new claim

All of these are changes that do not take you off your existing benefit and do not require a new claim.

If you're on Income-Related ESA and found fit for work

If you agree that you are fit for work, you'll need to claim UC.

You can dispute the decision and ask DWP to look at the decision again. This is called 'Mandatory Reconsideration' (MR). You can appeal the decision to an independent tribunal. In some circumstances you may be able to go straight to appeal. Contact us for advice and support.

If you claim UC, you will not be able to go back to Income-Related ESA or any other legacy benefit, but a successful challenge to the ESA decision will still help with your UC claim.

For more details, see ESA - challenging a decision you are fit for work.

The UC 2-child rule

Under rules brought in on 6 April 2017, you'll usually only be able to claim a child element in UC for the first 2 children for whom you claim. You may still be able to claim a separate UC element if the child is disabled.

This rule applies to all UC claims but only to children who were born on or after 6 April 2017.

You may be able to get a child element for a third or subsequent child if exemptions apply. These are:

  • multiple births
  • step-parent caring for step-child (in some circumstances)
  • adoption from local authority care
  • non-parental care arrangements (where formal arrangements have been made for a friend or member of family to care for a child)
  • where the child is the child of a young person under the age of 16 for whom you are claiming, and you add the new child to your claim
  • where a child is conceived as a result of rape or in a coercive or controlling relationship

It is most important to seek advice about these exemptions, as the rule is very new and you may need confidential professional support, especially regarding the last point.

Prior to 1 February 2019 many larger families could not claim UC. Now you can make a new claim for UC but you'll only receive a child element for a third or subsequent child who was born on or after 6 April 2017 if you were already receiving this money or you received it in a UC or Child Tax Credit claim within the 6 months prior to your new claim, or if exemptions apply.

Support to help you manage the change-over to UC

Support should be offered to those who need help to create a digital UC account, managing their claim online, budgeting and managing UC monthly payments. Citizens Advice runs a scheme called Help To Claim, providing support with the initial online claim, checking supporting evidence for the claim, and up to the first payment of UC.

Assistance will still be available via the library service and support should also remain available via the Jobcentre.

Benefits that run on during the wait for your first UC payment

There is a 5-week wait for your first UC payment. If you were receiving Housing Benefit when you claimed UC, it will run on for 2 weeks, but not for the full 5 weeks. If you are concerned about rent arrears, seek advice.

In some circumstances you may get Housing Benefit for your rent even when getting UC for your living costs. This can happen for instance when you are homeless and in temporary accommodation, or you are in certain accommodation where care, support and supervision are provided.

From 22 July 2020, there is also a 2-week run-on of Income Support, Income-Based JSA and Income-Related ESA.

Protection if you're worse off on UC

At the moment, you may only receive 'transitional protection' if your previous claim included a 'Severe Disability Premium'. Contact us for further advice.

Otherwise, if you need to make a new claim because of a change of circumstances and this means that you move to UC, at present you will receive no help if you are worse off on UC.

The government is planning transitional protection for legacy benefit claimants who move to UC under the managed migration scheme so that nobody will be worse off when they change benefits. This scheme is undergoing testing and will not begin fully until at least 2022. This date is likely to change owing to delays caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Managed migration or move to UC

This is the name for the process of moving all remaining claims over from legacy benefits to UC.

The following information is based upon proposals which may change. We will update this information as soon as we know more.

DWP began testing the 'Move to UC' scheme in 2019, but this was halted in 2020 owing to the pandemic. At the moment, it appears limited testing will restart in 2022.

Managed migration from legacy benefits to UC will not be automatic. You'll need to make a claim.

There should be considerable publicity from the government to explain the changes. Further details are not yet available.

At some point between 2022 and 2026, claimants will then receive letters from the DWP explaining that:

  • they need to make a claim for UC – this claim is online (it will be important to seek help if you cannot use a computer)
  • the claim must be made within 3 months of receiving the letter
  • legacy benefits will stop if the UC claim is not made within time and any transitional protection may be lost
  • the deadline for claiming can be extended if there are good reasons to do this - it's also possible to cancel the notification to make a claim, in some circumstances

Measures will be put in place to assist vulnerable claimants, but details of these are not known yet.

Transitional protection and how it will work

Transitional protection will apply if you would receive less under the UC system than under the legacy benefits system. When you claim UC under managed migration, the DWP will compare your entitlements under the old system and the new, and award additional benefit to make up the difference if you receive less under UC. Transitional protection will be included until the UC payment catches up with the legacy benefit system, or it stops for another reason.

People who were receiving Tax Credits and who have more than £16,000 in savings may be able to claim UC for up to 12 months, as their capital over £16,000 will be ignored for a maximum of 12 months.

Transitional protection will reduce as the UC award increases and may stop altogether in some situations, such as a couple splitting up, or single people becoming a couple.

Other things that will cause transitional protection to come to an end:

  • if you were single but you become one of a couple
  • if you were part of a couple but you become single
  • you are working and you have a drop in earnings (below a set level) over 3 months

For UC benefit rates and child elements, see how UC is worked out.

How to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance on National Insurance Contributions under the UC system

You're still entitled to claim JSA or ESA that you have earned on your National Insurance contributions if you are unemployed or off work sick. These are referred to as new-style JSA and ESA.

Claim new-style ESA online or tel: 0800 328 5644 or contact us.

Claim new-style JSA online.

You are not obliged to claim UC as well, and you should not be asked to claim UC instead of one of these benefits. If you also need to make a claim for help with rent or because you have not got enough money to live on, you will need to claim UC.

If you're on UC but approaching pension age

Your entitlement to UC will come to an end (unless you have a partner who is under pension age), and the DWP should contact you to offer you the chance to claim Pension Credit and other appropriate benefits including Housing Benefit.

We recommend that you seek advice from us. Try to do this well in advance of reaching pension age, as it is important to claim on the correct date to avoid delays in your benefits.

Contact us

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