Skip to main content

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing tax credits, and some other social security benefits. Universal credit is now available across the UK and HMRC state that it is no longer possible for anyone to make a brand-new claim for tax credits. The only exception is for certain people who are granted refugee status. Instead, people are expected to claim UC or pension credit depending on their circumstances.  Currently, existing tax credit claimants can continue to renew their tax credits and/or add extra elements to their claim. See our existing tax credit claimants page for more information. Our understanding is that the majority of existing tax credit claimants will move to either universal credit or pension credit by the end of the 2024/25 tax year. You can find out more about this in our universal credit section. 

Updated on 6 April 2024

Universal credit elements

Universal credit awards are made up of a number of different elements. The elements that are included in your award depend on your circumstances (and your partner’s circumstances if it is a joint claim).

A table with a hot beverage and a mobile phone showing 'UNIVERSAL CREDIT' on the screen.
Gary L Hider /


This page explains the different elements that can be included in a universal credit award. The elements that are included in any award depend on your circumstances. If you have made a joint claim, your partner’s circumstances will also be used to decide which elements to include.

Awards are calculated by first adding up all the different elements that apply to the claim to find the maximum award and then reducing that amount to take account of any relevant income and other deductions.

Not all elements can be included together, even if you meet the conditions for them. For example, it is not possible for the same person to get the carer element and limited capability for work related activity element at the same time.

Standard allowance

The standard allowance is included in all awards but the amount depends on your age and whether you are single or claiming as part of a couple.

Child element

A child element is included in a universal credit award if you, or your partner, are responsible for a child or qualifying young person who normally lives with you. Where a child lives in two separate households, you will be expected to agree who has main responsibility and claim accordingly. If no agreement can be reached, DWP or DfC (Northern Ireland) will make their own decision.

Once a child reaches age 16 they become a qualifying young person and can be included in a universal credit claim from their 16th birthday up to the 1st September following their 16th birthday.

After that, they can be included up to the 1st September following their 19th birthday, as long as they remain in full-time non-advanced education or approved training.  They must have been enrolled on, or started, the course before they were 19.

There are two separate rates for the child element; one rate for the first or only child and then a reduced rate for second and subsequent children. The higher first child amount is only available if you are responsible for a child or qualifying young person born before 6 April 2017.

Since 6 April 2017 the child element has been subject to the two-child limit policy. The current rules limit the child element to two children. The general rule is that a child element will only be included for a third and subsequent children born on or after 6 April 2017 if an exception applies to them. For children born before 6 April 2017, a child element will be included. There is more information about this on our website for advisers

Disabled child element

There are two rates of disabled child element, only one is included in the award for each child or qualifying young person. A disabled child element is available in these situations:

  • lower rate – payable where your child is entitled to any rate of disability living allowance or personal independence payment.
  • higher rate - payable where your child is entitled to the highest rate of the care component of disability living allowance OR the enhanced daily living component of the personal independence payment. It is also payable where a child is blind.
Housing costs element

A housing element can be included in your universal credit award for help towards qualifying housing costs. Housing costs can either be owner-occupier costs (mortgage interest) or rent.

Three basic conditions must be met to get the housing element: payment; liability; and occupation conditions. This means that you must be liable for payments in respect of accommodation you occupy as your home, your must pay the costs and you must occupy the home.

The rules for the housing costs element can be complex. One important point to note is that for owner occupiers, no housing costs element can be included in any assessment period where you or your partner have any earned income. It doesn’t matter how much the earnings are or whether the work is temporary or permanent.

If a housing element is included to help with your rent (or you are getting housing benefit) the lower work allowance will apply in calculating your universal credit award.

Usually it is not possible to claim housing benefit and universal credit together as housing benefit is one of the benefits universal credit has replaced. However, there are exceptions. From 11 April 2018, claimants in temporary accommodation can get help towards their housing costs through housing benefit instead of getting the housing costs element of universal credit.

Capability for work elements

The limited capability for work and work related activity element (LCWRA) is included if you, or your partner, has limited capability for work and work related activity. The rules are similar to those for employment and support allowance (ESA). Only one element can be included in a joint claim even if both of you qualify.

The element may not be payable immediately and can be subject to a three month wait while DWP decides whether the claimant qualifies although some people are exempt from having to wait three months.

There is more detailed information on the GOV.UK website.

Carer element

The carer element is included in the universal credit award where the claimant has regular and substantial caring responsibilities. This means that the person meets the entitlement conditions for carer’s allowance, including caring for at least 35 hours a week. It also includes a person who would be entitled to carer’s allowance but for the fact their earnings are too high (it is not necessary to actually claim carer’s allowance) to qualify for the carer element.

Only one carer element is allowed for each claimant. In joint claims two carer elements can be included providing both claimants are not caring for the same disabled person. If both claimants care for the same person, then they can decide which of them gets the carer element.

Childcare costs element

The childcare costs element can be included to help towards the costs of relevant childcare where the claimant is in paid work and meets the various qualifying conditions.

There is more information about the childcare costs element in our childcare section.

Transitional protection element

This is element is for people who were previously claiming one or more of the legacy benefits that universal credit is replacing and who move over to universal credit under the terms of their migration notice issued by DWP as part of the formal migration exercise.

There is more information in our managed migration section.

Transitional SDP element

The transitional SDP element is for people who receive a severe disability premium (SDP) with a social security benefit (or have been receiving a SDP and continue to meet the qualifying rules but the benefit has ceased in the previous month).

The transitional SDP element is not payable in cases where a transitional element is already being paid for claims made prior to 27 January 2021 and is not payable where the SDP recipient is joining the household and making a new joint universal credit claim with an existing universal credit claimant.

More information

The rates for the various elements are published on the GOV.UK website.

Back to top