Can I claim universal credit?

Updated on 21 April 2022

Foster care and shared lives care

Here we provide some information about universal credit for foster carers and shared lives carers.

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Can I claim universal credit as a foster carer?

Universal credit (UC) was introduced in 2013 and is gradually replacing six existing working-age means tested benefits and payments which are often referred to as the ‘legacy benefits’. These are income support; income-based jobseekers’ allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; housing benefit; working tax credit and child tax credit. Now that UC is available across the UK, HMRC state that most people can no longer make a brand new claim to any of these legacy benefits and are expected to claim UC, or pension credit depending on age, instead.

You can claim UC whether you are in or out of work, and whether or not you are responsible for a child or young person.

How will universal credit affect my tax credits?

You cannot claim tax credits and universal credit at the same time. If you make a claim for universal credit, your tax credits will end. You should get advice before making a UC claim if you are already entitled to tax credits or any of the other legacy benefits UC is replacing.

If you are already receiving any of the legacy benefits you will not be not affected by UC until you are moved over in a formal managed migration exercise (‘ Move to UC’) by DWP/HMRC, unless you choose to claim UC in the meantime, you need to make a new claim for one of the legacy benefits that UC is replacing or you have a change of circumstances which ends your tax credit award and you need to make a new claim for support.

Am I treated as self-employed for universal credit?

Under tax credits foster carers are treated as self-employed, but under UC they are not – see GOV.UK for confirmation of this.

One of the features of UC is that claimants have to agree to a claimant commitment, whereby they agree any work requirements with their UC work coach. Foster carers claiming UC will be expected to agree work requirements in a similar way, although their caring duties will be taken into account in determining the extent of those requirements and will vary accordingly.

How is my income from foster caring treated for universal credit?

Any allowances and fees received by foster carers are fully disregarded when calculating UC.

We understand that DWP have not yet published any specific information about how claims for UC from shared-lives carers will be handled.

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