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Can I claim universal credit?

Updated on 21 May 2020

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, most people can no longer make a brand new claim to any of the 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?

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 or you have a change of circumstances which means you need to make a claim for UC, as that will end your existing legacy benefit claim(s). The managed migration exercise is expected to run between November 2020 and September 2024, following a 12-month pilot which started in July 2019. 

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.

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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.

DWP produced a briefing note about UC for foster carers in 2011 which gives some interesting background.

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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