Who can make a claim for universal credit?

Updated on 7 February 2019

Tax credits and benefits

Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit. It is gradually replacing tax credits and some other benefits. You cannot claim tax credits and UC together. This page explains who is eligible to submit a claim for UC.

If I claim, will I receive a payment of universal credit?

This page explains who is eligible to claim UC. Even if you are eligible to claim, it does not mean you will be entitled to UC as you have to meet certain basic and financial conditions and then any amount you receive is based on your income, capital and circumstances.

To find out about the basic and financial conditions, visit our website for advisers.

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Universal credit roll out

Universal credit was introduced in April 2013 in a small number of pilot areas. To start with, only people with straightforward circumstances living in selected postcodes were able to claim.

Since November 2014, DWP has been operating two computer systems to roll-out UC. The first of these, the more basic, was referred to as ‘live’ service and could only handle more straightforward cases. The other system is known as the ‘full’ service and all UC claims will operate on this service now it is fully rolled out.

DWP stopped accepting brand new claims for the live service from 1 January 2018 and the live service will close down completely in Spring 2019. By that time, all live service claimants should have been moved across to the full service system.

UC full service completed its roll-out in December 2018. It is now available in all parts of the UK.

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Can I claim universal credit?

Universal Credit Full Service is now available in all parts of the UK, this means that most people are eligible to submit a claim for UC (although that does not mean they will be entitled to UC). However, you will not be able to claim UC if you:

  • Are responsible for three or more children – unless you have claimed UC in the previous 6 months and are able to re-claim or you are a single person and were claiming UC with someone else as part of a couple and that claim ended in the last month (this is expected to be the case until 31 January 2019); or
  • Are entitled to, or have been in the past month, an award of an existing benefit that includes a severe disability premium. This premium is paid to people who qualify in income support, income related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit. If your eligibility to the premium ended in the past month, you must have continued to satisfy the conditions for eligibility for the premium and not been invited to claim UC by DWP under managed migration.

If you fall into these two groups, you can continue to claim existing benefits such as tax credits instead of UC.

If you reached state pension credit qualifying age, you will not have any entitlement to UC as there is an upper age limit. Currently you can claim tax credits and/or pension credit as well as housing benefit. If you have a partner who is under state pension credit qualifying age, you can currently choose whether to claim UC or claim existing benefits such as tax credits, pension credit and housing benefit, although from 15 May 2019 you will no longer be able to make a claim for pension credit and will be expected to claim UC instead.. If you are in this position you should get some advice from a welfare rights organisation such as Age UK before deciding which benefit to claim.

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Can I still make a claim for tax credits?

Most people can no longer most people can no longer make a brand new claim for tax credits. If you already get working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, you are not affected by UC yet as this is not treated as a brand new claim to tax credits. You can contact HMRC to have the other elements added to your claim.

Broadly speaking, the only people who make brand new claims for tax credits are:

  • Those with three or more children (unless they meet certain exceptions which means they are able to claim UC). This is expected to be the case until 31 January 2019.
  • People who are entitled, or have recently been entitled, to the severe disability premium in income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance or housing benefit.
  • Those who have reached state pension credit qualifying age. If you are part of a mixed age couple (with one person above that age and one below). This is expected to be the case until early 2019.

If you are already claiming working tax credit and want to claim child tax credit or vice versa, you can do so as that does not count as a brand new claim. Similarly, if you are renewing your tax credit claim, that doesn’t count as a brand new claim.

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What if I am already claiming tax credits – when will I be affected?

At present, existing tax credit claimants are not affected by the introduction of UC. From July 2019, DWP and HMRC will start testing the process (called managed migration) that they will use to move people from tax credits to UC. This test period will last until July 2020. Between November 2020 and December 2023, the majority of other tax credit claimants will be moved to UC.

It is expected that managed migration will involve DWP writing to existing tax credit claimants asking them to make a claim for UC by a certain deadline date. If they do not, the tax credit claim will end the day before the deadline date. Those who are moved to UC through this managed migration process may receive transitional protection – which is the Government’s way of ensuring there are no cash losers at the point of change without a change of circumstances.

Not all tax credit claimants will move to UC – if you have reached state pension credit age (or in a joint claim both of you have reached state pension credit age) you will not be able to claim UC. The intention is that you will claim pension credit. The full detail of this is not yet known.

The only way you will move to UC before 2019 is if:

  • You choose to make a claim for UC – if you think you may be better off by claiming UC then you might be able to claim it depending on where you live. We recommend that you must get advice before doing this as you may be worse off under UC compared to tax credits.
  • You have a change of circumstances that ends your tax credit award – for example you are claiming working tax credit only and lose your job and need to claim out of work support or you are single and move in with someone already claiming UC.
  • You need to make a claim for another benefit that has been replaced by UC – for example if you live in a full service UC area and you need to claim help with your rent then you will not be able to claim housing benefit and instead will have to claim UC. This will automatically end your tax credits award.

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