Who can make a claim for universal credit?

Updated on 14 August 2019

Tax credits and benefits

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

Following the 2016 European Union (EU) membership referendum in the UK, on 29 March 2017 the UK provided notice to the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. At the time of writing (in April 2019), the date and terms of the UK’s departure from the EU have not yet been finalised. Therefore, please note that the guidance below reflects the law as it applies before the UK’s departure from the EU.

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 a ‘frontier worker’. Frontier workers are people who are ‘in Great Britain’ (under Section 4(1)(c) Welfare Reform Act 2012) or ‘in Northern Ireland’ (under Article 9(1)(c) of Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015) but do not reside in either GB or NI. Crown servants or members of HM Forces who are posted overseas (as defined under the UC Regulations 2013) are not frontier workers.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, although you may be able to claim pension credit, depending on your circumstances. If you have a partner who is under state pension credit qualifying age, you can currently choose whether to claim UC or pension credit, 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:

  • Frontier workers. Frontier workers are people who are ‘in Great Britain’ (under Section 4(1)(c) Welfare Reform Act 2012) or ‘in Northern Ireland’ (under Article 9(1)(c) of Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015) but do not reside in either GB or NI. Crown servants or members of HM Forces who are posted overseas (as defined under the UC Regulations 2013) are not frontier workers.
  • 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.

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 your 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 for support. 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 and you need to make a new joint claim for support.
  • You need to make a claim for another benefit that has been replaced by UC – for example 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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