Who can make a claim for universal credit?

Updated on 10 February 2018

Universal Credit (UC) is a new benefit. It is gradually replacing tax credits and some other benefits. It is being rolled out gradually across the UK and this page explains who can claim UC. 

If I claim, will I receive a payment of UC?

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.

Due to the way UC is being rolled out slowly across the UK, not everyone is eligible to make a claim.

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

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How is UC being rolled out?

UC is being rolled out gradually. Since November 2014, DWP have been using two different UC computer systems running side by side – a live service system and a full (digital) service system.

From April 2013, DWP rolled out the live service of UC across Great Britain and by April 2016 it was available to people in all jobcentre plus areas in Great Britain as long as certain ‘gateway conditions’ were met. This limited UC to mainly single jobseekers with very simple circumstances. However DWP closed the live service for brand new claims from 1 January 2018 (see below for further details).

Due to concerns about the IT system in live service areas, DWP set-up another IT system and trialed it in a few areas between November 2014 and April 2016. This system was called the full or digital service and DWP decided that this was the system that should be used in future.

From May 2016, the full (digital) service has been rolling out to different parts of the UK with new postcode areas added each month. Eventually all live service areas will become part of the full (digital) service and live service claimants will be transferred to the digital service.

You can use our postcode tool to see the current situation for your postcode.

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Who can claim in a live service area?

Only claimants who met strict gateway conditions have been eligible to make a claim for UC in live service areas.

New claims in live service areas

From 1 January 2018, DWP stopped accepting brand new claims for UC from people in live service areas.

People in live service areas who have not already started to claim UC by 31 December 2017 or who do not fall into one of the situations described below, should continue claiming the legacy benefits instead of UC until the UC full service becomes available in their area

Exceptions to the general rule

Although no brand new claims are possible in the live service, those already claiming can continue with their claim.

In addition, those who successfully made a UC claim in a live service area which ended due to an increase in earnings, may still have their claim restarted automatically if their earnings fall within six months of the award ending. And, where someone joins an existing UC claim (by becoming part of a couple with an existing UC claimant) this will be classed as a change in circumstances and they can continue claiming UC as a couple. Similarly, where a couple who are already claiming UC in a live service area separate, this will also be classed as a change of circumstances and both claimants will remain on UC (if appropriate).

You can find a list of the current gateway conditions on our website for advisers.

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Who can claim in a full (digital) service area?

Anyone who lives in a full (digital) service area is eligible to make a claim for UC except:

  • Couples where both members of the couple are over state pension credit age (you can claim pension credit or tax credits instead
  • If you are responsible for three or more children (you can claim tax credits and other benefits instead of UC)

Until 31 January 2019, if you are responsible for three or more children, you will generally not be able to claim UC unless you:

  • have claimed UC in the previous six months and are able to make a re-claim for UC; or
  • are a single person and you were claiming UC with someone else as part of a couple and that claim ended in the last month.

If you are already receiving tax credits or other benefits you should get advice from a local welfare rights organisation BEFORE you claim UC. Some people will be worse off if they claim UC and so it is important you check before you make a claim.

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Can I make a claim for tax credits in a live service area?

Until 1 January 2018, if you met the gateway conditions in a live service area that was accepting UC claims, then you could claim UC. But from 1 January 2018, DWP stopped taking brand new claims for UC in live service areas, leaving people to claim legacy benefits instead until the UC full service becomes available in their area.

If you claimed UC, then you continue with your UC claim. If you claimed UC in a live service area, even if you stopped claiming UC you may not be able to claim tax credits. This is because you continue to be treated as a ‘UC claimant’ for six months after the end of a UC claim and anyone who is a ‘UC claimant’ cannot claim tax credits. Instead, you will return to UC. If six months has passed, you will be able to claim tax credits as long as your postcode area has not entered full service. 

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Can I make a claim for tax credits in a full (digital) service area?

The answer is no – you can no longer claim tax credits if you live in a full (digital) service UC area unless:

  • you or your partner have reached state pension age; or
  • you are responsible for three or more children

Until 31 January 2019, if you are responsible for three or more children, you will generally not be able to claim universal credit but will still be able to make a new claim for tax credits and other benefits unless you:

  • have claimed universal credit in the previous 6 months and are able to make a re-claim for universal credit; or
  • are a single person and you were claiming universal credit with someone else as part of a couple and that claim ended in the last month

If either of these bullets apply to you, you will not be able to claim tax credits and will have to claim UC instead.

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

If you are already receiving tax credits, it is expected you will be moved across to UC sometime from 2019 onwards. Your current tax credits will not be affected by UC unless you:

  • choose to make a claim for UC
  • Your circumstances have changed and you need to make a claim for UC (for example because you need help with your rent)
  • Your circumstances change and your tax credit claim ends (for example you were claiming tax credits as part of a couple and you separate)

You can read more about tax credits and UC on our website for advisers.

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