Scope helpline frequently answers these questions. This information was correct at the time of writing. For information about your individual situation, please find advice locally or get in touch with the helpline.

1) What benefits is Universal Credit replacing? 

  • Income-based ESA
  • Income-based JSA
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit 

2) I’ve heard the terms Gateway, Live, Full Service. What do they mean? 

Full service also known as full-digital service

In a full-service area, everyone needing to claim means-tested benefits must claim Universal Credit. Eventually every jobcentre will be a full-service jobcentre.

Live service is also known as Gateway.

The 2017 Autumn Budget announced that, from the end of 2017, live or gateway jobcentres will not accept new Universal Credit claims until the full-service rollout is complete. This suggests that all new claims in a live area will be for ‘legacy benefits’ until the area becomes full-service. 

3) Where can I find out if I’m in a full-service Universal Credit area? 

Entitledto.com and universalcreditinfo.net tell you when your area will become full-service. These sites also link you to local advice services. You can also find out when Universal Credit comes to your area by looking at the Transition Roll-out schedule.

4) Why is there a 6-week wait for payments to arrive? 

This includes a 7-day waiting period, one calendar month assessment period and 1 week to process the payment. The month’s payment is due a week after the end of the assessment period.
 
Your entitlement for the month is based on your situation and your income in the assessment period. 

5) Does the 7-day waiting period always apply? 

The 7-day waiting period will not apply to new claims from February 2018. If your claim is before February 2018 you will have to serve the 7-day waiting period unless certain circumstances apply to you

6) Can I get paid any Universal Credit quicker? 

Until now, if you’ve claimed Universal Credit, you can request an advanced payment. This was up to 50% of your entitlement and repayable through deductions from further Universal Credit payments.

From January 2018, you can request an advanced payment of 100% of your Universal Credit allowance within 5 days of your claim.

The repayment period of advanced payments will increase from 6 to 12 months. If you make a claim in December 2017, you can get a 50% advanced payment, and then in January 2018 you can ask for a top up to 100%.

From Spring 2018 it will be possible for people to apply for advanced payments online.

7) What are ‘new style’ benefits such as ESA and JSA? 

These are the original contributory benefits but with a top-up of Universal Credit if eligible. Whether you can apply depends on where you live. Read more about ESA.

8) I’ve reached state pension age but my partner hasn’t. Do we claim Pension Credit or Universal Credit? 

In future, you will only be able to claim Universal Credit in this situation. You will only be able to claim Pension Credit if both of you are of state pension age. 

At present, only one of you needs to be Pension Credit age to be able to claim Pension Credit. 

9) Will I get Transitional Protection when I move onto Universal Credit?

You get Transitional Protection if you are part of the ‘managed migration’ (that is the DWP moves you). These are top-up payments to your Universal Credit so that you’re not worse off. The payments will taper off over several years or when you have a change in circumstances.

If you migrate onto Universal Credit through a change in circumstances, you won’t get Transitional Protection. Any reductions in your income will be immediate. Some people will be better off under Universal Credit. The best way to find out is to use a benefits calculator.

10) What does natural migration mean in Universal Credit? 

Natural migration is when you move onto Universal Credit from legacy benefits because your circumstances have changed. In a full-service Universal Credit area, the legacy benefits are no longer available. Your legacy benefits will close once you make a new claim for Universal Credit.
 
Sometimes Universal Credit pays less than legacy benefits. So you may want to delay claiming Universal Credit until the DWP moves you. That way you will get Transitional Protection. If you are unsure, contact the helpline for further information. See more on our Universal Credit page.

11) What does managed migration mean? 

Managed migration is expected to start in July 2019 and complete by March 2022. This is when the DWP will start moving every legacy benefit claimant over to Universal Credit automatically.

12) There aren’t any capital rules for tax credits. Is it the same for Universal Credit?

You will only receive Universal Credit if your income and capital are low enough. If you have capital between £6,000 and £16,000, your Universal Credit will reduce by £4.35 per calendar month for every £250 you have above £6,000. If you have capital of £16,000 or more, you will not get Universal Credit.

13) Can I phone to make my claim?

All claims have to be online. It's sometimes possible to get help at a local Citizens Advice Bureau or library. Ask about advice services in your area.

If someone is unable to read or write or use a computer because of disability, then it's possible to claim by phone. Contact the Universal Credit Helpline on 0800 328 5644 for full service areas and 0800 328 9344 for live service areas. 

14) What is a Claimant Commitment?

This is an agreement between you and your jobcentre work coach. You agree to certain job search activities to qualify for benefits. A few people will be in the “limited capability for work-related activity” group. They won’t have to do anything more than an initial interview with the work coach, occasionally not even that.
 
The claimant commitment is compulsory. Your claim will not proceed unless you agree and sign it. Your commitment is based on your situation. It can take account of your caring responsibilities as well as illness and disability.

15) Is Council Tax Reduction going to be part of Universal Credit?

No, it’s still separate. Find your local council for more information.

16) I’ve just qualified for PIP. Will I get extra Universal Credit?

No. In Universal Credit, there is an extra element for having limited capability for work-related activities. There is no specific provision for meeting the extra costs of disability.

17) I’m going to naturally migrate onto Universal Credit and I’m going to be worse off by about £40 a week. What can I do to prepare for this sudden drop?

Check and confirm that the change in circumstances is one which will trigger natural migration. Seek advice to see if there is a way to avoid natural migration.

Plan budgets carefully for a reduced income. If possible, save as much money as you can to help you adjust to your new payments.

Seek advice for any debts you have. Consider debt remedies to tackle problem debts.

Maximise income by checking your benefits entitlements.

Talk to your landlord, lender or housing officer if you’re worried that you won’t be able to pay your rent or mortgage.

18) What help is there under Universal Credit for disabled self-employed people?

As a self-employed person, you must show that you are doing all you can to maximise your earnings and reduce your UC payments. You shouldn’t have to earn more in the first 12 months of being in business. After a year, the DWP assumes you are earning the national minimum wage. This is called the minimum income floor. The DWP can adjust this principle if your disability makes it harder for you than other people to work. Read the Turn 2 Us guide about self-employment.

19) What are the elements of Universal Credit?

The different components of Universal Credit are called elements. These are:
your personal allowance
  • limited capability for work-related activity element
  • child element
  • disabled child addition
  • childcare costs addition
  • carer element
  • housing costs amount.  
The housing costs amount is roughly the same as under current Housing Benefit rules, but there are exceptions. For example, only some 18 to 21 year olds, such as people leaving care or getting a disability benefit, will get money towards rent.

If you claimed ESA before April 2017, you might have a limited capability for work component. This should carry over into a Universal Credit claim. 

20) How can I work out how much I’ll get?

Choose the elements that apply to you, add them up and then deduct those parts of your income that are counted.

To complete the assessment, most of your current income is deducted:
  • either the first £192 (if you have no housing costs)
  • or £379 (if you have housing costs included in your UC) per calendar month of your earnings disregarded
  • and also 63% of your remaining earnings.
The first amount of your earnings (£192 or £379) that is disregarded is called a work allowance. You only get a work allowance if:
  • you have a disability or an illness that prevents you from working (this is called “limited capability for work”)
  • or if you are responsible for a child.
As you see, this is much more every month if you don’t have any housing costs. Everyone who has no illness or disability and no children will have 63% of all their earnings deducted from their Universal Credit.
 

21) I am in the Support Group for ESA. Will this be the same for Universal Credit?

It should carry forward to Universal Credit. We know that in some areas of the country this isn’t happening. Please contact the helpline if this has happened to you.

22) My ESA has stopped because I failed my Work Capability Assessment. I’ve been told that I must claim Universal Credit, but I want to appeal my ESA decision. What can I do?

Seek advice from Citizens Advice, Disabled People’s Organisations, welfare rights teams, law centres, free legal clinics.

If you can’t get local advice:

Check if the area you live in is a “live” service or a “full” or “digital” area.

If you live in a “live service” area, you will not meet the gateway conditions for Universal Credit, so you can’t apply. You can apply for JSA instead.

At the time of writing, people challenging an ESA decision in a full service area can claim JSA while waiting for an appeal hearing. This is so that they don’t have to stay on Universal Credit if they win their appeal.

Or claim nothing (if you can survive this way) until you appeal to the Tribunal Service. Once you’ve lodged your appeal, you will get the basic rate of ESA until your appeal. The basic rate isn’t backdated to cover the mandatory reconsideration period. If you win your appeal, you get the full arrears from the start of the claim.

There is an increase after 13 weeks if you are in the support group (called the limited work capability and work-related activity capability group in Universal Credit). Any JSA you get waiting to appeal will be deducted from your arrears.

If you live in a full-service area, calculate your benefits to find out if you will be worse off under Universal Credit. Compare this to your current benefit entitlement. If you’re going to be worse off under Universal Credit, stop and seek advice.

Work out the difference between your current benefits and Universal Credit. Work out whether you have a choice on which benefits you can claim in your area. If in doubt, call the Scope helpline and we will do our best to work out with you what your options are. Please bear with us as this may not be a question with a quick answer!

23) Do components such as premiums of ESA carry over to Universal Credit?

No, there is no enhanced disability premium (sometimes called a disability income guarantee), nor a severe disability premium in Universal Credit. There is a limited capability for work-related activity element, but it’s not as much as the total of the enhanced disability premium and the severe disability premium in ESA.

24) I have tax credits in payment and I have savings. Will I have any problems claiming Universal Credit if there is a gap in my tax credit claim?

If you’re in a live area, your tax credits will carry on for now. You should carry on getting tax credits when you move to a full-service area. If your circumstances change, then you will be invited to claim Universal Credit instead of tax credits, and your entitlement isn’t protected. If you have capital (savings and whatever is in your bank account) that is over one of the savings thresholds, the normal Universal Credit capital rules will apply. For some people, this will mean no entitlement to money to top up their wages.

At the time of writing, families with more than 2 children can still claim tax credits in preference to Universal Credit, even in a full service area. This is an advantage because your benefit isn’t limited to 2 children (the 2-child cap) when you move on to Universal Credit at managed migration.

25) What help will I get with my mortgage when I’m on Universal Credit?

Support for Mortgage Interest on legacy benefits has been replaced by a loan. You will get a letter from the DWP asking you if you want to claim this loan from April 2018. The loan will cover interest only on your mortgage. This is only payable after 39 weeks. You need to tell your mortgage lender that you are having to claim benefits. Ask them if they can make any arrangement for you to help you.

26) I am doing permitted work. Can this continue when my area becomes a full-service area?

If your circumstances change and you make a new claim to benefit, such as Child Tax Credit or Carer’s Allowance, you have to move to Universal Credit. There is no transitional protection at this stage. 

If your circumstances don’t change or if they change and you decide not to make a new benefit claim, then you can stay on your legacy ESA benefit. You continue to get ESA premiums and, if applicable, take advantage of permitted work rules.

27) I’ve heard that I could be sanctioned for 3 years. Is that true?

Yes, but only if you’ve been sanctioned twice already. Sanctions can be 40% of your benefit and sometimes 100%. The DWP has a lot of discretion over sanctions. If possible, fulfil your Claimant Commitment as this is how to keep Universal Credit in payment. If you can’t do this for medical reasons, it’s a good idea to offer medical evidence to explain why.

28) My 19 year-old daughter is a disabled university student in receipt of PIP. Will she get Universal Credit? Will this be better than a student loan?

A major difference between legacy benefits and UC is that students who get a disability benefit like PIP are not automatically accepted as having limited capability for work. Your daughter will have to get a fit note from her GP from the start of her claim. She will then have a work capability assessment during the initial 13 weeks on benefit. She must be in either the limited capability for work-related activity (LCWRA) or the limited capability for work (LCW) group to qualify for Universal Credit. A means-test or assessment decides what amount of Universal Credit, if any, is payable. It’s likely that she will get more benefit during the summer holiday than in term time, when her student finance will be meeting some of her needs. Disabled students, like everyone else, have their housing costs included in their Universal Credit, instead of through Housing Benefit. UC takes into account student finance, even if it is a loan, and even if it’s not claimed. This is the same as before.

29) I’m living alone on income-related ESA and I’ve just qualified for PIP. I’m in a full- service area. If I apply for the severe disability premium, will this trigger a claim for Universal Credit?

No. Applying for the severe disability premium should not trigger a new claim for Universal Credit because it’s not a new claim but just adds to an existing claim.

30) I have 4 children and I’ve just lost my job because I was off sick for too long. Will I be able to get Universal Credit for my family?

If you have more than 2 children, you would normally claim an income-based legacy benefit like ESA or JSA plus child tax credits, for now. The claim would include all 4 children. Tax credits can currently often be paid for 3 or more children (provided none was born after the beginning of April 2017). Universal Credit can only include 2 children. From November 2018, no new claims for tax credits nor Universal Credits new claims will include more than 2 children. There are very few exceptions. Existing claims will still include more than 2 children.

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