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Check if a change affects your Universal Credit

This advice applies to England

You'll need to tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about changes to your work, money or family life. These are called 'changes of circumstances'.

Changes can affect how much Universal Credit you get and what work-related activities you need to do in exchange for your Universal Credit payment. This page tells you about the main changes to report, but there can be others. If you're not sure if a change will make a difference, it's always best to report it.

If your payment will go up, you can ask for an advance payment if you need the extra money before your next payment date.

Telling the DWP about a change

If you have an online account, report a change by using your account to send a message to your work coach. You can also call the Universal Credit helpline, but this is likely to take longer as you might have to wait for someone to answer. If you don’t have an online account, you should call the helpline.

Universal Credit helpline
Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 012 1888
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Calls to these numbers are free. It’s best to call from the phone number you gave the DWP when you set up your Universal Credit account. You'll have a shorter wait and be put through to the same person who handled previous calls you've made.

Reporting changes on time

Once you know about a change that might affect your Universal Credit, tell the DWP as soon as you can.

If a change increases your payment you'll lose out if you delay - especially if you wait until after the end of the assessment period.

You should still tell the DWP if you think change might reduce your payment - you won't save money by reporting it later. If you delay you could get paid too much and have to pay your benefits back to the DWP. This is called an overpayment - check how the DWP handles overpayments.

Changes you need to report

Tell the DWP even about small things - it's always better to report something if you're not sure.

If your change affects your ability to work or look for work, you might need to ask to change your claimant commitment. For example, you should ask about changing your claimant commitment if changes to your childcare mean you have less time each week to look for work.

When you report a change you should also send the DWP any other information they ask for. For example, they might ask for a letter from your landlord if you say your rent's changed. If you don't send the extra information the DWP ask for your Universal Credit could be stopped.

Jobs and volunteering

You should tell the DWP if you leave a job or get a new one - even even if it's voluntary work and you don't get paid.

Earning more could reduce your Universal Credit, but it might also reduce what work-related activity you need to do.

There isn't a fixed number of working hours that mean you'll stop getting Universal Credit. Find out more about getting a job or pay increase on Universal Credit.

If you lose a job your Universal Credit can increase, but you might need to spend more time looking for work. Your Universal Credit could also be stopped or reduced if you left the job without a good reason - this is called a 'sanction'. Check what you can do if you get a sanction.

When you're employed you don't need to tell the DWP about changes in your earnings - for example if you get a pay rise or do more hours. The DWP will get this information from HMRC.

If you're self-employed you'll need to report your income and outgoings each month.

Money, savings and benefit changes

Tell the DWP if you or your partner:

  • change your bank details
  • claim any new benefits (even if they're not being paid yet) - this can reduce your Universal Credit payments
  • stop getting a benefit - this can increase your Universal Credit payments
  • get a one-off payment - for example if you inherit some money or are paid compensation
  • get new income that isn't from work - not everything is taken into account, but it's worth telling the DWP just in case

If you have more than £6,000 in savings your Universal Credit payments will start to go down.

If you have more than £16,000 in savings you'll no longer be eligible for Universal Credit.

Find out more about how much Universal Credit you'll get.

Changes to do with where you live

Tell the DWP if:

  • your rent goes up or down - this can change how much Universal Credit you're paid for housing
  • you move home
  • someone moves out of your home
  • someone moves into your home - for example if they rent a room
  • you or someone in your household goes to prison

You should also report any time you'll be spending any time outside the UK. Your Universal Credit claim can continue for up to a month, but you'll still need to complete your work-related activities. If you can't, your payment might be stopped or reduced - called a 'sanction'.

If you move home

Your Universal Credit payments might change if your rent has gone up or down - check how much Universal Credit you'll get. Your next payment will be based on your new address, even if you were still at your old address for part of that month.

Always tell the Jobcentre you've moved - they'll need your new address. You might also need to go to a different Jobcentre and have a new work coach.

Changes to do with your relationship

You'll need to tell the DWP if you move in with or split up with your partner.

You move in with your partner

You won't need to start a new Universal Credit claim. Your existing claim will end but the DWP will automatically set up a new joint claim. You'll keep getting your payments on the same date each month.

If you both had Universal Credit payments, you'll keep the payment date of whichever claim ends sooner.

If one of you was getting any of the benefits Universal Credit replaces, those payments will stop. The benefits being replaced are:

  • Housing Benefit
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income Support

You'll get paid a different amount of Universal Credit as a couple - check how much Universal Credit you'll get.

If you split up with your partner

Your Universal Credit claim will continue. Your next Universal Credit payment will be on the same day of the month but will be for a single person. This changes how much Universal Credit you get.

You should also tell the DWP about any other changes as a result of splitting up - like changes to address.

Tell the DWP who's responsible for any children

The person responsible for any children will be whoever the child normally lives with. If the child normally lives with more than one person, or you can't agree who should claim, the DWP will make their own decision.

If the DWP make their own decision they'll base it on where the child usually lives and who makes day-to-day decisions.

If you're still living with your ex-partner

You should still report that you've split up - you should still be able to change to separate Universal Credit claims.

You'll need to tell the DWP that you have 'separate households' even though you share an address. Explain how you're no longer living as a couple - for example if you're cooking separately, have separate finances and don't spend time together.

The DWP might also ask why you're still living together - for example if you can't afford to move out.

Changes to do with your children

Make sure the DWP knows how many children you're responsible for. Tell them if you have a baby, adopt or start fostering a child - this can increase your Universal Credit payment or change what work-related activities you need to do.

A child is anyone under 16, or someone under 20 who's in full-time, non-advanced education, for example at school or college.

You can get extra money for 1 or 2 children. You won’t usually get extra money for a third child unless they were born before 6 April 2017.  If your third child was born on or after 6 April 2017 you should still tell the DWP - in some cases you might still get extra money. It's worth checking how much Universal Credit you'll get.

You should tell the DWP if any of your children:

  • are disabled
  • leave full-time education
  • leave home
  • go into local authority care
  • go to prison

If a child leaves home it's worth them checking if they're eligible for Universal Credit themselves.

If you're working, you should report what you pay for childcare each month, as you can claim back some of these costs. You can report them using your online account. If you don't have an online account you'll need to call the Universal Credit helpline:

Universal Credit helpline (live service)
Telephone: 0800 328 9344
Textphone: 0800 328 1344
Telephone (Welsh language): 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

Find out more about getting childcare payments under Universal Credit.

Who counts as a child

Someone is a child up to their 16th birthday. After that, they’re a qualifying young person until 31 August following their 16th birthday.

They’ll stay a qualifying young person until 1 September following their 19th birthday if they’re in education, study or training that:

See regulation 5 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 for more on being a ‘qualifying young person’.

Who’s responsible for a child

Your client is responsible for a child if the child normally lives with them. This includes if your client lives with their partner and their partner’s child.

If the parents are separated the DWP will treat the child as living with whoever has ‘main responsibility’. If the parents can agree who this is, they should tell the DWP. If there’s a disagreement, the DWP will make their own decision.

Your client isn’t responsible for a child who:

  • is looked after by a local authority

  • is in prison

  • has been away from home for more than 6 months

  • has been outside Great Britain for more than a month - unless this is for medical treatment

See regulation 4 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 for details of parental responsibility. Always check for a ‘changes to legislation’ warning before relying on a page of legislation.

Who counts as a child

The two-child limit applies to children and ‘qualifying young people’.

Someone is a child up to their 16th birthday.

After that, they’re a qualifying young person until 31 August following their 16th birthday.

They’ll stay a qualifying young person until 1 September following their 19th birthday if they’re in education, study or training that:

  • doesn’t count as advanced education (anything above A level - see regulation 12(3) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 for details)

  • takes an average of more than 12 hours a week

  • isn’t part of their job

See regulation 5 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 for more on being a ‘qualifying young person’.

Who’s responsible for a child

Your client is responsible for a child if the child normally lives with them. This includes if your client lives with their partner and their partner’s child.

If the parents are separated the DWP will treat the child as living with whoever has ‘main responsibility’. If the parents can agree who this is, they should tell the DWP. If there’s a disagreement, the DWP will make their own decision.

Your client isn’t responsible for a child who:

  • is looked after by a local authority

  • is in prison

  • has been away from home for more than 6 months

  • has been outside Great Britain for more than a month - unless this is for medical treatment

See regulation 4 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 for details of parental responsibility.

Starting or stopping education

Tell the DWP if you, your partner or any of your children start or stop full-time education or training.

For someone under 19 you should also tell them about starting or stopping a part-time advanced education course, such as teacher training.

If you start full-time education you'll stop getting Universal Credit unless at least one of these exceptions applies:

  • you're old enough to get Pension Credit and you live with a partner who's below Pension Credit age
  • you get Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment and the DWP have said you have 'limited capability for work'
  • you look after a child under 16, or under 20 if they're also in full-time education or training
  • you're waiting to return to a course after taking time off because of illness or caring responsibilities
  • you're a foster parent and have a child placed with you
  • you're under 21 (or are 21 and were under 21 when your course started), not in higher education, and you don't have parental support

Not having parental support means your parents have died or you can't live with them. For example, you wouldn't have parental support if your relationship has broken down or living with them would put your health at risk.

If you live with your partner

You can also keep getting Universal Credit during full-time education if you live with your partner and they:

  • aren't in full-time education
  • are also in full-time education, but they're entitled to Universal Credit while studying
  • are also in full-time education, and one of you is responsible for a child or is a foster parent

You or your partner reach Pension Credit age

You should be in the 'no work-related activity group' if you've reached Pension Credit age. This means you won't need to look for work or prepare for work as part of your Universal Credit claim.

If you or your partner can get Pension Credit you'll usually be better off ending your Universal Credit claim and getting Pension Credit instead. Check if you can get Pension Credit.

Health changes

Tell the DWP if you:

  • get ill
  • are injured in a way that makes it harder to look for work
  • go into or leave hospital - or your partner does
  • go into or leave a care home - or your partner does
  • have an illness caused by pregnancy
  • start treatment for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • have a terminal illness

If you're ill for more than 7 days you'll need to get a doctor's note and send it to the DWP.

If you're ill for more than 14 days this counts as a long-term illness. You won't need to work if you can show you have 'limited capability for work'. You might need to fill in a questionnaire about your health and go to a medical assessment. This can take a while, so ask your work coach to suspend your work-related activities in the meantime.

Ask to change your claimant commitment if health problems mean you can't do all your work activities. It's worth doing even for a small change, for example if regular doctor's appointments mean you have 2 hours fewer a week to look for work.

If you’re self employed and temporarily sick

If you’re too sick to work and it affects your ability to make a profit, call the DWP and ask them to treat you as not being in ‘gainful self employment’ while you’re ill.  

If you're not in gainful self-employment, your Universal Credit payment should be higher. This is because the DWP can't apply the 'minimum income floor'. This is what the DWP expect you to earn each month - they use it to work out your payment.

Find out more about the minimum income floor and how it affects your payment.

If someone you're close to dies

You'll need to tell the DWP about the death of:

  • your partner
  • your child - if you're claiming Universal Credit because you're under 18 and responsible for a child
  • someone you were caring for
  • anyone over 18 and living with you

You can use the Tell Us Once service on GOV.UK to tell government departments about a death quickly and easily. You can also ask your work coach for a break from job hunting if a member of your family has died.

Changes to your immigration status

If you’re from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein and lose your ‘right to reside’ you won’t be able to get Universal Credit. 

But you can apply again for Universal Credit if you have ‘settled status’. You'll usually get settled status if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years or more. If you have settled status you won’t need to show you have a right to reside.

To get settled status you need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Check how to apply for settled status.

Your Universal Credit might stop if you don’t have settled status by 31 December 2020.

If you can't get settled status, you can try to get a right to reside status again by:

This is a complicated area, so it's best to contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think a change to your right to reside might affect your Universal Credit.

If you're not from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

A change to your immigration status might also affect your Universal Credit.

This is a complicated area, so it's best to contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think a change to your immigration status might affect your Universal Credit.

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