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Moving to Universal Credit from other benefits

This advice applies to Scotland

Universal Credit is replacing 6 benefits called ‘legacy benefits’. These are: 

  • Housing Benefit

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • Child Tax Credits (CTC) 

  • Working Tax Credits (WTC)

  • Income Support

You can’t usually make a new claim for these benefits. 

If you already get one of them, you’ll have to move onto Universal Credit by 2029. You can stay on them for now - unless:

  • you get a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) telling you to claim Universal Credit by a certain date
  • your situation changes in certain ways - for example, you might need to claim Universal Credit if you’ve separated from a partner or moved to a different council area

If you’ve had a letter telling you to claim Universal Credit

What you have to do depends on what’s in the letter.

If the letter gives a deadline for you to claim Universal Credit, it’s a ‘migration notice’. The deadline should be at least 3 months after the date the notice was sent.

If your letter doesn’t have a deadline, you don’t have to claim Universal Credit unless you want to - even if the letter says you’ll have to claim Universal Credit in future. You won’t be able to go back to your old benefits after you claim. Check if you’ll be better off on Universal Credit before you claim.

If you’ve got a migration notice

You should claim Universal Credit by the deadline on the letter.

Your old benefits will stop after the deadline. If you claim Universal Credit before the deadline, the DWP might pay you extra to stop you being worse off. This is called ‘transitional protection’.

This means that if you’d get less on Universal Credit than your old benefits, you’ll get an extra amount to make up the difference. The DWP will reduce the extra amount over time - so you’ll eventually just get what you normally would on Universal Credit.

Transitional protection also means you might be able to get Universal Credit when you wouldn’t usually be entitled to it. If you:

  • are a full-time student who wouldn’t usually get Universal Credit, you can usually get it until the end of your course
  • get tax credits and have over £16,000 savings, you can get Universal Credit for up to a year - this is a type of transitional protection called a ‘transitional capital disregard’

If you can’t claim by the migration deadline

If the deadline hasn’t passed yet, you can ask the DWP to extend it. You can only ask for this before the original deadline in the letter. If the DWP agree, they’ll send you a new deadline.

If the deadline has passed, you can still get transitional protection if you claim Universal Credit up to a month after the deadline. The end of the month is called the ‘final deadline’.

If you claim after the final deadline, you can still claim Universal Credit - but you can’t get the transitional protection.

If you need help moving on to Universal Credit, you can talk to an adviser.

Claiming Universal Credit

If you claim Universal Credit, you'll usually get one payment each month, although you can ask to be paid more often. You usually have to manage your claim online.

It will usually take 5 weeks to get your first Universal Credit payment - but it could take longer. 

Your old benefits might stop before your Universal Credit starts. When they stop depends on which benefits you get, and when you claim Universal Credit.

If you claim before the deadline from the DWP:

  • tax credits stop the day before you claim Universal Credit
  • Housing Benefit, income-based JSA, income-related ESA and Income Support stop 2 weeks after you claim Universal Credit

If you claim Universal Credit after the deadline from the DWP:

  • tax credits stop the day before the deadline from the DWP
  • Housing Benefit, income-based JSA, income-related ESA and Income Support stop 2 weeks after the deadline from the DWP

You’ll only get the extra 2 week payments if you’re still eligible for the benefit. You won’t need to pay back the extra payments and they won’t affect how much Universal Credit you’ll get.

If you won’t have enough money to live on while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can ask for an advance payment. The advance payment is a loan - you’ll have to pay it back.

If your situation changes

If you haven’t had a migration notice, you might still be better off claiming Universal Credit if your work, home or family situation changes. Some changes will end your benefit claim - so claiming Universal Credit might be the only way to replace them.

You can’t claim Universal Credit if you, and your partner if you have one, have both reached State Pension age. It’s usually best for you to claim Pension Credit.

Check if you can get Pension Credit rather than Universal Credit. If you need help with housing costs, you can also claim Housing Benefit.

You can't usually make a new claim for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit if you’re over State Pension age but have a partner under State Pension age. You can only make a new claim for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit if both the following apply:

  • you or your partner reached State Pension age before 15 May 2019

  • you’ve been claiming Housing Benefit or Pension Credit as part of the same couple since before 15 May 2019

If you separate from your partner

If you and your partner have a joint claim for Working Tax Credits or Child Tax Credits, your claim will end.

If you and your partner were claiming Housing Benefit, ESA, JSA or Income Support with your partner, check if the benefits are in your name. 

If the benefit letters are addressed to you - that means the benefits are in your name. If you’re not sure, you can check with the DWP. Their contact details will be on any benefit letters you’ve received.

If the benefits are in your name, you’ll keep getting them. If the benefits aren’t in your name, they’ll usually stop.  

If you're getting JSA and don’t have children, the rules about whether or not you can keep getting it are more complicated. Talk to an adviser to check if your JSA will stop. 

If you’ve moved home or your partner moves in

If you're claiming Housing Benefit and you’ve moved to an area with a different local council, your Housing Benefit claim will end. You can find your local council on GOV.UK.

If you’ve moved to a different home in the same council area, you can stay on Housing Benefit if the claim was in your name.

The claim might not be in your name if you were claiming Housing Benefit with a partner and you've now separated from them. Check if the benefit letters are addressed to you - that means the claim was in your name. You can also ring your local council to check - find your local council on GOV.UK.

If you’re getting other benefits Universal Credit is replacing, you can keep getting them - but you must tell the DWP you’ve moved.

Talk to an adviser to check if you’ll be better off claiming Universal Credit.

If you and your partner move in together

If you or your partner gets Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits, they will end when you move in together. 

You can keep getting Housing Benefit, income-related ESA, income-based JSA or Income Support when you move in together if your partner:

  • isn't getting Universal Credit 

  • doesn’t earn enough to stop you getting your benefits

To keep getting income-based JSA, either you or your partner also needs to have children.

Talk to an adviser to check if you’ll be better off claiming Universal Credit.

Changes to do with your children

Having a baby or becoming responsible for a child won’t end your benefits.

You can only start getting Child Tax Credits if you’re already getting Working Tax Credits. Check if you can get Child Tax Credits.

If you can’t make a new claim for Child Tax Credits, you might be better off claiming Universal Credit. Talk to an adviser to check if you’ll be better off claiming Universal Credit. 

If you're already getting Child Tax Credit and have another child, the amount you get might go up. 

If you’re on Income Support 

Your Income Support will end if all of the following apply:

  • you’re a single parent

  • your youngest child has turned 5

  • you’re not a full-time carer for someone who’s sick or disabled

Talk to an adviser to check if you’ll be better off claiming Universal Credit.

If your work situation has changed

What you need to do depends on the benefits you’re claiming and how your work situation has changed.

If you or your partner starts working or your hours go up

If you get income-based JSA, income-related ESA or Income Support, they will stop if either:

  • you start working 16 or more hours a week

  • your partner starts working 24 or more hours a week




If you start working, you can only keep getting ESA in some situations. Check what work you can do while getting ESA

If you’re getting Child Tax Credits you might be able to start getting Working Tax Credits (WTC) as well. This depends on your situation and how many hours you’re working. You can check how many hours you need to work to get WTC.

If your earnings go up, the amount of benefits you’re getting might go down. Starting work or increasing your hours might mean you get less from the benefits you’re claiming. You might be better off getting Universal Credit - talk to an adviser to check if you’ll be better off.

If you stop working or your hours go down

If you're getting Working Tax Credits (WTC) and you stop working enough hours, your WTC might end. Check how many hours you need to work to keep getting WTC.

In some cases you can keep getting WTC for a limited time when you stop working, for example if you:

  • lose or leave your job

  • go on maternity leave

  • go on sick leave and get Statutory Sick Pay

Check how long you can keep getting WTC.

Your other benefits won't end because you stop working or your hours go down. You might be better off getting Universal Credit - talk to an adviser to check if you’ll be better off.

If you have a partner and the older partner reaches State Pension age

If you get Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, you can keep getting them when one of you reaches State Pension age.

If the person over State Pension age is getting certain other benefits, they won’t be able to get them after they reach State Pension age. These benefits are: 

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Income Support

If the younger partner is getting one of these benefits, they can continue getting them.

If either of you gets Housing Benefit, you can keep getting it if the younger partner is getting income-based JSA, income-related ESA or Income Support.

You might also keep getting Housing Benefit if you live in some kinds of accommodation - for example if you:

  • live in temporary accommodation
  • rent from a charity or housing association and get care or support

If your benefits end, you’ll usually have to apply for Universal Credit. 

Your Housing Benefit claim won’t end if you're still allowed to start a new claim. For example, if you live in temporary or sheltered accommodation. Check who can make a new claim for Housing Benefit.

If the older partner reached State Pension age before 27 January 2021

If the older partner was claiming a benefit with the Severe Disability Premium when they reached State Pension age, they should have kept getting that benefit.

Check your benefits letter to see if you were getting an SDP. You might get an SDP with:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

  • Income Support

  • Housing Benefit

If you got a severe disability premium (SDP)

You might get an extra amount in your Universal Credit - this is called the ‘transitional element’. 

You’ll get the extra amount if you apply for Universal Credit within a month after you stop getting the benefit with the SDP.

You can’t get the extra amount if you: 

  • were only getting the SDP with Housing Benefit

  • move in with a partner who is claiming Universal Credit

If you get the extra amount, the DWP will reduce it over time - so eventually you’ll just get what you normally would on Universal Credit.

Before 27 January 2021, you couldn’t claim Universal Credit if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with an SDP.

If you applied for Universal Credit before 27 January 2021, talk to an adviser to check what you’re entitled to.

Report a change of circumstances 

You should report a change of circumstances as soon as you can - even if you can stay on your old benefits. You might be paid too much or too little if you report it later.

If you don’t report a change and you’re paid too much, you’ll need to pay the money back and you might have to pay some extra money as a penalty.

If you’re getting Working Tax Credits or Child Tax Credits, you need to tell HMRC about the change on GOV.UK.

If you're getting Best Start Foods or the Scottish Child Payment, you need to tell Social Security Scotland about the change on mygov.scot. 

If you’re getting other benefits, you can check how to report the change of circumstances on GOV.UK.

If you haven’t had a migration notice or change of circumstances

You can still move to Universal Credit - but it’s important to check if you’ll be better off. If you apply for Universal Credit:

  • any other legacy benefits you're getting will end

  • you won't be able to go back to any of the legacy benefits in the future - even if you’re appealing a benefit decision

If you have a choice between staying on your old benefits and claiming Universal Credit, talk to an adviser. They can help you work out how much you’d get on Universal Credit.

You can also use a benefit calculator to check how much Universal Credit you’d get. To get an accurate answer, you’ll need to know details about your:

  • income - including any earnings or benefits 

  • rent and living costs 

  • savings and investments

Claiming Universal Credit

If you claim Universal Credit, you'll usually get one payment each month, although you can ask to be paid more often. You usually have to manage your claim online.

It will usually take 5 weeks to get your first Universal Credit payment - but it could take longer. 

If your old benefits haven't ended, you can keep getting them for 2 weeks after you apply for Universal Credit. You won't need to pay back the extra payments and they won't affect how much Universal Credit you'll get. This applies to:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Income Support

  • Housing Benefit

You’ll only get the extra 2 week payments if you’re still eligible for the benefit. You won’t need to pay back the extra payments and they won’t affect how much Universal Credit you’ll get. 

If you won’t have enough money to live on while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can ask for an advance payment. The advance payment is a loan - you’ll have to pay it back.

If you need help moving on to Universal Credit, you can talk to an adviser

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