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028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

DWP issues guidance on what triggers natural migration to Universal Credit

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has recently launched guidance for Departmental staff on what changes of circumstance trigger natural migration to Universal Credit.

Universal Credit is being rolled out at present and replaces the following benefits:

  • Housing Benefit;
  • Income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance;
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance;
  • Income Support;
  • Child Tax Credits; and
  • Working Tax Credits.

In Universal Credit, natural migration to Universal Credit can occur when someone has a change of circumstances that means they would have to make a new claim for one of these benefits. However, as they can no longer make a fresh claim for any of the existing (legacy) benefits, they must make a claim for Universal credit instead.  

Premature natural migration

It should be stressed that claimants of legacy benefits ought not to prematurely claim Universal Credit, as they stand to lose out on transitional protection, which will be payable to those claimants who later migrate to Universal Credit under a managed migration process. Claimants who prematurely migrate may also lose out on any disability premiums they are currently being paid in the short term.

In their circular, DWP have listed a number of circumstances which would trigger a migration to Universal Credit, in addition to some exemptions (this is not an exhaustive list):

Circumstance for new UC claim

Additional information and exceptions

Move from in work to unemployment, and also claimants whose hours reduce to less than 16 hours per week

Claimants subsequently claim UC because income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA(IB)) is abolished in their area. However, claimants may also apply and qualify for ‘new style JSA’, which is contribution-based only JSA, alongside elements of UC.

Move from out of work to employment / self-employment

Exception – Claimants who already have an award of Child Tax Credits (CTCs) can apply for Working Tax Credits (WTCs). The award of WTC is a change of circumstances to the existing Tax Credits award, so they do not need to claim UC.

Move from income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA(IR)) to job-seeking

For example, claimant’s ESA(IR) award is terminated as they are found not to have limited capability for work. The claimant subsequently claims UC (because JSA(IB) is abolished in their area) and must remain on UC, even where any subsequent appeal against the ESA disallowance is found in their favour.

Exception – Claimant does not claim UC during any mandatory reconsideration period and, on appealing, is then awarded ESA pending appeal (a new claim is not required); where subsequent appeal is allowed, they remain on ESA(IR).

Move from ESA to employment / self-employment

Exception – Claimants that already have CTCs can continue to claim tax credits. This is because a new claim to WTC in these circumstances is not prevented under UCFS rules and so they do not need to claim UC.

Move from unemployed (e.g. Income Support (IS) or JSA(IB)) to being sick

Claimants may apply and qualify for ‘new style ESA’ – contributory only – alongside elements of UC.

Become responsible for a child for the first time

Exception – Claimants who already have an award of WTCs can claim CTCs. This is because a new claim to CTC in these circumstances is not prevented under UCFS rules and so they do not need to claim UC.

Existing HB claimant who moves from one Council area to a new Council area in a UCFS area (this will not apply to NI as NIHE administer all Housing Benefit claims for the whole of Northern Ireland)

Exception – Only claimants who move into specified accommodation or temporary accommodation can continue to make a new claim for HB. Claimants with 3 or more children can continue to make a new claim for HB up to 31 January 2019.

IS award ends because the claimant no longer satisfies the conditions of entitlement

Examples – The claimant is no longer a carer, or, if the claimant is a lone parent whose youngest child reaches 5 years of age.

Claimant receiving a legacy benefit or tax credits forms a couple with a UC claimant

They will not be able to remain on their existing benefits or tax credits and, on forming the couple, are treated as making a joint UC claim with their new partner.

With regard to exemptions, it should be noted that residents in specified or temporary accommodation will continue to receive Housing Benefit (alongside elements of Universal Credit if required). Additionally, where a claimant has 3 or more children, they will remain on legacy benefits and tax credits until 31 January 2019.

Claimants of legacy benefits who are uncertain as to whether or not a change of circumstance necessitates a claim for Universal Credit should seek advice by contacting Housing Rights on 02890 245640.

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Benefits, Welfare Reform