The move to Universal Credit

The move to Universal Credit

This webpage should be read alongside our other webpages Universal Credit (UC), the more detailed guide to Universal Credit and UC support in Newcastle

 The aim of this page is to explain:


 1. How are people moving onto UC? - including a timetable

- Confusion and panic!

 2. Do I have a choice in moving to UC?

 3. Would I be better off or worse off on Universal Credit? 

 4. If I am struggling to make a claim for UC or manage my UC claim, who can help me?

1. How are people moving onto UC - including a timetable

Universal Credit is replacing six means tested benefits Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits. They are called ‘legacy benefits’. UC is not replacing any other benefits, like pension age Housing Benefit, Housing Benefit in special accommodation, Council Tax Support and all other benefits. More information on the difference between UC and legacy benefits

 There are 3 main ways you may need to make a claim for UC:

 1. If you’re not on legacy benefits, then you should consider claiming UC if you are on a low income, to top up your wages, need help with rent and so on

2. You are on legacy benefit(s) and have a change in circumstances that would mean a new claim for another legacy benefit. It is not normally possible to claim a legacy benefit. Instead, you will be told to claim UC and all your legacy benefits will be stopped. This is called ‘natural migration’. But sometimes you don’t have to claim UC and you have a choice. See below '2. Do I have a choice in moving to UC?' below

3. In phases, from April 2023 to 2028/9, the Government are writing to those on legacy benefits saying they have to claim UC and their legacy benefits will stop after a while. This is called ‘managed migration’. See timetable below. For more details on this, see our more detailed guide to Universal Credit 

Before they get this invitation to claim under managed migration, those on legacy benefits should find out if they would be better off or worse off on Universal Credit. See '3. Would I be better off or worse off on Universal Credit?' below

Managed migration timetable.

Based on the government's Autumn StatementCompleting the move to Universal Credit: Learning from the Discovery Phasepress releases and other announcements, the process is as follows:

  • From April 2023 to March 2024, those on Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit and not on any other 'legacy benefit' will be sent a letter ('Migration Notices') inviting them to claim UC. This group is being called 'Tax Credits only'. It's taking place area by area - see details below* 
  • From April 2024 the DWP plan to send Migration Notices to the rest of those on Tax Credits and most other legacy benefits. This will be benefit by benefit and not area by area. **
  • Those on Income Related ESA only may be the last to receive invites.
  • The aim is that Migration Notices will have been sent to all legacy benefit claimants by 2028/9

As a consequence, the merger of Housing Benefit into Pension Credit is also delayed till 2028/9

*The Tax Credit only roll out has consisted as follows:

  • Avon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, East London and Cheshire from April and May 2023
  • Greater Manchester, North East Yorkshire and Humber from June 2023
  • County Durham and Tees Valley, Kent, North London and East Anglia from July 2023
  • West Scotland, West Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire, and South London from August 2023
  • East Scotland, Cumbria and Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland, South West Wales, Essex, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight from September 2023
  • South East Wales, Central Scotland and Northern Ireland from October 2023
  • South West Scotland from November 2023
  • Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire from December 2023
  • Northumberland and Tyne and Wear area including Newcastle from 8 January 2024 More details 
  • The remaining Devon and Cornwall Jobcentres also from January 2024
  • Surrey and Sussex, South Yorkshire, Mercia, Northern Scotland, West London, North and Mid Wales, Birmingham and Solihull, Merseyside, Northeast Scotland, Bedfordshire, and Hertfordshire from February 2024
  • The Black Country from March 2024.

The government have said: 'For migration notices that would have had a deadline date that fell between 11 December 2023 and 5 January 2024, 30 days has been automatically added to the claimant’s deadline date.' 

** For 2024/25 and beyond, working age people on the following legacy benefits will receive migration notices as follows:

  • From April 2024  Income Support claimants and those claiming Tax Credits with Housing Benefit 
  • From June 2024 Housing Benefit only (except those HB only claimants living in Supported or Temporary Accommodation)
  • From July 2024 income related Employment Support Allowance with Child Tax Credits - with/without Housing Benefit
  • From September 2024, income based Jobseeker Allowance - with/without Housing Benefit
  • Those on income related Employment and Support Allowance ONLY and those on income related Employment Support Allowance and Housing Benefit will receive migration notices after the above. We don't know when this will be.

From August 2024,  Tax Credits claimants who are over state pension age, will be asked to apply for either Universal Credit or Pension Credit, depending on their circumstances.

The above  timetable is from a statement in Parliament on 25 January 2024.

- Confusion and panic!

1. In September 2023, HMRC sent out leaflets to all Tax Credit claimants saying their "Tax Credits are ending" which led people to think they have to claim Universal Credit earlier than they need to. Remember, you only need to claim Universal Credit in the 3 circumstances listed above

This is the leaflet which is causing concern (pdf 2.8MB)

2. Also during this period the DWP will be sending out Migration Notices to a very few legacy benefit claimants to test their approach, called 'discovery'.  This happened in September 2023 in Harrow, Manchester and Northumberland.

These government webpages explain the overall situation:

Completing the move to Universal Credit

Tax credits and some benefits are ending

 2. Do I have a choice in moving to UC?

If you get a Migration Notice' letter described above you do not have a choice! 

You should not ignore it.  You must claim Universal Credit within the deadline on the letter. You other 'legacy benefits' will normally stop after 3 months.

More details - I get Tax Credits and live in Newcastle. Do I have to claim Universal Credit?

If you are on legacy benefits and have a change in circumstances, and before you get a migration notice, you may have to claim UC but you may not. You may have a choice. For example, if you are on Housing Benefit and move tenancy in the same Local Authority, your Housing Benefit continues and you do not have to claim UC but if you move to another Local Authority, that is a new claim for Housing Benefit, so you have to claim UC and your legacy benefit(s) will end.

This table lists some changes in circumstances when you have to claim Universal Credit and when you do not 

If you do have a choice, you may be better off on UC but you may also be worse off and should wait for managed migration if possible. Read on...

3. Would I be better off or worse off on UC?

The following information may help you decide if you would be better or worse off on UC:

It is complicated and you do not want to make the wrong decision. If you are unsure, you should seek advice - see below

Self-help calculators help you compare your legacy benefits with Universal Credit

IMPORTANT It's not just a financial comparison between the amounts you'd be entitled to, there are some aspects of Universal Credit that can cause problems for people and could actually make you worse off. Here are some examples to take into account:

  • UC is paid monthly in arrears
  • You have to wait at least 5 weeks for the first payment after a new claim
  • You are expected to normally claim and manage UC online
  • The help with rent is paid with your UC, and you then have to pay the rent yourself to the landlord
  • There are more work-related requirements in UC, that also includes partners
  • After a new claim for UC, old Tax Credit arrears may be deducted from your UC
  • If your UC is lower than your 'legacy benefits' you drop down to that level. The only time you are protected from a drop is if you have the Severe Disability Premium paid with some of your legacy benefits and when 'managed migration' applies - see How are people moving onto UC above

This toolkit for advisers may help you decide

We have produced a Universal Credit natural migration toolkit for advisers pdf (236kb). It gives examples of where someone might be better off and worse off claiming Universal Credit. They are only examples, and more than one example may apply. 

If I can’t figure it out myself, who can help me - nationally and in Newcastle?

Nationally, organisations that support people often have helplines that may be able to advise, for example CarersUKWorking families and Money Helper says ‘If you’re on Universal Credit or think you might be using it in the future, our Money Manager tool can help guide you’

In Newcastle:

The services that can help are listed in our webpage: Universal Credit support in Newcastle

4. If I am struggling to make a claim for UC or to manage my claim, who can help me?

The services that can help you are listed in our webpage: Universal Credit support in Newcastle

5. More information

See our basic guide to Universal Credit and the more detailed guide to Universal Credit

See DWP information Understanding Universal Credit, Universal Credit and you and this new document Completing the Move to Universal Credit, which has examples of those who may be better and worse off.

To help you understand what changes you may need to make, the government have also produced an online Universal Credit personal planner, 'getting ready for Universal Credit'.

DWP YouTube videos, for example Is Universal Credit for me? and What support is available to me?

More detailed guides include Tax credits - moving on to Universal Credit factsheet by CPAG and UC law and guidance from Revenuebenefits and Rightsnet

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