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Welfare benefits news

The latest welfare rights service news.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) has been much in the news, and in the last few days there have been several changes announced.

UC is slowly replacing means-tested benefits for working-age people (Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, the tax Credits and Housing Benefit) which are referred to as ‘legacy benefits’.

To make the latest developments clear, here is a short summary.

The roll-out of Universal Credit

The timetable announced in the November 2018 Budget for the ‘managed migration’ of UC to all remaining claimants of ‘legacy’ benefits has not changed and is still due to take place between 2020 and 2023 to 2024.

What has changed is that UC will now test its ‘managed migration’ system on a limited number of 10,000 claims before the government seeks approval for the remaining claims to be migrated.

Severely disabled claimants who receive the ‘severe disability premium’

At the moment, people can only move on to UC if they make a new claim. Or they have a change in their circumstances which means that a ‘legacy’ benefit stops and they need to make a new claim for means-tested help.

In this situation, it is not possible to make a new claim for ‘legacy’ benefits and any claim will be for Universal Credit. This is referred to as ‘natural migration’.

This has caused a problem for some severely disabled claimants who live alone, as they received additional money in their legacy benefits called a ‘severe disability premium’. This additional help does not exist in UC, and so many disabled claimants found themselves worse off on UC.

From 16 January 2019, anyone who is entitled to the severe disability premium in their legacy benefits will not be able to claim UC and will not be affected by ‘natural migration’. Instead they can claim legacy benefits, even if they have a change in circumstances.

Anyone who has already lost their SDP through migration to UC will receive compensation, but this has not yet been passed in to law.

The ‘2-child’ rule

From 6 April 2017, both UC and the legacy benefits have had a new rule which disallows payments of benefit for a family’s third and subsequent children. Until 31 January 2019, it is not usually possible to make a new claim UC if you are responsible for more than 2 children.

From 1 February 2019 however, this changes, and families of any size will claim UC – the 2-child rule will apply.

In a recent change, however, the rule will not apply to any children who were born before 6 April 2017.

People of pension age who have younger partners

At the moment, if a person is of pension age but their partner is of working age, the couple can claim pension credit instead of UC. They are usually better off doing so.

From 15 May 2019, the rules are changing, and in this situation the couple will be obliged to claim UC until they are both of pension age.

Existing claims for Pension Credit will not be affected. And if on 15 May 2019 you're claiming Housing Benefit but not Pension Credit as a mixed-age couple, you may have a right to claim Pension Credit at a future date. Please seek advice.

Find out more about Universal Credit and how it works.

For information and advice, email: or tel: 01629 531535 from 11am to 4pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Changes to Tax Credits

Changes announced on 1 February 2019 mean that most people cannot now make a new claim for Tax Credits.

Most people who are working and/or looking after children and who need means-tested help will now have to claim Universal Credit.

Some new claims for Tax Credits are still allowed for people who are barred by the current rules from claiming Universal Credit.

If you are a disabled person who receives a ‘severe disability premium’ in a benefit such as Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance or Housing Benefit, you can still claim Tax Credits where appropriate.

If you have an existing Tax Credits claim, this will continue for the time being. If you already have a claim for one Tax Credit and need to make a claim for the other after 1 February 2019 you can also continue to do this.

We recommend that you seek advice from our helpline if you have any queries about Tax Credits now that these changes are in place.

We will update our Tax Credits leaflets as soon as possible.