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Universal Credit (UC) - Switching from other benefits to Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit for people of working-age who are on a low income.

Switching from other benefits to Universal Credit

Whether you have had a change in circumstances that has meant your old benefits have stopped or you have decided you would like to choose to move onto Universal Credit, there are a few things to think about and some common questions people have.

Make sure you use our Benefits Calculator to check what benefits you can claim and how much you should get.

What will happen to my other benefits?

If you're receiving Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, they will stop as soon as you make your Universal Credit claim. Sometimes the tax credits department of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are slow to cancel claims. This can mean you receive an overpayment of tax credits which you have to pay back.

If you're getting Tax-free Childcare, your account will be closed as soon as you claim Universal Credit.

If you are receiving any of these benefits, they will stop two weeks after you make your Universal Credit claim:

If you are getting Council Tax Reduction/Support, you should contact your council to let them know you've claimed Universal Credit.

Any other benefits you're getting should carry on being paid the same as usual.

If I don't like Universal Credit, can I switch back?

No. Once you have started a Universal Credit claim, you won't be able to move back onto your old benefits. 

There are a few exceptions to this for people who were entitled to Severe Disability Premium and people who have been victims of identity fraud and had claims made for Universal Credit in their name but without them knowing about it. If you're in either of these groups, you should get advice on how to have your old benefits claim restarted.

Will I be better off on Universal Credit?

Use a calculator

Some people do find they are better off on Universal Credit and some do not. The best way to check is to use our Benefits Calculator to see what you're able to get under the two systems.

Think about the long term

At the moment, people getting Universal Credit are being given an extra £80 per month. However, this is only temporary and will end in April 2021. If your results are showing that you would be less than £80 per month better off on Universal Credit than on your current benefits, you might like to think about whether you need the extra money enough to be worth losing out in the long term.

For example, someone who right now would be £60 per month better off on Universal Credit than on their current benefits will find in April 2021 that they are £20 per month worse off than if they had stayed on their old benefits. 

Transitional protection

Although everyone will be moved onto Universal Credit eventually, this will be done through a process of invitation. People who get the invitation to move onto Universal Credit will get transitional protection payments to make sure they are not worse off on Universal Credit than on their old benefits. You won't get the transitional protection if you decide for yourself to move to Universal Credit.

How the five-week wait affects your payments

Even if your results do show you will be better off on Universal Credit, it is important to remember that you won't get any payment for the first five weeks after you make your claim. Most people find they need to take an advance to get them through this first period. An advance is a loan which has to be paid back over 12 months. This means that for the first year of your Universal Credit claim you will receive less money.

Advances are generally taken back at  30% of your standard allowance.

  • For a single person under 25, this is £102.81 per month
  • For a single person 25 or over, this is £122.96 per month
  • For a couple where both are under 25, this is £146.58 per month
  • For a couple where one or both are 25 or over, this is £178.21 per month

An example

Julia is a single mum with one child aged four and rent of £180 per week. She can see that on her old benefits she is entitled to £1,574 per month but on Universal Credit she is entitled to £1,662 per month.

She decides to claim Universal Credit and takes an advance for the first five weeks. This means that for the first year of her claim she is paying back her advance at £122 per month, so she only receives Universal Credit payments of £1,540 per month. This means that though she changed benefits thinking she'd be better off on Universal Credit, she is actually getting less money than she did on her old benefits.

In April 2021, the extra £80 per month is due to be ended. So from then on she is even worse off on Universal Credit than on her old benefits and she is still repaying the last of her advance.

If I claim Universal Credit, will I have to look for work?

Under Universal Credit, more people are expected to look for work than in the old benefits system.

If you have been claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support as a couple, neither of you would have been expected to look for work. Once you move onto Universal Credit, you might find that one or both of you will be expected to look for work.

Whether you have to look for work when you're claiming Universal Credit depends on each individual's circumstances. Find out more about what you have to do to receive Universal Credit.

I'm self employed - is there anything extra for me to think about?

Self-employed people can often find they are much worse off on Universal Credit than on the old benefits system. This is because of a rule called the Minimum Income Floor

The Minimum Income Floor isn't being applied to anyone at the moment because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is likely to be brought into force again in the future. 

If you usually earn less than someone working full time on minimum wage would earn, you're likely to find that Universal Credit in the long term is less generous than the benefits it replaces.

Where can I get more advice?

Citizens Advice operates a helpline for people in England, Scotland and Wales where you can get advice on whether Universal Credit is right for you.

England: 0800 144 8 444 (Textphone: 18001 0800 144 8 444).

Scotland: 0800 023 2581.

Wales: 08000 241 220 (Textphone: 18001 08000 241 220).

In Northern Ireland, contact Advice NI on 0808 802 0020.

 

Updated: July 2020

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