When will I have to start claiming?

Date last updated: 6 May 2021

ImportantCoronavirus update

Some of the rules about claiming Universal Credit have changed due to the current coronavirus pandemic. For more information, see our coronavirus information page for the latest updates.

Moving to Universal Credit

Over the next few years, people receiving existing benefits and tax credits will be moved to Universal Credit. This will either happen when there is a significant change to your circumstances, or when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides to move you onto Universal Credit.

If you currently get tax credits, housing benefit, or other working age benefits it is very important to be aware that certain changes in your circumstances may mean you have to claim Universal Credit sooner than you otherwise would.

This is important because Universal Credit could cause a reduction in the amount of money you receive. This page explains the difference circumstances that could cause this to happen.

If you think you will be affected by this issue please call our helpline for advice about universal credit.

Changes that may mean you have to claim Universal Credit

The important thing to know about Universal Credit is that there are two ways that you could be moved from your current tax credits or benefits onto Universal Credit.

If the government moves you from your existing benefits onto Universal Credit, your benefit/tax credit income will be protected. This is called ‘transitional protection’. Your Universal Credit income will not go below your existing benefit income if you are moved onto Universal Credit at a date set by the government.

However, if your existing benefit claim is brought to an end because of a change in your circumstances, then different rules will apply to you and you may not be able to get transitional protection. This means that if you have a change in circumstances you could end up having to claim Universal Credit – but your income will not be protected. In some circumstances this can mean your income could be lower under the Universal Credit system, as the amounts you can claim may be different.

Click on the dropdown menus below to see if you’d be affected and how your income can be affected by the change from tax credits and benefits to Universal Credit.

I'm getting income support - my youngest child will turn five soon

If your youngest child turns five and you live in a Universal Credit area then you will be asked to claim Universal Credit when your income support stops after their fifth birthday.

Note: if you have more than 2 children, please call our helpline as the rules and timetable are different for larger families.

I have a new partner and we plan to start living together soon - I currently receive tax credits/benefits

If you and your partner start sharing a home your current claims for tax credits and other benefits will stop and you won’t be able to make a joint claim for tax credits, housing benefit or certain other benefits. You may be entitled to claim Universal Credit as a couple instead. This will depend on you and your partner’s circumstances. Your partner’s income and/or savings will be taken into account as well as yours.

If your combined household will have more than two children then you should seek urgent advice before you move in together, as there is usually a ‘2 child limit’ for new Universal Credit claims. You can call our helpline for advice on this.

Read more about the ‘2 child rule’ here.


I'm planning on starting paid work - I'm currently receiving tax credits/benefits

If you start a new job, you won’t be moved onto Universal Credit yet. This is because you will keep your existing tax credit claim. Your tax credit claim will change to reflect your income from work – so you’ll be getting working tax credit and possibly some of your previous benefits as well, depending on your income from your job.

Important: information about work and Universal Credit if your job is temporary/short term contract or finishes.

If your job finishes, you will not be able to re-claim tax credits or receive old-style benefits such as jobseekers allowance or income support or employment and support allowance when you stop working. This is because you will be required to claim Universal Credit instead.

This is very important because some single  parents could be worse off in the long term if they are moved from tax credits into Universal Credit due to a job ending. This is because for some parents the amount of benefit you can receive under Universal Credit is less than under previous benefits such as tax credits, jobseekers allowance and income support.

Before you take on temporary work it’s a very good idea to check first about how your benefits could be affected if you need to reclaim at the end of a job.

Always seek advice about your own situation before taking up temporary work or short term contracts if you live in a Universal Credit area. You can call our helpline for a calculation of whether you’d be better or worse off under Universal Credit.

I'm receiving tax credits and my job is ending soon

Whether you will be better off claiming Universal Credit  will depend strongly on your personal circumstances.

Please call our helpline so that we can give you advice on whether universal credit is beneficial in your situation.

I'm receiving tax credits and my hours are going to reduce to below 16 hours per week

Whether you will be better off claiming Universal Credit  will depend strongly on your personal circumstances.

Please call our helpline so that we can give you advice on whether universal credit is beneficial in your situation.

Remember to check back

We will be updating this information on universal credit as and when the details become available. Do check back from time to time for updates. We will also alert you to new information in our membership newsletter.


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