Many claimants are being told they have to claim Universal Credit when that it not the case: as UC brings with it many challenges we need to make sure claimants are being given the correct advice - especially if we are the ones giving it!
To be able to claim Universal Credit a claimant must be working age, have less than three children and live in a Full / Digital UC service area. But that doesn't mean they have to claim UC even if they have a change in their circumstances - as not all changes will trigger the need to claim UC.
As some claimants are financially worse off on Universal Credit and/or will struggle with the increased conditionality, monthly budgeting etc etc, keeping them off Universal Credit for as long as possible can be the best option if this is possible. And those who 'naturally' move onto UC will lose any transitional protection they would have been entitled to had they been able to stay on the legacy benefit system and be manage migrated later (special rules will exist for some claimants that lose the severe disability premium).
So who MUST claim in a Full / Digital service area?
The only claimants who MUST claim Universal Credit in a Full/Digital UC area are those who would normally be looking to make a new claim for one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing - ie looking to make a NEW claim for:
- Housing Benefit, or
- Tax Credits, or
- Income Support, or
- Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, or
- Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance.
(Click here for a summary sheet showing the main reasons why someone would need to claim one of these benefits.)
This is because as soon as an area goes onto the Full/Digital UC service, new claims for these benefits from someone of working age are closed (unless thay have three or more children). As the claimant is therefore unable to make a new claim for this 'legacy benefit', then, if they need the financial support it would have given them, they will normally have to get this from Universal Credit instead.
NOTE: Just because the change doesn't trigger the need to make a new claim for one of these benefits, this doesn't necessarily mean that the claimant will not have to make a new claim for any of them: each has its own triggers for a new claim - so you need to consider each benefit separately.
So, for example, a move within a LA area on the Full UC service by someone already on HB is a change in circumstances and does not thereby trigger the need to claim UC. But there could be another change of circumstance that would trigger a claim for UC: for example, that person may be leaving a partner and may have been on their partner's claim for ESA, or they may have had a couple claim for Tax Credits that will be brought to an end on separation. So this new tenant will normally have to make a new claim for UC.
But also consider a lone parent on Income Support, Housing Benefit, and Child Tax Credit who makes the move into work of 16 hours or more a week. They do not have to claim UC - their IS would end, they can report the change in their circumstances to HB and also to HMRC - who can add any Working Tax Credit they are now entitled to, onto their Child Tax Credit. The claim for Working Tax Credit does not count as a "new Tax Credit claim" so doesn't trigger a claim for UC.
If you are not sure whether a claimant needs to claim UC please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org, but don't delay, as for each day the claimant fails to claim a benefit they are missing out on a day's worth of benefit - and getting any claim backdated in these circumstances will be pretty much impossible.