The when and how to of switching to Universal Credit

Universal Credit is replacing several current benefits to create a simpler system to support low-income earners, as well as those who are out of or unable to work. 


Can I get Universal Credit?

If you need to claim Universal Credit, there are several eligibility criteria that you need to meet, and you’ll have to accept certain requirements, that are specific to you, stated in you Claimant Commitment – you’ll discuss and agree upon the details of your Claimant Commitment with your Work Coach at the Jobcentre.


To qualify for Universal Credit, you need to be resident in Great Britain. In most cases, you should be 18 or over and no longer in education - in exceptional cases where there is no parental support, you may be able to claim Universal Credit at 16 or 17 years old. If you are under 18 years of age, you can find a local Adviser to get support and advice about what you’re entitled to claim. 

Claimants should be under Pension Credit age. When claiming as a couple, if one of you is over Pension Credit age, you will both still need to claim Universal Credit as a couple until you both reach Pension Credit age. Since Universal Credit will be replacing Housing benefit and Child Credit Tax, there will also be some changes to Pension Credit to make sure that it includes contributions towards your rent and dependent children. 



If you receive Universal Credit, you will be put in a conditionality group; these are categories based on your circumstances and capability to work. This grouping will be used to define your responsibilities while you’re claiming.   

All work-related requirements

If you are fully capable and not a carer, you will be expected to look for and be available for work. You will usually be expected to look for full-time work of at least 35 hours a week, although this may be less in certain circumstances. 

Work preparation requirement

If you have a limited capability for work, you will be expected to prepare for a move into work, additional work, or better-paid work.

In-work conditionality

If you are earning below your individually defined threshold, you will be expected to make efforts to increase your income. If you are claiming as a couple, your joint income will be used for assessment for Universal Credit award. 

Work-focused interview requirement only

You will need to attend regular interviews to discuss plans and opportunities for returning to work in the future if:

No work-related requirements

You might not have any activities to prepare or look for work if: 


When can I get Universal Credit? 

Universal Credit started to be introduced in 2013, and is expected to be available across in the UK in 2017. Since it is being rolled out slowly, most people aren’t yet affected - Universal Credit is only being given to newly unemployed people in some areas of the country, or when a claimants circumstances change significantly and they are required to start a new claim.

Universal Credit will be replacing Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit (see our article for more details on who is affected). If you are already claiming one or more of these benefits, you don't need to do anything yet - the managed migration of claimants to the new Universal Credit system is expected to continue through 2017 and you’ll be contacted when this happens in your area. 

For a comprehensive timeline, please see the the Universal Credit Timetable, and for a list of Jobcentres where Universal Credit is being rolled out, please see this GOV.UK page.  


How to claim Universal Credit

As Government services move online, more and more systems will become digital - Universal Credit is already one of them. If you need to claim Universal Credit, you can do so online through the GOV.UK application page. If you do not have access to the internet, you can get support and internet access at the Jobcentre or council.

When you’ve completed your application online, you’ll be invited to have a face-to-face interview with a Jobcentre Work Coach to discuss and agree upon your responsibilities for your Claimant Commitment. If you and your partner are making a joint claim, only one of you will need to complete the online claim form and include the details for both of you – however, you will both need accept the Claimant Commitment to receive Universal Credit.  

Please take a look at the GOV.UK step-by-step guide, which will help you through the process of making a claim online, changing your claim and your Universal Credit journey. You can also find a full list of all the information you’ll need to provide to make your claim for Universal Credit. 

If you need, you can also contact the Universal Credit helpline between 8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday and ask for a call-back:
Telephone: 0345 600 0723
Textphone: 0345 600 0743


In the future, to receive Universal Credit you will have to prove your identity through GOV.UK Verify, and that’s where CitizenSafe comes in. As a certified partner of GOV.UK we can help verify your identity, which will provide you with a single secure login so that you can access all online Government services, including Universal Credit. You can subscribe to our newsletter to be kept up to date with the latest Government services being added to GOV.UK Verify at the bottom of this page.


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