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Universal Credit

Universal Credit (UC) is a new means-tested benefit that is being gradually introduced. It replaces several existing benefits.


This information applies to people living in England, Wales & Scotland. UC has not yet been introduced in Northern Ireland but is due to be introduced at some point in 2017.


As UC is being rolled out gradually most carers will not yet be affected and are unlikely to be affected for the next twelve months or so.

The below information gives some general information on UC and what this means for carers. For further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.


What is Universal Credit (UC)?

UC is a means-tested benefit for working age people that is being gradually introduced. It replaces Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

To claim UC you must live in an area where UC can be claimed, meet the gateway conditions and meet all of the following conditions:

  • Be 18 or over (there are some exceptions to this) and under state pension credit age (which for a woman is the age she would reach state pension age and for a man is the age he would reach state pension age if he was a woman).
  • Have income and capital below a certain amount.
  • Have accepted a ‘claimant commitment’.
  • Not be in certain types of education.
  • Meet the residence and presence conditions.

UC is designed to be claimed online and will normally be paid monthly in arrears.

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How much Universal Credit (UC) will I get?

UC is worked out by comparing the maximum amount of UC you would be entitled to, with your (and any partner’s) income and capital.

The maximum amount of UC you would be entitled to

The maximum amount of UC you would be entitled is made up of a standard allowance which depends on your age and whether you are single or in a couple, and various ‘elements’ including: child elements (plus additional amounts for disabled or severely disabled children); a carer element; a limited capability for work element or a limited capability for work-related activity element; a housing costs element; and a childcare costs element.

Your (and any partner's) income and capital

Earnings are taken into account as income however certain claimants can deduct a work allowance. Other income taken into account includes some benefits (including Carer’s Allowance) and tax credits; pensions, income from capital etc.

Some income is disregarded including Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Child Benefit and any Child Maintenance you receive.

If you (and any partner) have over £16,000 in capital then you will not be entitled to UC.

Comparing the maximum amount of UC you would be entitled to with your (and any partner’s) income and capital

To work out your UC amount you do the following:

  • Take the maximum amount of UC you would be entitled to.
  • Deduct 65% of the amount of your earnings (once you have deducted your work allowance if applicable).
  • Deduct any other income that is taken into account.
  • The end figure is the amount of UC you would be entitled to per month.

Note: If you are claiming existing benefits and are moved onto UC but your circumstances have not changed, you will be entitled to transitional protection.

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What will Universal Credit (UC) mean for carers?

The keys things which might impact carers are as follows.

The carer element

Under UC you can get the carer element if you have ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities’ for a ‘severely disabled person’.

Note: You have ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities’ if you satisfy the eligibility conditions for Carer’s Allowance (even if you don’t make a claim), or would do so but for the fact that your earnings are too high.

Note: A person is ‘severely disabled’ if they receive the middle or higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Armed Forces Independence Payment or Constant Attendance Allowance

Carer’s Allowance/the carer element and the benefits of the person you are looking after

Under the current benefit system, a claim for Carer’s Allowance can affect the benefits of the person you are caring for, if the person you are caring for receives a severe disability premium (or addition) within their benefits.

If you as a carer are in receipt of UC, then if your UC award includes a carer element this will affect the benefits of the person you are caring for, if the person you are caring for receives a severe disability premium (or addition) within their benefits. This is the case even if you aren't actually being paid Carer's Allowance.

However, the severe disability premium (or addition) has been abolished for UC, which means that if the person you are caring for is on UC, you claiming Carer’s Allowance or having the carer element in your UC award would not have any impact on their UC.

Note: If the person you are caring for has transitional protection the situation may be more complicated so contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further information.

The claimant commitment

UC involves a ‘claimant commitment’ which is an agreement that you will meet certain work related requirements. There are four types of work-related requirements which might be included in your claimant commitment: work-focused interviews, work preparation, work search, and work availability.

Your claimant commitment can have no work-related requirements if:

  • You have ‘regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person’ (see above for the definition); or
  • If you have caring responsibilities for one or more 'severely disabled people' (see above for the definition) for at least 35 hours a week, but do not satisfy the qualifying conditions for Carer’s Allowance, providing the decision maker is satisfied that it would be unreasonable for you to meet a work search requirement and a work availability requirement.

Whilst this is good news for those carers that meet the above conditions, carers who fall outside of these conditions (such as those caring for less than 35 hours per week and those caring for someone who is not ‘severely disabled’ – see above for the definition) will have some work-related requirements.

Such carers are likely to have both a work focused interview requirement and a work preparation requirement. They might also have a work search requirement and a work availability requirement, however for both of these the decision maker can decide that there are temporary circumstances (such as caring) which would mean it would be unreasonable for them to have to meet these requirements.

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When will I be affected by Universal Credit (UC)?

As UC is being rolled out gradually most carers will not yet be affected and are unlikely to be affected for the next twelve months or so.

Whether you will be affected by UC will depend on where you live and your personal circumstances.

Where you live

You can see a list of the areas where UC can be claimed here

The gateway conditions

However, even if you are in one of the areas where UC can be claimed, you will still only be affected if you meet the ‘gateway conditions’ (unless you are in a digital service area).

If you are already claiming Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment you will not meet the ‘gateway conditions’ and will therefore not be affected by UC yet (even if you are in a digital service area). You should be told when UC will affect you although it seems like it will not be before 2017.

If you are not already claiming one of the above benefits, you will still not meet the ‘gateway conditions’ if you have caring responsibilities and will therefore not be affected by UC yet, unless you are in a digital service area. You can still be considered to have caring responsibilities if you are not in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, and the person you are looking after does not have to be in receipt of a disability benefit.

This means that carers who are not in a digital service area will continue to claim existing benefits for the time being.

The exception to this is that if you are in a UC area and met the gateway conditions at the time of your claim, you will then have to stay on UC even if you then become a carer.

The digital service

The digital service is currently in certain postcodes in the following Jobcentre areas: Sutton, Croydon, Southwark, Twickenham, Edinburgh, Norfolk, Bath, Newcastle Cathedral Square, Rugby, Bridgwater, Lowestoft, Harrogate, Richmond, Inverness, Hammersmith, Ryedale, Runcorn, Widnes, Lancaster, Morecombe, Frome, Wells, Skipton, Northallerton, Kennington Park, Peckham, Taunton, Minehead, Workington, Whitehaven, Daventry, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Port Glasgow, Greenock, Kirkintilloch, Swindon, Shepherds Bush, Johnstone, Hartlepool, Hastings, Fulham and Stratford-upon-Avon.

From early 2017 the digital service should be in the following Jobcentre areas: Corby, Southampton, Newcastle East, Warrington, Poplar, Hinckley, Dalkeith, Penicuik; Newcastle West and City Tower.

Note: This is the intended timetable but it may be subject to changes. You can enter your postcode on the revenue benefits website and it lets you know the Universal Credit situation in your area.

There are virtually no ‘gateway conditions’ in the ‘digital service test area’. This means that carers who are making a new claim for benefits in these areas will have to claim UC. This also means that if a carer in these areas is in receipt of existing benefits, but has a change of circumstances, they might have to claim UC instead of their existing benefits.

If you are in one of these areas then contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further information.

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