Benefits,Welfare Reform,Universal Credit

Page last updated November 2015

Some changes to Tax Credits announced in the July Budget were reversed in the Autumn Statement 2015.

July Budget 2015

Budget Speech by Chancellor George Osborne, published July 8th 2015. Parents - including lone parents - youngest child age 3 or over expected to look for full time work from September 2017. Student maintenance grant abolished from September 2016. Child Tax Credits not available for more than 2 children after April 2017.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill published July 9th 2015. 1 page tracked changes pdf clause 11 no Child Tax Credits after 2nd child from 2017 for NEW BIRTHS AND/OR NEW CLAIMS; 1 page tracked changes pdf clause 12 UC only for first 2 children (extra if disabled); 1 page tracked changes pdf clause 12 removal UC first child premium; 1 page tracked changes pdf clause 13 reduce work related activity group (WRAG) Employment Support Allowance (ESA) to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) rate; 1 page tracked changes pdf clause 14 take away housing premium limited capability for work; 1 page tracked changes pdf clause 15 work focused interview requirement (WFI) upped to work preparation requirement when youngest child is 1 (rather than 3) + actively seek work child age 3 down from 5 (September 2017);

Introduction to Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income. Ultimately, it is envisaged that UC will replace in-work and out-of-work benefits such as income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits, and Housing Benefit.

Universal Credit Rollout

Universal Credit Rollout Map September 2015

The GOV.UK page on Universal Credit has a list of JobCentres where Universal Credit is in operation (updated October 19th 2015) NB there is no official start date in sight for UC claimants who are parents and also are self-employed.

See also published July 15th 2015.

The latest DWP leaflet on Universal Credit for Families (August 2015, now includes "waiting days") says that in order to claim Universal Credit, claimants and their partners must not be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support (IS), Incapacity Benefit (IB), Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP); not have any caring responsibilities (such as for a disabled person); not expect to receive any earnings from self-employment in the next month; not be in education or on a training course of any kind; not have savings in excess of £6,000 between the two of you; not be an approved foster parent (even if not currently fostering); not be expecting to adopt a child in the next two months or have adopted a child within the last 12 months; and not expect to receive any earnings from self-employment in the next month.

"You cannot make a new claim for Universal Credit if one or more children in the household is receiving Disability Living Allowance"

Statistics for Universal Credit roll-out. As of March 2015, 70% of claimants were male and 53% were under 25 years old (down from 59% in March 2014) 69% were not in paid employment. Males aged 20-24 make up 24% of UC claims. The JobCentres with the most UC claimants are Oldham and Warrington.

Universal Credit rollout map here This map shows the few areas of the country in 2015 which are taking claims from couples and families (NB some of the areas ONLY take UC claims from couples WITHOUT dependent children)

Lone Parents and Universal Credit (UC)

Lone parents will automatically be treated as the "lead carer" under Universal Credit. The following applies if the claimant is not already in paid employment. Once their youngest child reaches age one, the claimant will be required to attend interviews to discuss plans for a future move into work. As soon as the youngest child reaches three, the claimant will be expected to take active steps to prepare for work which might include training and work-focused interviews. When the youngest child is between age five and twelve, the claimant will be expected to look for work during school hours. Once the youngest child is thirteen, the claimant will be expected to look for full time work. Link (pages 6-7) This is essentially the same as the current regime for lone parents with Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance (scroll down for more details)

Couples with Children and Universal Credit

When Universal Credit is brought in for couples with children, the claim will be made by a nominated parent for the family as a whole. Working Tax Credits will no longer be an option. One parent - designated as the "lead carer" - will essentially be treated in the same way as a lone parent (see above) while the other parent will be treated in the same way as claimants who have no children. In other words, if the lead carer is employed or self-employed but claims the UC in-work subsidy because of low earnings, the parent who is not the "lead carer" will be expected to look for a job as one of the conditions for the household receiving Universal Credit. Details can be found here (pages 5-7).

This is completely different from Working Tax Credits for couples with children, where a couple with 1 child or more can claim WTC if they work 24 hours a week between them (with 1 working at least 16 hours) ie the other parent is not required to seek paid employment, and this remains the case while ever the youngest child is in full time education. More

Self-Employment and Universal Credit (UC)

Universal Credit will also bring substantial changes for the self-employed as the Government envisages a Minimum Income Floor, which will apply after the first or "trial year" of self-employment (known as "the start-up period." Regulations on the Minimum Income Floor and the Start-up Year can be found here UC Self-Employed Welfare Reform Act The start-up period (exemption from assumed Minimum Income Floor and job-search requirements) relates to the first year of a new business, which must have begun trading in the 12 months preceding the claim for Universal Credit. See

"In future, if you are self-employed and on benefits, you may be moved onto Universal Credit if your circumstances have not changed for some time. If this happens, you will not be subject to a minimum income floor for the first six months of your claim. This will give you time to increase your earnings and makes sure that you do not lose out due to the change." GOV.UK UC + Self Employment Quick Guide Link reference updated February 2015

See also Guide UC Self Employment web page and UC Self Employment Briefing Paper 8 page pdf

GOV.UK Self Employment Tax Credits and move to Universal Credit
DWP Universal Credit Personal Planner
GOV.UK Self Employment UC Quick Guide updated February 2015

Access to Work + Self-Employment Disabled claimants and Small Earnings Exemption Class 2 National Insurance.

Universal Credit (UC) Sanctions

It is the standard personal allowance - and not eg the housing component or the amount allocated for dependent children - which will be reduced if the claimant fail without "good reason" to meet the conditionality requirements. More More about local administration of UC housing

Working Tax Credits Self-Employed Test

In the Autumn Statement 2014, the Government said that there would be a self-employment test from 2015 for Tax Credits, see paragraph 2.92 here via this page. This was not widely reported at the time, although Contact a Family did mention it.

As April approached, more details began to trickle out. GOV.UK said "From 6 April 2015, all new claimants who are using self-employed work to meet the qualifying remunerative work test for WTC, must show that they are trading on a commercial basis and their business is done with a view to achieving profits. The self-employment should also be structured, regular and ongoing. For example, if their business activity is a hobby it is not likely to be considered commercial or have an expectation of realising a profit."

The GOV.UK page then seemed to go on to talk about existing claimants. "Self-employed claimants with earnings below a threshold (this will be based on working hours and the National Minimum Wage) will be asked by HMRC to provide evidence that they are in a regular and organised trade, profession or vocation on a commercial basis and with a view to achieving a profit. The information we ask for should be available as part of normal business activity for example receipts and expenses, records of sales and purchases. We may also ask for supporting documents such as a business plan, planned work, cash flow and profit projections."

Further detailed guidance was supposed to be available on GOV.UK from April 6th 2015 although at the time of writing in November 2015, the guidance has not yet materialised. For example it is not clear whether there will be random checks of existing claimants, whether this will only apply to new claimants, or whether all claimants' earnings will be assessed against the National Minimum Wage.

NB this is not the same as the Minimum Income Floor for Universal Credit.

HMRC has given an answer here about hours, disability, self-employment, and evidence.

Revenue and Benefits provided a useful page in March 2015 noting that "the additional conditions from the Autumn Statement announcement, that a self-employed claimant must register as self-employed with HMRC for self-assessment and provide their unique taxpayer reference number with their wtc claim, have been postponed for introduction next year."

Lone Parent Income Support (IS)

Lone parents' entitlement to Income Support ceases once their youngest child reaches age 5. Income Support Regulations Gingerbread IS Information Sheet Changes in Income Support for lone parents with a child between 3 and 5 were introduced by the IS Work Related Activity Regulations 2014 A claimant with a child over 3 may be required to undertake work-related activity, and part of the benefit may be withdrawn for non-compliance, unless the claimant can show good cause. Gingerbread explains about work related activity here. These conditions will be replicated for lone parents as "lead carer" in Universal Credit.

Statistics 2014 "In the year up to and including March 2014, we imposed 42,900 sanctions on lone parents in receipt of Income Support. These sanctions were imposed upon 39,600 individual claims. This represents 5.6% of the Income Support lone parent client base in that 12 month period..."

Lone Parent Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)

Lone parents are eligible for Jobseeker's Allowance if they are seeking work of at least/no less than 16 hours a week See Link the Explanatory Note to Regulation 13A, The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Lone Parents) (Availability for Work) Regulations 2010 No. 837 which permits lone parents with a child under age 13 to restrict their working hours to the child's normal school hours. The JSA regime has been modified to take account of the caring responsibilities of all parents who have children living in their household.

Gingerbread Fact Sheet on Benefit Sanctions DWP Press Release April 7th 2014 From 28 April 2014, first interview at Jobcentre, adviser will check what claimant has done to make themselves employable prior to claiming JSA. To make a successful claim for Jobseeker's Allowance the lone parent must sign an agreement to look for at least/no less than 16 hours work a week During the course of the JSA claim, the lone parent will be expected to sign on at the JobCentre once a fortnight. Failure to attend interviews or to comply with requirements of the JSA regime may ultimately result in the parent's personal allowance being cut by 40%. Jobseeker's Allowance is made up of a personal allowance for the adult claimant plus an allowance for children, also known as Child Tax Credit. It should be noted that the Child Tax Credit element of the JSA payment will not be cut. (See the Gingerbread JSA Fact Sheet for more information.) The only parents permitted to remain on Income Support after their children reach the maximum qualifying age will be those who receive Carer's Allowance. Entitlement to CA is only triggered by being the official carer for someone entitled to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at medium or high rate.

Click here for information about postal signing for claimants who live more than an hour from the nearest JobCentre (by public transport).

In 2011 Minister Chris Grayling assured MPs that "Jobcentre Plus cannot instruct a grandparent to look after a child. We recognise the importance of informal child care—in many family situations, it may be the best option available — but Jobcentre Plus cannot require a third-party adult to provide unpaid, informal child care."

Home Educating Lone Parents

"While people will need to demonstrate that they have made genuine efforts to locate such childcare, this will provide lone parents who educate their children at home with protection if no local services that meet their needs are available." Read the letter from Minister Chris Grayling about home educators on JSA here.

The regulations for home educating lone parents are the same as for all other lone parents. While receiving benefits home educating lone parents must attend mandatory Work Focused Interviews or face benefit sanctions unless different arrangements have been agreed in advance with the JobCentre. Home educating lone parents who take the view that home education is a full time job and that therefore the parent is not in any conceivable circumstances available for paid work will not meet the requirements of Jobseeker's Allowance. Home educators who refuse to consider any options for formal childcare in order to be available for work will also not meet the requirements of Jobseeker's Allowance, Staff at the JobCentre should not suggest using school or older siblings for childcare purposes so that the home educating lone parent can take a job. Nor should staff at the JobCentre suggest that children may be left alone while the parent goes out to work. If there is no appropriate affordable childcare, the home educating lone parent is currently entitled to turn down a job offer or to leave a job.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

PIP map PIP reassessment new areas from 23 February 2015 Details Map to download GOV.UK Timetable (UPDATED JUNE 2015 Fixed period DLA awards ending; young people turning 16; change in the claimant’s condition or disability; + existing DLA claimants opting for PIP claim. See this link> about bringing forward PIP for indefinite/fixed term DLA awards announced June 2015.)

Contact-a-Family Tax Credits + PIP + including points for Daily Living and Mobility (pages 17-21)

DWP Updated PIP Assessment Guide published May 28th 2014. Line by line comparison new PIP Guide May 29th 2014 here

Changes to Access to Work May 2015

Future of Access to Work published May 8th 2015, via

Capping amount paid on Access to Work, pages 10-14; Self-employed: pages 18-20 (putting forward minimum income floor in line with proposals for Universal Credit). 32 page file.

Care Act Overview May 2015

Care Act Overview May 2015

Bedroom Tax (Under-occupancy Penalty)

Rightsnet on Overnight Carer Case updated August 5th 2014 Overnight Carer Case Upper Tribunal upholds claimant SD v Eastleigh Borough Council (HB) (Housing and council tax benefits other) [2014] UKUT 325 (AAC) (09 July 2014) "A bedroom cannot be switched on and off ... there is nothing in the word “regularly” that requires that the carer must be required to stay overnight on the majority of nights for the claimant to meet the criterion."

Rutherford supported by CPAG (grandparents care for disabled grandson) The judicial review challenge has been dismissed by the High Court because the family has been granted a discretionary housing payment. Further commentary on the Rutherford case here, highlighting the fact that DWP only won because Discretionary Housing Payments were in place for the foreseeable future.

DWP circular confirming that new regulations implementing the Court of Appeal’s ruling in the Gorry case (disabled child requiring own room, not expected to share) Paul Lewis on Bedroom Tax DWP Discretionary Housing Payments 2013

Representing Yourself in Court + Legal Aid Legal Aid via

People representing themselves in court are known as "litigant in person". This practice is likely to increase following the huge cuts to the legal aid budget as a result of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Litigant In Person Guide Bar Council Litigant in Person Guide

Welfare Legal Aid Contract Awards

Legal Aid Tenders Archive Legal Aid Tenders GOV.UK

Useful Links Legal Aid Checker Legal Aid eligibility check for civil cases (ie NOT School Attendance Order prosecution which is criminal) such as Consumer (eg you’re denied a service due to your sex or race); Debt (eg bankruptcy, mortgage debt); Discrimination (eg you’re treated unfairly due to your sex, race, etc); Education (eg special educational needs); Employment (eg unfair treatment at work); Family (eg divorce, separation, contact with your child); Housing (eg eviction, landlord harassment); Immigration (eg advice about asylum); Welfare benefits (eg disagreeing with a benefits decision)

GOV.UK Exceptional Cases Legal Aid Funding The Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) introduced the practice of applying for Exceptional Case Funding or (ECF) which is made where a case falls outside the scope of legal aid but the client or conducting solicitor believes there is evidence to support there being a requirement to provide funding because failure to do so would be a breach of their Convention rights. A typical application is in private family law proceedings concerning the right of contact with and residence of the applicant's child. Only 8 ECF applications of this type were granted during 2013-14, with 574 refused and 216 rejected.

Rightsnet forum Help with Child Care costs incurred other than when claimant is working Tips on JSA and ESA sanction appeals and claiming Hardship Payments
Turn2us Fact Sheets Benefits Cap; Universal Credit; Council Tax Benefit; Housing Benefit; Social Fund; Disability Living Allowance
Latest ESA 50 questionnaire interactive guide
Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996
Shelter Guide to Housing Benefit Appeals
Shelter Homeless Help Families with Children
PIP Regulations
GOV.UK Web page Welfare Reform Act Regulations
Jane Young on Motability Rules
Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance may be claimed online. It is necessary first to register with Government Gateway and receive a unique ID number through the post
Two grades of PIP vs 3 grades of Disability Living Allowance
Disability premium cut from £54 to £27 pw
GOV.UK New Enterprise Allowance
Mortgage Help, Money Saving Expert


The Welfare Reform Act 2012 will in theory mostly come into force by 2017. Welfare rights cases have been taken out of the scope of Legal Aid. Child Poverty Action Group Welfare Handbook GOV.UK Advice for DWP decision makers DWP Decision Makers Guides on GOV.UK for DWP staff who make decisions about benefits and pensions (except UC, PIP on previous link) updated March 30th 2015.

Carers' Working Tax Credits (WTC)

Couples continue to receive tax credits IF one partner works 16 hours per week AND their partner is entitled to Carer’s Allowance. See here Income Support may be claimed when a person is receiving Carer’s Allowance which is payable where the person cared for gets the middle or highest rate of disability living allowance (DLA) care component

Childcare Tax Credits

If you are responsible for a child and pay for childcare you can claim if you work at least 16 hours a week. (Couples would both usually have to work at least 16 hours a week each unless one is incapacitated and getting a benefit for disability or illness or is entitled to Carer's Allowance.) You can claim childcare costs for any child up to the Saturday following September 1st after their 15th birthday.

To get help with childcare costs via tax credits in England, your childcare provider must be properly registered or approved. Your childcare provider needs to be registered on the Ofsted Early Years Register if your child is under 5; registered on the Ofsted compulsory part of the General Childcare Register if your child is aged 5 to 7; registered on the Ofsted voluntary part of the General Childcare Register if your child is age 8 or over. Some providers such as nannies who provide care in the child's own home don't need to register but if you use this type of provider and you want to get tax credits help with childcare costs, your provider must register on the voluntary part of the General Childcare Register.

To get help with childcare costs via tax credits in Wales your childcare provider must be registered with the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) or someone approved by the Approval of Child Care Providers (Wales) Scheme 2007 providing childcare in the child's home.

See HMRC Guide Childcare Tax Credits for more details about childcare tax credits in England and Wales.

Tax Credits (TC) for post-16 Home Education

Tax Credits are payable for children under the age of 16 and for children over the age of 16 who are in full-time education, including home education. Home education is recognised as a valid form of full-time education for Child Benefit and for Child Tax Credit purposes. More

Links Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) + Tax Credits (TC)

Some changes to Tax Credits announced in the July Budget were reversed in the Autumn Statement 2015. Quick Guide to JSA Sanctions
Responsibility Childcare School Holidays The Social Security (Lone Parents and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2008
Contact a Family Guide to Tax Credits
Tax Credits Case Law
Gingerbread JSA Lone Parents (+ References to Government Regulations)
HMRC Guide Childcare Tax Credits
DWP benefit changes info archived
Gingerbread Fact Sheet JSA
Gingerbread Fact Sheet Tax Credits
Gingerbread Fact Sheet Income Support
GOV.UK Child Tax Credit

Benefit Cap

Legal Challenge Against Benefit Cap Fails Supreme Court judgement March 18th 2015. Cumulative Impact Welfare Reforms SSAC April 2014.

The Government also limits the amount of Housing Benefit that can be paid for certain types of privately rented property. This is known as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). Parliamentary Briefing Paper Housing Benefit GOV.UK on Benefit Cap Turn 2 Us Benefit Cap Information See Shelter on LHA Phased Introduction Benefit Cap

Click here for Ofsted guidance on home education to inspectors, April 2015.

Link Reference

This article is The following links to other websites are contained in the article, displayed as citations to aid you in printing the document.

  1. 1 page tracked changes pdf
  3. This map
  5. UC Self Employment Briefing Paper
  6. More about local administration of UC housing
  7. Contact a Family
  8. Revenue and Benefits
  9. Regulations
  10. Citizens Advice Bureau Guide to Working Tax Credit
  11. Tax Credits Guide from Contact-a-Family
  12. Tax Credits Self-Employed
  13. Tax Credits Self Employment
  14. Turn2Us Guide Tax Credits Self Employed
  15. Rightsnet forum: Working Tax Credit minimum hours/earnings
  16. HMRC Manual Tax Credits Guide Self Employed
  17. Income Support Regulations
  18. here
  21. Link
  22. the Gingerbread JSA Fact Sheet
  23. here
  24. In 2011 Minister Chris Grayling
  27. here
  28. this link
  29. Care Act Overview
  30. Overnight Carer Case
  31. here
  32. DWP Discretionary Housing Payments
  34. Litigant In Person Guide
  35. Bar Council Litigant in Person Guide
  36. Legal Aid Tenders Archive
  37. Legal Aid Checker
  38. Rightsnet forum
  40. Turn2us Fact Sheets
  41. Latest ESA 50 questionnaire interactive guide
  42. Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996
  43. Shelter Guide to Housing Benefit Appeals
  44. Shelter Homeless Help Families with Children
  45. PIP Regulations
  46. Jane Young on Motability Rules
  47. Two grades of PIP
  48. Disability premium cut from £54 to £27 pw
  49. Mortgage Help, Money Saving Expert
  50. DWP Decision Makers Guides on GOV.UK
  51. here
  52. Carer’s Allowance
  53. More
  54. Responsibility Childcare School Holidays
  55. Contact a Family Guide to Tax Credits
  56. Tax Credits Case Law
  57. Gingerbread JSA Lone Parents
  58. DWP benefit changes info archived
  59. Gingerbread Fact Sheet JSA
  60. Gingerbread Fact Sheet Tax Credits
  61. Gingerbread Fact Sheet Income Support
  62. Cumulative Impact Welfare Reforms
  63. Phased Introduction Benefit Cap
  64. MWA Regulations 2011
  65. MWA + Lack Suitable Childcare
  66. PIP Regulations
  67. PIP Regulations Transitional Provisions
  68. UC Regulations
  69. PIP Regulations 2013
  70. UC Transitional Provision Regulations
  71. Welfare Reform Act Commencement + Transitional Provisions
  72. Turn2Us UC Overview