Benefits,Welfare Reform,Universal Credit

Universal Credit for Couples and Families

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.

Letter from Lord Freud to Baroness Hollis to 'clarify the changes of circumstances that would give rise to somebody moving from working tax credit to universal credit' here (February 2016) November 2016 after the Autumn Statement: Impact of changes to Universal Credit, National Living Wage and tax-free Personal Allowance on the net income of two example families, under four scenarios.

As 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 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 in future 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 See also home educator's blog and my 2 blog posts Universal Credit and Families 1 Universal Credit and Families 2

1/ Full Service Claim Areas Universal Credit

The GOV.UK page on Universal Credit (last updated February 2017) has a list of JobCentres where Universal Credit is in operation NB there is no official start date in sight for UC claimants who are parents AND ALSO self-employed.

Universal Credit Full Service Map Most areas are still not taking UC claims from people with children. GOV.UK page. See also including maps, from the House of Commons Library March 2017. Full rollout is not anticipated to be finished until March 2022.

The screenshot map on the right with a few areas coloured pink (and coral) shows the limited "full UC service area" - including the self-employed, click here for the interactive version.

This page from the "Entitled To" website sets out the plan for adding more postcodes to the full service area: February 2017 Corby; Southampton; Newcastle East; Warrington; Poplar. March 2017: Hinckley; Dalkeith; Penicuik; Newcastle West; City Tower, followed by 5 jobcentres a month up to June 2017; 30 jobcentres a month from July 2017; 55 jobcentres a month between October and December 2017; 65 jobcentres a month from February 2018, and the final 57 jobcentres in September 2018. The current plan is for existing benefit claims not transferred during this period due to a change of circumstances to be migrated between July 2019 and March 2022. Check Turn2us for JobCentres which already accept the full digital service. Guidance on full digtal service from Revenue and Benefits says that existing tax credit claimants are currently unaffected by the roll-out of UC. Their awards of tax credits will continue at present until DWP introduce rules to migrate those people across to UC. DWP current plans are to migrate remaining tax credit claimants to UC from July 2019 to March 2022. See also Contact a Family guide to UC + disabled child NEW CLAIM in full service area.

Citizen's Advice on Universal Credit and self employment; Live Service Areas Revenue and Benefits.

NB the text box accompanying the full service map says "In the digital/full service areas the 'gateway' restrictions do not apply. UC replaces new claims for Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. It includes almost the complete Universal Credit design case-mix (including disabled claimants, carers, the self-employed, etc who cannot currently make a new claim anywhere else). (The digital/full-service areas are shown in pink on the map)."

2/ Family Claim Areas Universal Credit

Universal Credit Gateway With Children Map

The screenshot map on the left with a block down the North West coloured green shows the "Gateway with children" claim areas. Click here for the interactive version.

The latest DWP leaflet on Universal Credit for Families last updated April 2016 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.

"You cannot make a new claim for Universal Credit if one or more children in the household is receiving Disability Living Allowance". NB THIS DOES NOT APPLY IN THE FULL SERVICE AREA, ONLY IN THE GATEWAY AREA.

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.

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 Quick Guide updated September 2016

Universal Credit Disability

Holes in the Safety Net: The impact of Universal Credit on disabled people and their families, Children's Society, Disability Rights UK and Citizen's Advice Report June 2016

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 Credit Useful Links

Regulations Statutory Instrument 2015 No. 605 The Working Tax Credit (Entitlement and Maximum Rate) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 came into force April 6th 2015
Citizens Advice Bureau Guide to Working Tax Credit
Tax Credits Guide from Contact-a-Family
Tax Credits Self Employment (Revenue and Benefits)
Turn2Us Guide Self Employed In Work Benefits
Rightsnet forum Working Tax Credit minimum hours/earnings
HMRC Manual Tax Credits Guide Self Employed

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)

DWP, March 2015: "The Department can confirm that that the Jobcentres cannot suggest school as appropriate child care to a home educating parent claiming job seekers allowance when offered a job. There are flexibilities within the JSA regime to cater for the needs and personal circumstances of parents whilst they are looking for paid work of 16 hours or more per week, including those who wish to educate their child(ren) at home.

Additionally, lone parents may restrict their availability for jobs to their child’s normal school hours until the child is 13. Parents who educate their child(ren) at home are therefore treated in the same way as all other parents.

The Jobcentre would not expect a parent leave a child alone at home whilst they go out to work. People will need to demonstrate that they have made genuine efforts to locate childcare, this will provide parents who educate their children at home with protection if no local services that meet their needs are available."

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.

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."

"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.

Disability Living Allowance and Transfer to Personal Independence Payment

Changes 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 2015

Consolidated Statutory Guidance Social Care and Support

Consolidated Statutory Guidance Social Care and Support November 2016

Bedroom Tax (Under-occupancy Penalty)

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). Supreme Court February 29th 2016 to March 2nd (DWP Housing Benefit Bulletin November 9th 2016 in respect of Supreme Court Judgment backing Rutherford and Carmichael need for extra bedroom on "medical" grounds.

December 2013 SI 2828 Regulations implementing the Court of Appeal’s ruling in the Gorry case (disabled child requiring own room, not expected to share) after DWP decided not to take it to the Supreme Court. Paul Lewis on Bedroom Tax 2016 UKUT 164 AAC Upper Tribunal, "the room should be capable of accommodating a single adult bed, a bedside table and somewhere to store clothes (see paragraph 33 of Nelson), as well as providing space for dressing and undressing."

Representing Yourself in Court + Legal Aid

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) 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

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.

Legal Aid Tenders GOV.UK

Useful Links

Guidance about how income from self employed earnings is calculated is in paragraphs W2.310 – W2.471 and Annex A of Chapter BW2 of the Housing Benefit Guidance Manual

Rightsnet forum Help with Child Care costs incurred other than when claimant is working
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
Two grades of PIP vs 3 grades of Disability Living Allowance
Disability premium cut from £54 to £27 pw
Mortgage Help, Money Saving Expert

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 2015 Budget were reversed in the Autumn Statement 2015
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). GOV.UK on Benefit Cap See Shelter on LHA

Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Employment Support Allowance

  • CAF Guide to 16+ Disability Benefits Young people claiming income-related ESA (+ how this affects other family benefits) backdating, evidence, points system, limited capability for work, permitted work,
  • Contact-a-Family PIP Guide
    PIP Regulations
    PIP Regulations Transitional Provisions
    UC Regulations
    PIP Regulations 2013
    UC Transitional Provision Regulations
    Welfare Reform Act Commencement + Transitional Provisions
    Turn2Us UC Overview
    Cuts to ESA WRAG

    Some changes to Tax Credits announced in the July 2015 Budget were reversed in the Autumn Statement 2015. Further information about the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 can be found here

    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. here
    2. Universal Credit and Families 2
    3. This page
    4. Contact a Family
    5. Live Service Areas
    7. Report June 2016
    8. More about local administration of UC housing
    9. Regulations
    10. Tax Credits Guide from Contact-a-Family
    11. Tax Credits Self Employment
    12. Income Support Regulations
    13. here
    16. Link
    17. at least/no less than 16 hours work a week
    18. the Gingerbread JSA Fact Sheet
    19. In 2011 Minister Chris Grayling
    20. Cerebra Guide to Filling in DLA Forms
    23. Contact-a-Family PIP Overview
    24. CAF Guide to 16+ Disability Benefits
    25. PIP Guide + Passporting Arrangements
    26. Carer's Allowance
    27. Benefits and Work
    28. Cerebra's DLA Guide
    29. DLA Guide from Parent
    30. Contact-a-Family PIP Overview
    31. National Autistic Society PIP Guide
    32. The CAF PIP Guide
    33. PIP Guide + Passporting Arrangements
    34. Care Act Overview
    35. Overnight Carer Case
    36. backing Rutherford and Carmichael
    37. Paul Lewis on Bedroom Tax
    38. 2016 UKUT 164 AAC
    39. DWP Decision Makers Guides on GOV.UK
    40. Bar Council Litigant in Person Guide
    42. Rightsnet forum
    43. Latest ESA 50 questionnaire interactive guide
    44. Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996
    45. Shelter Guide to Housing Benefit Appeals
    46. Shelter Homeless Help Families with Children
    47. PIP Regulations
    48. Two grades of PIP
    49. Disability premium cut from £54 to £27 pw
    50. Mortgage Help, Money Saving Expert
    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. Shelter on LHA
    64. MWA Regulations 2011
    65. MWA + Lack Suitable Childcare
    66. CAF Guide to 16+ Disability Benefits
    67. Contact-a-Family PIP Guide
    68. PIP Regulations
    69. PIP Regulations Transitional Provisions
    70. UC Regulations
    71. PIP Regulations 2013
    72. UC Transitional Provision Regulations
    73. Welfare Reform Act Commencement + Transitional Provisions
    74. reversed in the Autumn Statement 2015
    75. here