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Last updated:
19/06/2020

What changes in circumstances affect Universal Credit?

When claiming Universal Credit, you need to inform the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about changes to your life. We explain what changes in circumstance affect Universal Credit.

A change in circumstances can impact how much Universal Credit you receive and what activities you are expected to do in your Claimant Commitment.

You should tell the DWP about any change in your circumstances. It's better to report something even if you're unsure if you need to. Your claim might be stopped, or you could receive a sanction if you do not report a change immediately.

Changes in a circumstance that you need to report can include but are not limited to:

  • Becoming employed.
  • Becoming unemployed.
  • Giving birth to a child.
  • Moving in with your partner.
  • Starting to care for a child or disabled person.
  • Moving house.
  • Changing your bank details.
  • Changes to the amount of rent you pay.
  • Changes to your health.
  • Changes to your physical or mental health which means you can't work or attend meetings with your work coach.
  • Changes to your earnings if you're self-employed.

When reporting a change in circumstance, you may also be required to send evidence to the DWP.

Changes in your physical or mental health

If your health changes for the better or worse, you will need to inform the DWP immediately. This can include:

  • If your mental health condition has gotten worse or improved.
  • If you are ill.
  • If you have an injury or illness that makes it hard for you to look for work.
  • If either you or your partner goes into or leaves hospital.
  • If either you or your partner goes into or leaves a care home.
  • If you have a terminal illness.

If you have been sick for more than seven days, you will be required to get a fit note from your doctor. When you receive this, you will need to upload it to your online Universal Credit account. If you can't add a fit note to your account, you must ring the DWP helpline immediately.

If you are ill for more than 14 days, you will be classed with as having a long-term illness. If you can prove you have 'limited capability for work' you will not be required to work.

You will need to fill in a UC50 form and attend a Work Capability Assessment - a test to decide if you can claim Universal Credit with a limited capability for work element.

If your recent change in health is stopping you from completing your work activities, you should ask your work coach to change your Universal Credit Claimant Commitment.

Temporarily sick and self-employed

If you're self-employed and temporarily too ill to work, you should call the DWP to request them to treat you as not being in gainful self-employment while you're sick.

This would mean your Universal Credit payment should be higher as the minimum income floor wouldn't apply. Find out more about claiming Universal Credit when self-employed.

Employment changes

If your employment changes whether that's paid or voluntary, you should tell the DWP. Earning more money could reduce your Universal Credit, but you may also see a reduction in the work-related activity you are required to do.

If you are unfortunate enough to lose your job, your Universal Credit may increase, but you will then be expected to dedicate more time to looking for new work.

You could be given a Universal Credit sanction if you leave your job without good reason, or you have been dismissed for misconduct.

You don't need to inform the DWP about a change in your earnings if you are employed as they will automatically receive this information from HMRC.

Money, savings and benefit changes

You need to inform the DWP if you have any of the following money, savings or benefit changes:

  • You have changed your bank details.
  • You have started claiming a new benefit.
  • You have stopped receiving a benefit.
  • You have received a one-off payment such as inheritance.
  • You have received a new income which isn't through work.

Remember if you have more than £6,000 in savings your Universal Credit will be reduced and if you have more than £16,000 in savings, you will no longer be eligible.

Changes with where you live

If you have had a change in circumstances in the address you live at you should report the following to the DWP:

  • Your rent increases or decreases.
  • You have moved home.
  • Someone has moved out of your home.
  • Someone has moved into your home.

To continue to claim Universal Credit, you must also inform the DWP if you have any time planned outside of the UK.

Your Universal Credit payment will continue for a maximum of one month, but you will still be expected to complete any work-related activities to avoid a Universal Credit sanction.

Relationship changes

Changes in your relationship can be complicated when claiming Universal Credit and should be reported to the DWP immediately if:

  • You move in with a partner.
  • You break up with a partner (You will need to explain who is responsible for any children you have).
  • You break up with a partner but continue to live together.

Moving in with a partner

If you move in with a partner, you won't be required to make a new Universal Credit claim. Your existing claim will end, but the DWP will automatically switch you to a joint claim.

If either of you were claiming any legacy benefit which Universal Credit has replaced, those payments would stop.

If you split up from your partner

If you split up with a partner, your Universal Credit claim will continue, but the next payment will be as a single person.

If you were responsible for any children, you would need to inform the DWP who is now responsible. If you can't agree, the DWP will make their own decision based on where the child usually lives.

If you split up but still live together

If you have split up with your partner but are still living together, you should always report this to the DWP and ask for separate claims.

You will need to explain why you are still living together. For example, you can't afford to move out at the moment.

You will also have to prove you are independent of the relationship. For example, you don't share a bedroom, you don't socialise together and have separate finances.

Changes related to your children

When claiming Universal Credit, you need to inform the DWP if you're pregnant, adopt or foster a child they are not already aware of.

Children are classed as under the age of 16, or 20 if in non-advanced full-time education.

Universal Credit allows you to receive extra income for one or two children. If you have a third child, you won't typically receive any additional payments, but you must still inform the DWP.

You should tell the DWP if any of your children:

  • Are disabled.
  • Have left full-time education.
  • Have left home.
  • Have gone into local care.
  • Have gone to prison.

How to report a change in circumstances to the DWP

There are two ways you can report a change in circumstance when you claim Universal Credit:

  1. Sign into your online Universal Credit account and report the change.
  2. Phone the Universal Credit helpline to report a change.

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