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Last updated:
18/06/2020

How will Universal Credit affect my ESA?

Universal Credit is replacing Employment Support Allowance (ESA). If you are unable to work because of a physical or mental health disability, you may be able to claim Universal Credit. We explain what this means for you, how Universal Credit will affect your ESA and the differences between the two benefits.

If you receive ESA because you can't work because of sickness or a physical or mental health disability, how Universal Credit will affect your ESA will depend on several factors:

  • Current ESA claim.
  • Other benefits.
  • National Insurance Contribution record.
  • household income and savings.

Income-related ESA and Universal Credit

You can't claim Universal Credit alongside Income-related ESA. You will need to claim Universal Credit if you're not claiming Child Tax Credits and you start:

  • Working 16 hours or more a week that isn't 'permitted work'.
  • Earning more than £131.50 from work that isn't 'permitted work'.

If you're also claiming Child Tax Credits, you will be able to remain on most of your current benefits and claim Working Tax Credits. However, you will no longer receive income-related ESA.

New-style ESA and Universal Credit

If you're currently claiming new-style Employment and Support Allowance and need extra support with housing costs or family support, you may be able to claim Universal Credit alongside new-style ESA.

Contributory ESA and Universal Credit

You will continue to claim contributory ESA if you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions but don't qualify for Universal Credit. This could be for the following reasons:

  • Your partner's earnings are too high.
  • You don't need to claim any elements of Universal Credit.

When will I move from ESA to Universal Credit?

The date you move from ESA to Universal Credit will be determined by whether or not your circumstances have changed or not.

Change in circumstances

You will typically need to switch from ESA to Universal Credit if your circumstances have changed significantly. This may include the following:

If this happens, all legacy benefits you are currently getting that are being replaced by Universal Credit will also stop.

If you have been moved over to Universal Credit from a legacy benefit - known as natural migration - the amount of Universal Credit you get could be more or less than the benefits you get now.

No change in circumstances

If your circumstances haven't changed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you about moving to Universal Credit - this is called managed migration.

If you haven't had a change in circumstances, you will be able to claim Transitional Protection. Universal Credit transitional protection is a top-up award which ensures you are not financially worse off when you claim Universal Credit.

Claiming Universal Credit instead of ESA

If you have to claim Universal Credit instead of ESA, you will need to apply for the limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) element of Universal Credit.

To claim the LCWRA element of Universal Credit, you will need to have a fit note from your doctor - read our guide on applying for Universal Credit.

You will attend a Work Capability Assessment which will assess how your illness or physical or mental health disability affects your ability to work. You will be classed as:

  • You're fit to work.
  • You have limited capability for work (you are unfit to work now, but can prepare to return to work in the future).
  • You have limited capability for work and work-related activity (you are declared unable to work and won't need to look or prepare for work).

Will I get less money on Universal Credit compared to ESA?

The Universal Credit monthly payment is made up of a basic standard allowance and extra payments - known as elements that may apply to you depending on your circumstances.

Depending on what you are entitled to, your Universal Credit payment might be more or less than the amount you're getting for your current benefits.

The limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) element replaces income-related ESA. For 2020/21, the LCWRA rate of Universal Credit is £341.92.

Note

When migrated to Universal Credit from ESA, you may be able to get the LCWRA element at the start of your claim. You should be entitled to this payment if you received the 'support group' component as part of your ESA claim when you transferred to Universal Credit.

What if my mental health affects my ability to make a Universal Credit claim?

If you're struggling to make a Universal Credit claim because of a mental health condition, you may be able to get an extension when applying. You will need to tell the DWP when they contact you about moving to Universal Credit.

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