Move to UC

Universal Credit is designed to replace the following benefits: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

These are known as legacy benefits.

HM Revenue & Customs have recently sent out leaflets to people on Tax Credits to inform them about the Move to UC. This is not an instruction to make a claim to Universal Credit, and you do not need to do anything in response at this stage, although we would encourage you to get in touch on 0800 915 4604 or with your local advice centre if you have any queries or concerns about moving to UC.

The Department for Communities in Northern Ireland has announced that it will start sending out formal Migration Notices to people on Tax Credits from Monday 16 October. We strongly advise people not to make a claim for UC before they receive their Migration Notice. You will be able to recognise a Migration Notice because it will show both the Universal Credit Northern Ireland and HM Revenue & Customs logos and have the heading ‘Universal Credit Migration Notice’. In addition, it must, by law, give an exact date by which you need to make a claim for UC.

Ultimately, all legacy benefit claimants will be required to claim UC. For some, this will happen because they have a change of circumstances that means they are no longer entitled to their existing benefit and their only option is to claim UC. Other people might think they are better off claiming UC and choose to make a claim. In both cases, this is known as natural migration. However, given that you cannot go back to legacy benefits once you have registered a claim for UC, and in most cases will not be entitled to transitional protection (see below), we are urging people not to gamble without seeking independent advice about what is the best choice for them.

Remaining legacy benefit recipients will fall under the managed migration process (also known as Move to UC) and at some point in the near future they will receive a letter from the Department for Communities informing them that they have to claim Universal Credit. It will not be possible to delay the Move to UC at this stage, as failing to make a claim as instructed will result in entitlement to benefit ending.

More information about Move to UC is available at nidirect:

Move to UC


When will I have to move to UC?

In April 2023 the Department for Communities issued notices to 500 people in the Andersonstown and Enniskillen areas instructing them to claim UC. If you are one of those affected and did not make a claim, get in touch with your local advice centre for assistance.

Remaining legacy benefit claimants will be brought across to Universal Credit in stages so that the process is easier to manage and support can be targeted. The first group that is being moved are those in receipt of either Child or Working Tax Credit and none of the other legacy benefits. From 16 October 2023 the Department will start issuing Migration Notices to these people. If this applies to you, you will have 3 months from the date on the Migration Notice letter to make a claim for UC.

People on income-based JSA, Income Support and Housing Benefit will not receive a Migration Notice at this stage. We expect that the Move to UC will commence for these claimants sometime in 2024, but the Department has not confirmed its timetable.

We do know, however, that the migration of income-related ESA claims has been delayed until 2028 at the earliest, as this was announced by the Chancellor in his 2022 Autumn Statement.


Migration Notice

When the Department for Communities decide that it is time for you to move to Universal Credit they will send out a letter called a Migration Notice. This is a formal letter instructing people on legacy benefits to make a claim for Universal Credit. It should also provide all the information needed to make a claim and access any support you might require.

Once you receive a Migration Notice you will have 3 months from the date of the letter to make a claim for Universal Credit. After that time, your claim to legacy benefits will expire. Whilst there may be grounds to backdate the Universal Credit claim by up to a month in some cases, we would advise claimants not to rely on this and emphasise that this could cause a delay in receiving UC payments.

Given the complexities of making a claim for UC, which usually involves setting up and managing the claim online and potentially waiting up to 5 weeks for the first payment, we would strongly encourage you to seek independent advice to help prepare you for the move to UC.

You do not need to wait for the Migration Notice to begin getting ready for the move to UC. See the Making a claim section for more information about documentation you might need and support for those who might not be able to manage a claim for themselves. If you lack digital confidence, consider signing up for a course to improve your capacity.

More information about claiming Universal Credit when you receive a Migration Notice can be accessed at nidirect:

Universal Credit if you receive a Migration Notice letter


Transitional Protection

One big advantage of waiting for the managed migration of your legacy benefit claim is that you will be entitled to a transitional element, which should ensure that the amount of UC you receive is the same as the amount of your legacy benefits. This protection is not available to those who move to UC voluntarily or as a result of natural migration, with the exception of those people entitled to the Severe Disability Premium in their legacy benefit award.

There is also a transitional capital disregard for people moving from Tax Credits, which will mean that any property, savings or investments over £16,000 are ignored for the first 12 months, allowing the UC claim to go ahead. However, capital up to £16,000 will still be counted and an assumed income taken into account, and if you still have capital in excess of £16,000 after 12 months your UC award will end.

Transitional protection should be applied automatically to your UC claim by the Department of Communities. However, it will not be included if there is a gap between the end of your legacy benefit award and the start of your UC claim. Decisions about transitional protection can be disputed in the normal way by asking the Department to look again at their assessment, so ask for help from your local advice centre if you have any reason to think that you are not receiving your full entitlement.

It is important to note that the transitional protection is not a permanent feature of UC. The transitional element will reduce according to later increases in other elements to which you are entitled, and it will not be affected by up-rating, which is the yearly review of benefit rates that is supposed to reflect inflation. In addition, certain changes, like a partner moving into or out of the household, will result in all forms of transitional protection stopping altogether.

More information about transitional protection is available from Turn2us, but please note that some of the detail is specific to Great Britain:

Universal Credit (UC) transitional protection


Legacy benefit run-on

Anyone who moves directly from Housing Benefit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or income-related Employment and Support Allowance onto Universal Credit will be entitled to an additional two-week payment of their legacy benefit, known as a run-on.

A run-on should be applied automatically with no specific action from the claimant, whether the claim for Universal Credit is made voluntarily, due to a change of circumstances, or following receipt of a Migration Notice. However, the claim for Universal Credit needs to be made while still in receipt of the legacy benefit for the run-on to apply.

The purpose of the run-on is to mitigate some of the financial risk associated with the five-week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit, thereby avoiding the need for claimants to apply for an Advance loan and thereby fall into debt as a result.

Note that there is no run-on of Child or Working Tax Credit. People moving from Tax Credits will need to consider other forms of financial support that are available if they are unable to manage before their first payment of Universal Credit.

Further information about claiming Universal Credit while receiving other benefits is available at nidirect:

Universal Credit if you're claiming other benefits or tax credits