What people need to know about before claiming Universal Credit.
This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
Universal Credit (UC) is replacing means-tested social security benefits and tax credits (“legacy benefits”) for working-age households. It is administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Great Britain, and by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland.
UC has been available in all parts of the United Kingdom since December 2018. The full caseload rollout of Universal Credit, when everyone who would have claimed legacy benefits is claiming UC, is not expected to be completed until 2028/29 at the earliest.
Below are links to sources of information which may be of use to people dealing with constituency casework concerning UC.
Information on GOV.UK
As well as high level introductory information, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has GOV.UK pages linking to more detailed guides for different audiences:
- Universal Credit: detailed information for claimants
- Universal Credit: information for stakeholders and partners
- Universal Credit: information for employers
- Universal Credit: information for landlords
DWP Understanding Universal Credit website
There is more structured information on Universal Credit and on how to make and maintain a claim for UC at the DWP’s Understanding Universal Credit website. It also has sections giving information for landlords, and for organisations and individuals helping UC claimants. A Universal Credit guide finder (PDF) gives links to all the official information available for landlords, claimants and anyone supporting them.
Universal Credit Guidance
The DWP’s Universal Credit Guidance consists of over 190 chapters covering all aspects of UC and its administration, including claims and payments, how awards are calculated, conditionality and sanctions, and special rules for particular groups. Updated chapters are deposited in the House of Commons Library every six months by the DWP, but they are more easily accessible via an A-Z list on the Rightsnet website – see Universal Credit Guidance.
Guidance for DWP decision makers
Decisions about entitlement to Universal Credit and other DWP benefits are made by DWP officials called ‘Decision Makers’ (DMs).
Guidance for decision makers on Universal Credit is set out in the DWP’s Advice for decision making (ADM) collection, which also covers other benefits introduced since 2013, including Personal Independence Payment.
The ADM home page begins with a list of updates (“ADM Memos”), with the most recent appearing first. The ADM chapters containing the guidance – starting with Chapter A1 and ending with Chapter V8 – can be found by scrolling down the page.
The ADM summarises relevant legislation and case law but does not in itself have any force in law. While the guidance is very detailed it is also often highly technical and can be difficult to navigate. The DWP has produced a list of abbreviations (PDF) used in the ADM and a list of legislation (PDF) cited in it.
Universal Credit legislation
The main statute for Universal Credit is the Welfare Reform Act 2012, but more detailed rules are set out in regulations (“Statutory Instruments” or SIs) made under the 2012 Act. There are several SIs covering the UC rules. The most significant are the Universal Credit Regulations 2013, SI 2013/376.
Updated versions of the 2012 Act and of UC SIs – incorporating amendments made by subsequent legislation – are available on legislation.gov.uk. The default view for each piece of social security legislation on legislation.gov.uk should be the ‘Latest available (Revised)’ version. However, very recent amendments may not have been incorporated – the website should indicate where changes to the text of legislation are still to be made.
Guides from other organisations
A number of organisations produce hard copy guides which cover the UC rules in detail. These include:
- Child Poverty Action Group, Welfare benefits and tax credits handbook (annual publication)
- Child Poverty Action Group, Universal Credit: what you need to know
- Disability Rights UK, Disability Rights Handbook (annual publication)
There are also useful online resources maintained by welfare rights organisations and pressure groups, including:
- revenuebenefits, which in addition to giving information on benefits administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), also provides detailed information on Universal Credit, including:
- universalcreditinfo.net, a resource developed by the team behind the Rightsnet website which provides a quick reference guide to UC regulations, guidance and case law.
- The resources section of the Rightsnet website, which includes comprehensive links to DWP administrative guidance.
- Information on Universal Credit at the Citizens Advice website .
Other organisations have produced guides to Universal Credit, including:
Information and guidance for people claiming Universal Credit in Northern Ireland is available at the nidirect website. More detailed information on Universal Credit, including the Northern Ireland version of the Advice for Decision Making guidance and volumes containing the law relating to social security in Northern Ireland, can be found on the Department for Communities website.
Universal Credit is mostly a reserved matter in Scotland, but the Scottish Government and Parliament now has powers to vary the payment arrangements for UC in Scotland – see Universal Credit (Scottish choices) at the Scottish Government website.
Information on UC legislation as it applies to Scotland (including legislative provision for Scottish Choices) is provided on the Revenuebenefits website.
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.