Universal Credit: how is my constituency affected?

Around 7 million households are expected to come under the Universal Credit (UC) system once roll-out is completed in 2022. Progress is still in its early stages – as of summer 2017 roll-out was, in terms of claimants, only around 8% of the way through.

However, the number of jobcentres operating the UC Full Service – and thus the number of claimants UC is available to – is expected to increase sharply over the next four months.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is rolling out the Universal Credit Full Service – the final, digital version of UC available to all claimant groups – to 134 more jobcentres in Great Britain between October 2017 and January 2018, more than double the number of jobcentres operating the Full Service as of September 2017.

The number of households claiming UC might increase by around 150,000 by January 2018 – a 25% increase, equivalent to a rise from 8% to 10% of the final caseload forecast by DWP.

This spreadsheet shows whether your constituency is affected by Full Service roll-out this autumn and allows you to track progress of UC roll-out in your area.

In Northern Ireland, Universal Credit is being introduced to a separate timetable – see section 2.2 of Commons Library briefing CBP08096, Universal Credit roll-out: Autumn/Winter 2017.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new benefit which will replace a range of existing means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age households.

DWP refers to the benefits and tax credits UC is replacing as “legacy benefits.”  Spending on these benefits currently totals around £70 billion a year.

These “legacy benefits” include Working and Child Tax Credits, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Income Support, income-related Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and working-age Housing Benefit.

How is Universal Credit being rolled out?

DWP is rolling out UC using two different service models. Which model applies determines who can claim UC in that area, and how they make and manage their claim.

Firstly, DWP rolled out the UC “Live Service” to all jobcentres in Great Britain between 2013 and 2016.

In Live Service areas UC is available only to a limited group of claimants – mainly single people who are unemployed or have low earnings, with no children or housing costs, who are fit for work, and whose circumstances are ‘straight-forward.’

This means UC has been available in all areas of Great Britain to at least some claimants since the summer of 2016.

Secondly, in spring 2016 DWP began rolling out the UC Full Service on an area by area basis.

Once the Full Service is in place in an area all claimants, no matter their circumstances, can receive UC. Also, UC claimants in Full Service areas manage their claim and interact with DWP primarily via the Department’s new, online, digital systems.  The Full Service will eventually replace the Live Service completely.

Chart shows the roll out of UC in three stages: roll out of the Live Service by summer 2016, of the Full Service between January 2016 and September 2018, and managed migrations after July 2019

How do claimants find their way onto UC?

Not all benefit claimants immediately switch over onto UC when the Full Service becomes available in their area.

Instead, someone might come to claim UC if they:

1 – Start a brand new claim to UC, not having previously been getting a legacy benefit or tax credit.

2 – Were claiming legacy benefits or tax credits but had a change in circumstances triggering a move to UC. The rules here are complicated, but this basically means any change in circumstances that would otherwise have involved a new claim for different legacy benefit/tax credit.  DWP refers to this process as “natural migration.”

3 – Were claiming legacy benefits/tax credits and are part of DWP’s “managed migration” of claimants on to UC. People whose circumstances don’t change will be contacted by DWP and moved onto the Universal Credit if they qualify.

At present claimants are only moving on to UC via routes (a) and (b). DWP will not begin managed migrations – route (c) – until July 2019.

And remember: if the Live Service is currently operating in your area only claimants with certain, relatively straight-forward circumstances can receive UC.

What does this mean for my area?

In areas where the Live Service operates, the number of UC claimants will remain fairly low.

However, once the Full Service arrives in an area, we can expect the number of UC claims to accelerate. The range of circumstances of people claiming UC – and, specifically, the number who have children, housing costs or an incapacity – will also broaden, to include, among other things, people with children, those with health conditions and disabilities, carers, and people with housing costs.

This is because in Full Service areas Universal Credit is available to the full range of claimant types who will eventually receive UC.

You can use this spreadsheet to track the progress of UC rollout in your constituency and find out:

a) Whether the Live or Full Service is operating in your constituency. This information is based on our estimates for the number of Full Service claimants by postcode.

b) Whether the Full Service is being launched in your constituency this Autumn/Winter.

c) The estimated total number of “legacy” benefit and tax credit claimants in your constituency. This represents the total number of people currently claiming benefits that will eventually be replaced by UC. Not all current claimants will necessarily qualify for UC once roll-out is complete. These estimates take into account the situation where claimants may currently receive more than one legacy benefit (e.g. income-based JSA and Housing Benefit) – further information is attached.

d) The number of households on the UC system as of June 2017. This is latest available household level data.

e) The percentage of claimants already rolled on to UC. This provides a rough indicator of how far UC roll-out had progressed in your constituency as of summer 2017.

The Library research paper Universal Credit roll-out: Autumn/Winter 2017-18 provides further policy background, statistics and commentary.

You can find when DWP is launching the UC Full Service in your local jobcentre using the department’s Universal Credit transition to Full Service publication.

Picture credit: Job Centre Plus, Solihull by HelenCobain; Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)