Ask CPAG Online - How Does Natural Migration onto Universal Credit Happen?

What is the process for natural migration?

There are no general rules which set out how natural migration onto universal credit (UC) occurs.

Natural migration happens because of the rules which prevent you from claiming legacy benefits when your circumstances change (see What is Natural Migration onto Universal Credit?. In most cases the main steps are as follows:

1. You are claiming a legacy benefit and experience a change of circumstances which, before UC, would have prompted you to claim another legacy benefit.

2. You can no longer claim legacy benefits because you live in a UC full service area, or a gateway area and you satisfy the gateway conditions for claiming UC.

3. You therefore claim UC instead.

4. Your entitlement to the legacy benefits you were getting terminates and you are awarded UC.


You are a single person living in a UC full service area. You are getting income-based jobseekers allowance (IBJSA) and housing benefit (HB) when you have your first child and become a lone parent. You cannot claim child tax credit (or income support as a lone parent). You must therefore claim UC. This will terminate your entitlement to IBJSA and HB. Your 'natural migration' onto UC is completed and you will not be able to claim legacy benefits again.

What happens if you claim the wrong benefit?

If you live in a full service area and try to claim a legacy benefit, you should be told that this is no longer possible and that you must claim UC instead. Note that the very act of claiming JSA or employment and support allowance (ESA), whether contribution or income based, results in the abolition of the income-related  'legacy' forms of those benefits (IBJSA and IRESA). A claim for UC can be backdated for up to a month if you were not notified in advance of the termination of your entitlement to a legacy benefit.

If you live in a UC gateway area, new claims for UC are not possible from 1 January 2018, and you can still make a new claim for legacy benefits. Note however that gateway areas are being replaced by full service areas, and will not exist anywhere after 12 December 2018.

When do your legacy benefits end and your UC start?

When you claim UC on natural migration, your prevous awards of legacy benefits normally end on the day before your first day of entitlement to UC. In the case of tax credits, the rules provide for your award to be finalised for the tax year up to the date of your UC claim.

There should, therefore, normally be no gap in your entitlement (although the amount you are entitled to may be different). A claim for UC can be backdated for up to a month if you were not notified in advance of the termination of your entitlement to a legacy benefit. You should always ensure that you claim all the elements of UC to which you are entitled, including the housing costs element which will replace your HB.

You normally have to wait at least 5 weeks after claiming UC before you get your first payment. You are not entitled to legacy benefits while you are waiting for your first payment of UC. If you do not have enough money to live on while you are waiting for your first payment of UC, you can apply for a UC advance payment (benefit transfer) - see When can you get a universal credit advance?

Communicaton problems between the DWP and the office paying your legacy benefits can result in you incorrectly getting legacy payments after you become entitled to UC. These payments (other than tax credits or joint claim JSA) count as 'unearned income' for UC and are deducted from your UC award for the assessment period in which they are paid. Note that they are not treated as overpayments of the legacy benefits, so you cannot challenge their recovery on the grounds of 'official error'. If they are not deducted from your UC award (e.g. because they are not identified until after the UC assessment period in which they are paid), they can only be recovered under the rules which apply to legacy benefits. If you were overpaid tax credits, this can be recovered from your UC award.

If you were disputing a legacy benefit decision when you transfer onto UC, any entitlement you are subsequently awarded can only be paid up to the date you transfer onto UC.

Will you get the same amount of UC as you were getting in legacy benefits?

Not necessarily. Your change of circumstances may mean that you are entitled to different elements of means-tested support than you were previously getting. Also, there is no 'transitional protection' when you move from legacy benefits onto UC as a result of 'natural migration'. The different rules which apply to UC may mean that you are better or worse off than you would be if you were claiming legacy benefits. The different non-dependant deduction rules, for example, may mean that you are entitled to more or less housing costs than you were getting on HB.

Some disabled claimants may be signficiantly worse off when they move onto UC because there are no disabiilty elements.  The government have announced that they are to introduce rules which protect some disabled people from being worse off by ensuring that they cannot transfer to UC by 'natural migration'. These people are those who are entitled to the 'severe disability premium' as part of their legacy benefit. Those who have already transferred and lost out are to receive a 'transitional payment' to compensate them. This follows a court decision (TP and AR v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, 14 June 2018) which held that people getting that premium who transferred to UC by 'natural migration' after moving house and having to claim UC instead of housing benefit should have been protected.

What happens if you transfer from ESA onto UC?

If you were getting a work related activity or support component with your ESA, you are immediately eligible for a limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capablity for work related activity (LCWRA) element with your UC. Note that you cannot qualify for one of these elements and a carer's element at the same time. 

If you were waiting to be assessed under the work capablity assessment (WCA) when you transfer onto UC and subsequently satisfy the WCA, you are entitled to a LCW or LCWRA element from the first assessment period after the normal 13 week assessment phase has ended (weeks on ESA and UC count towards the assessment phase). If you have already been waiting more than 13 weeks when you transfer onto UC, you can get a LCW or LCWRA element straight away.

The above rules also apply if you only getting NI credits rather than ESA, on the basis of LCW.


What happens if your legacy benefits were subject to sanctions or direct deductions?

If your JSA or ESA was reduced because of a sanction when you transfer onto UC, the deductions continue from your UC until the period of the sanction has ended and if you are  sancioned again, the previous sanction is taken into account when determining the length of the new sanction.

Deductions from your IBJSA, IRESA or IS for fuel or water charges automatically become deductions from your UC.

What happens if you had an appointee for your legacy benefits?

Your appointee can be treated as your appointee for UC purposes, when you transfer onto UC.
























































































































y for one of these elements and a carer's element at the same time.

If you were waiting to be assessed under the work capabilty assessment when you transfer onto UC,