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

'Natural migration' from legacy benefits onto universal credit (UC) can happen at any time when a change of circumstances means that you want to make a new claim for a legacy benefit. If you decide that you want to transfer to UC even though your circumstances have not changed, you can start the process simply by making a claim for UC. However, this does not applay to people who are receiving a legacy benefit that includes the severe disaiblity premium  If you are receiving the severe disability premium you are prevented from claiming UC by the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) (SDP Gateway) Amendment Regulations 2019 which came into force on 16 January 2019 and can continue to claim legacy benefits.

In what circumstances does natural migration happen?

The following examples illustrate common situations in which natural migration may apply to you:

  • You are getting employment and support allowance (ESA) and fail the work capability assessment. Unless you are entitled to the severe disability premium, you cannot claim income-based jobseeker's allowance (IBJSA) while you are challenging the decision via a 'mandatory reconsideration'. If you want more benefit help whilst the ESA decision is being reconsidered by the DWP. Note that if you do not claim UC, if you remain unhappy after the DWP mandatory reconsideration and appeal, you may be then be able to get ESA whilst appealing without having to claim UC.
  • You are getting JSA and become sick. You may be able to stay on JSA for up to 13 weeks but if you live in a full service area, you cannot claim income-related ESA (IRESA) once you are no longer entitled to JSA. You will have to claim UC to get help with your living expenses and housing costs.
  • You are a lone parent and lose your entitlement to income support (IS) when your youngest child reaches 5. If you live in a full service area, you cannot claim IBJSA and will have to claim UC to get help with your living expenses and housing costs.
  • You are getting JSA and have your first child. If you live in a full service area, you cannot claim child tax credit (CTC) or IS and will have to claim UC instead.
  • You are getting JSA and become a full-time carer which means you can no longer satisfy the jobseeking conditions. If you live in a full service area, you cannot claim IS as a carer and will need to claim UC to get help with your living expenses (including a carer's element) and housing costs.
  • You are getting housing benefit (HB) but have to make a new claim, for example because you have moved to a different local authority in a full service area. You cannot make another claim for HB and will need to claim UC to get help with your housing costs.
  • You are getting a legacy benefit when you become or stop being a member of a couple, and you need to make a new claim for IS, JSA or other legacy benefit. If you live in a full service area, you cannot claim make a new claim as a single person or a member of a couple and will have to claim UC instead. If your partner is already on UC, you cannot claim a legacy benefit and will have to claim UC as a couple.

In what circumstances will natural migration not happen?

The following examples illustrate common situations in which natural migration should not happen when your circumstances change:

  • You are getting ESA and fail the work capability assessment. As long as you do not claim another legacy benefit or UC, you can get IRESA pending an appeal, even if you live in a full service area. This is because this does not involve making a new claim for IRESA (see regulation 3(j) of the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987) and only an actual claim for a legacy benefit is precluded (see What is Natural Migration onto Universal Credit?).  Note, however, that if your HB stopped when your ESA stopped, you cannot make a new claim for HB, so you should ensure that your HB claim continues (e.g. on the basis of you having a 'nil income').
  • You are already getting tax credits and you have a child or start working. Getting extra tax credits, including qualifying for CTC or working tax credits for the first time, does not involve making a new claim for tax credits, so that even if you live in a full service area, this should not result in you having to claim UC.
  • You are getting HB and move to new accommodation within the same local authority area. This should be treated as a change in circumstances affecting your existing claim (see regulation 79(2A) HB Regulations 2006) and not require you to make a new claim for HB, so that even if you live in a full service area, you should be able to stay on HB and not have to claim UC.
  • You have a change of circumstances which affects the amount of your current legacy benefit, but does not require you to claim another legacy benefit. Examples include where you are getting JSA and are subject to a sanction (you do not have to reclaim JSA to get it after your sanction, or to get a 'hardship payment' during the sanction), or you are getting IS and your youngest child has a birthday but is still under 5, or you qualify for an extra premium with your legacy benefit.

How can you check if you will be subject to natural migration?

The following questions should help you to check whether and when you may be affected by natural migration:

1. Are you in receipt of a legacy benefit that includes a severe disaiblity premium? If yes, you are not subject to natural migration If no, go to question 2.

2. Have you had a change in your circumstances (e.g. you have become sick, or had a child)? If yes, go to question 3. If no, you will only be subject to natural migration if you decide nevertheless to submit a claim for UC – go to question 6.

3. Does the change in your circumstances mean that you need to make a new claim for a legacy benefit? For example, have you fallen long-term sick and need to stop claiming income-based JSA and claim income-related ESA instead? Or have you had a child and are not already getting CTC or WTC? Or have you moved to new rented accommodation and need to make a new claim for housing benefit? If yes - go to question 4. If no, because your change of circumstances just alters your current award of a legacy benefit but does not bring it to an end, or does not mean you need to make a new claim for a legacy benefit, you will only be subject to natural migration if you decide nevertheless to claim UC – go to question 6.

4. Does your change of circumstances mean that you need to make a new claim for ESA or JSA? If yes, IRESA and IBJSA are abolished for you and you will need to claim UC instead. Your entitlement to other legacy benefits is terminated when you claim UC. If no, go to question 6.

5. Does your change of circumstances mean that you need to make a new claim for another legacy benefit? If yes, generally you cannot do so and you will need to claim UC instead. If no - go to question 6. For when you can still make a new claim for a legacy benefit, see Where Does Natural Migration to UC Happen?

6. Have you claimed UC? If yes, as long you satisfy the basic rules for UC your entitlement to legacy benefits will be terminated straight away. Once you are entitled to UC, you are not entitled to legacy benefits and cannot make a new claim for them. If no, natural migration will not happen unless and until you claim UC.

Can natural migration be reversed?

The official intention is that once you have become entitled to UC, you cannot choose to instead claim legacy benefits (the requirement to stay on UC once you have become entitled to it is sometimes referred to as the 'lobster pot' principle). This means that you can never make a new claim for a legacy benefit, even if you do not claim or stop claiming UC.