Ask CPAG Online - Where does Natural Migration onto Universal Credit Happen?

This section explains where natural migration onto UC can happen. For more details of when it is likely to happen, see When does Natural Migration onto Universal Credit Happen?

Do you live in a 'gateway area' ('live service area')?

Natural migration onto universal credit (UC) can happen anywhere, now that UC has been rolled out to all areas of the UK (except for Northern Ireland). In most areas, however, you can only claim UC if you satisfy a long list of 'gateway conditions', designed to only allow simple claims (mainly from single jobseekers) which can be processed by IT with restricted functionality. The DWP refers to these areas as 'live service areas'. We refer to them as 'gateway areas' to avoid confusion with 'full service areas' (see below). See Chapter 2 of the CPAG Handbook for details of the gateway conditions, which include being fit for work, not being entitled to income support (IS), jobseeker's allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA), personal independence payment (PIP) or disability living allowance (DLA), or pursuing a revision or appeal of an IS, JSA or ESA decision. In most 'gateway areas' you must also be a single claimant without children.

Details of 'gateway areas', including those which allow claims from couples and claimants with children, can be seen here.  

If you are claiming a legacy benefit and live in a gateway area and your circumstances change, you can only claim UC ('natural migration' onto UC)  if you satisfy the gateway conditions. If you do not satisfy the gateway conditions, you can continue to claim legacy benefits when your circumstances change and natural migration onto UC will not happen.  

Example 1: Natural Migration onto UC

You are working and getting housing benefit (HB) when you lose your job. If you satisfy the gateway conditions, you cannot claim income-based JSA and will have to claim UC to get help with your living expenses and your rent. Your claim for HB terminates from the date you become entitled to UC.

Example 2: No natural migration onto UC

You are getting income-based JSA and HB and become long-term sick. You cannot claim UC because you do not satisfy the gateway condition of being fit for work. You can claim income-related ESA and stay on HB. You will not be migrated onto UC.

Do you live in a 'full service area'?

'Full service areas' are where UC is administered through full functionality online claimant accounts, allowing UC to be claimed by anyone who satisfies the normal conditions of entitlement. Most significantly, there are no 'gateway conditions'. There were a few pilot 'full service (or 'digital') areas' before May 2016. From May 2016 to October 2018, the' gateway areas' will become 'full service areas' in a phased roll-out programme. A list of the roll-out schedule can be seen here.

If you are claiming a legacy benefit and live in a full service area, you cannot usually claim another legacy benefit (even if you don't make a claim for UC). The only exceptions are where you are claiming HB for 'specified' (supported) accommodation, or where you or your partner have reached pension credit age, in which case you can still claim HB or tax credits. If your circumstances change, which would have prompted you to claim a legacy benefit, you will need to claim UC ('natural migration' onto UC) to get more means-tested support. Because there are no 'gateway conditions' in full service areas, natural migration onto UC is much more common than in gateway areas.

Example 1: Natural Migration onto UC

You are getting income-based JSA and HB and become long-term sick. You cannot claim income-related ESA because you live in a full service area and must claim UC to get help with your living expenses and your rent.

Example 2: No Natural Migration onto UC

You are getting IS, child tax credit (CTC) and HB and start working for 24 hours per week. You can qualify for working tax credit (WTC) and stay on HB because you are not making a new claim for a legacy benefit (CTC and WTC are legally one benefit and there is no legal requirement to make a new claim to get one of them if you are already receiving the other). You will not be migrated onto UC.