The government has always intended to eventually move people from their current benefits (known as legacy benefits) to Universal Credit through a process called 'managed migration'.
Managed migration was paused during the Covid-19 pandemic but since the summer of 2022 some people in certain areas have started to receive Migration Notice letters asking them to claim Universal Credit. People in other areas will receive a letter in due course but this will be slowly rolled out.
If you receive a Migration Notice, meaning you need to go through the managed migration process, and you end up being entitled to less under Universal Credit than your current legacy benefits, you could be entitled to a top-up payment so that you do not lose out. This is called a 'transitional element'.
Do you have to move to Universal Credit?
If you receive a migration notice it is important you follow the instructions on the letter or your benefit payments may stop. See the Migration Notice section below for more information on what to do.
If you haven't received a migration notice you don't have to move to Universal Credit just yet. However, the government hopes to finish moving all existing benefit and tax credit claimants, with the exception of those claiming income-related Employment and Support Allowance (irESA), onto Universal Credit by the end of 2024.
If you claim irESA, either by itself or with Housing Benefit, you will be left until last and won't be migrated for several years (but it should be at some point before April 2028).
There are other ways to move to Universal Credit that it is useful to know about:
Natural migration - If you have a change of circumstances - such as starting or leaving a job, a partner leaving or joining the household - you will have to claim Universal Credit. In general, natural migration could be triggered if entitlement to your current benefit ends (prompting a need to claim a new one) or you become entitled to a different or extra benefit. It shouldn't happen when you make changes to benefits you are already claiming. See our What changes might trigger a move to Universal Credit guide for more information on this.
Voluntary migration - You can choose to move at any time by voluntarily claiming Universal Credit. Using this Benefits Calculator will help you work out if you might be better or worse off claiming Universal Credit but it’s important to seek advice if you’re not sure, because there is no going back once a claim for Universal Credit has been made. Voluntarily moving may be good for you if you are entitled to more support under Universal Credit but many claimants will also be entitled to less. If you are considering this option please seek further advice before moving.
What to do if you receive a Migration Notice letter
The migration notice letter is the way the government is letting you know you are about to go through the managed migration process. It means you have to make a claim to Universal Credit before the date set out in your letter.
If you don't make your claim in time your old benefits payments may stop. You should therefore follow the guidance on the letter in order to carry on receiving your payments.
If you need help to make your Universal Credit claim you can call the Universal Credit Migration Notice helpline on 0800 169 0328 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) or visit your local job centre.
What happens if you don't start your claim in time?
You may be able to ask for a short extension but this will considered on a case by case basis.
If you miss the application deadline date given on your letter and make a claim for Universal Credit after it has passed you might lose the transitional element top up payment.
So, if you can't claim Universal Credit by the deadline date, you should contact the helpline above as soon as possible.
The charity CPAG would like to speak to people who have received a Migration Notice and advisors working in this area. Find out more about its Universal Credit research and how to take part.
How does the transitional element work?
The transitional element is a top-up payment available for some people moving from the older legacy benefits system to Universal Credit. It is only added for people who have been ‘manged migrated’ and where they would be entitled to less under Universal Credit than from their current legacy benefits.
Example: Tamara is entitled to £500 a month on legacy benefits and £400 a month on Universal Credit. When she goes through the managed migration process she will be paid £100 a month as a transitional element to top up her Universal Credit.
However, if your Universal Credit entitlement increases (for example, due to an annual increase in benefit rates, a new element being included in your award or your rent increasing), your transitional element will be reduced by the amount of the increase. Changes to your childcare costs will not reduce your transitional element.
Example: If Tamara's rent increases by £50 and her Universal Credit award becomes £450 a month, her transitional element will be reduced by £50, meaning she still receives £500 in total.
Once awarded, the transitional element will not increase each year like benefit rates can. Your transitional element will only ever be reduced, so that in effect your income from Universal Credit is frozen until it becomes nil. Once the transitional element has reduced to nil it will no longer be included with your UC award.
Example: When Tamara's Universal Credit award reaches £500 a month or more, her transitional element will have been reduced to nil and her top up payment will end.
Who can get a transitional element?
In most cases, a transitional element will only be included in your Universal Credit award if you are an existing benefit claimant and there are no changes in your circumstances leading to your claim for Universal Credit.
Relevant changes in circumstance are those which would have previously meant a new claim for income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit or tax credits.
There are four kinds of claim for Universal Credit:
- New claims, e.g. when someone not currently on benefits loses their job and makes a new claim for Universal Credit
- Natural migration, when you are on benefits but have a change of circumstance which triggers a new claim for Universal Credit, e.g. when a partner moves in/out
- Voluntary migration, when you choose to move
- Managed migration, when your circumstances haven't changed so DWP initiates your transfer onto Universal Credit
DWP’s claim that “no one will be worse off” when moved on to Universal Credit only applies for the final kind of claim - 'managed migration'. It is these claims that can have a transitional element included.
Can I lose my transitional element?
Your transitional element will be removed if, for example:
- a partner leaves or joins your household
- your household earnings drop below a set threshold (called the administrative earnings threshold), which is based on the national minimum wage for your age. The drop is measured from your first assessment period after joining Universal Credit and should last for three assessment periods in a row.
- your Universal Credit award ends
Once you lose the transitional element it will not be applied to any future awards. There is one exception if your Universal Credit award ends due to an increase in income and you make a new claim for Universal Credit within 3 months of your previous claim ending – in this case the new claim is considered a continuation of the old claim and the transitional element can be included again.
Severe Disability Premium and transitional elements
There is no equivalent to the Severe Disability Premium in Universal Credit.
Between 16 January 2019 and 27 January 2021 a block was put in place stopping working age people who receive an SDP from moving to Universal Credit if they had a relevant change in their circumstances. The block was put in place to prevent a considerable loss in benefit income for SDP recipients.
The block was lifted on 27 January 2021 and, instead, a top-up payment called an 'SDP transitional element' has been added to UC for SDP claimants who move to UC. This extra element is only available to those who were entitled to an award of Income support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support allowance that included an SDP, not those who only had an SDP in their Housing Benefit.
In January 2022 the government lost a judicial review into the fact it had failed to provide adequate transitional payments to disabled people who had been moved to Universal Credit.The challenge was based on the fact that, although people were compensated for the loss of the severe disability premium, they were not compensated for the loss of the enhanced disability premium and so were still around £60 a month worse off at the time than they would have been on legacy benefits. This article from solicitors Leigh Day provides further information about the legal challenge.
SDP recipients who can move to Universal Credit from 27 Jan 2021
If you are receiving the SDP and have a change in circumstances that prompts a new claim to Universal Credit, you will now need to claim Universal Credit instead of your existing benefits.
When you make your claim a top-up SDP transitional element will be included in the calculation of your Universal Credit award. From April 2023 the amount in your first assessment period will be as follows:
An LCWRA element is included in your UC award
£132.12 per month
No LCWRA element is included in your UC award
£313.79 per month
The higher SDP rate was payable in your legacy benefit
£445.91 per month
You weren’t getting the higher SDP rate and an LCWRA element is included in your UC award for either of you
£313.79 per month
You weren’t getting the higher SDP rate and no LCWRA element is included in your UC award for either of you
£313.79 per month
After the first assessment period, the SDP transitional element is treated as if it were a standard transitional element, as described at the top of this page.
Once managed migration takes place SDP recipients will not get the SDP transitional element included in their Universal Credit award in their first assessment period, they will instead get a standard transitional element from the start of their Universal Credit claim.
Previous SDP recipients already on Universal Credit before 16 Jan 2019
If you were receiving an SDP in a legacy benefit (unless you were only claiming Housing Benefit) and you were moved over to Universal Credit before 16 January 2019, meaning your SDP stopped, you will have remained on Universal Credit and you should have received an additional amount to compensate you for the financial loss experienced as a result.
A lump-sum payment to cover the period since you moved to Universal Credit was issued to eligible claimants in the Summer of 2019 and additional monthly payments have been paid since.
The monthly payment depends on your circumstances and since 8 October 2020 it has been converted into a standard transitional element, becoming part of the overall Universal Credit award and treated in the same way as other transitional elements as described at the top of this page.