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Transitional protection element

The government has always intended to move everyone 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 people started to receive Migration Notice letters asking them to claim Universal Credit.

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 temporary top-up payment so that you do not lose out. This is called a 'transitional protection element'.

If you are looking for information about the transitional protection payment specifically for disabled people who receive a Severe Disability Premium (SDP) in their legacy benefits immediately before they claim Universal Credit see the SDP and transitional elements help page.

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.

The current timetable of migration is as follows:

  • to claimants of Income Support between April and June 2024
  • to claimants of Tax Credits with Housing Benefit between April and June 2024
  • to claimants of Housing Benefit only between June and August 2024
  • to claimants of income-related Employment and Support Allowance with Child Tax Credit between July and September 2024
  • to pension aged claimants (including mixed aged couples) of Tax Credits from August 2024
  • to claimants of income-based Jobseeker's Allowance from September 2024

If you claim income-related Employment and Support Allowance, either by itself or with Housing Benefit, you will be left until last and won't be migrated until at least 2025. There is no planned date for this group to be moved at the moment but we will update this page when more details are announced.

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.

Don't worry about receiving a notice, everyone on an old benefit will eventually be sent a letter.

If you need help to make your Universal Credit claim you can:

When to make your claim

When you receive your migration notice letter you don’t need to rush into making your Universal Credit claim. Here are a few things it may be worth checking first:

Ensure you are receiving everything you are entitled to. For example, any Child Disability Living Allowance, Carer’s Allowance or other element of a legacy benefit, as this will change your Universal Credit award amount. This benefits calculator will help you work out what you should be entitled to.

Where possible within your migration deadline, wait for anything that will erode your potential transitional protection element in Universal Credit. For example, if you are moving to a property with higher rent costs or you will reach age 25 so your personal allowance will increase. The ‘Why is the transitional protection element temporary?’ section below explains more about erosion.

If you receive Tax Credits, start your Universal Credit claim just after you have received a Tax Credit payment so that the timeframe between your last Tax Credit payment and your first Universal Credit payment is as quick as possible (5 weeks).

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 need to ask for an extension do so before the deadline date on your letter or your previous benefits payments may have been stopped.

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 protection 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 protection element work?

The transitional protection element is a temporary 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 ‘managed migrated’ and where they would be entitled to less under Universal Credit than from their current legacy benefits.

The amount you get from your current benefits (the 'legacy' benefits being replaced by Universal Credit), will be compared with the amount you would get in Universal Credit if it were calculated based on the same details and using the same income as your current benefits, they call this the 'Indicative Universal Credit' amount.

If you have any unclaimed 'legacy' benefits or your Tax Credits are based on your previous year's income - which they often are - then the indicative Universal Credit will be different to the amount you expect to get in your first Universal Credit award.

If your indicative Universal Credit is lower than your total current legacy benefits amount, you will receive a transitional protection element to make up the difference. This is a complicated calculation so if you have received a managed migration notice you should use our benefits calculator to find out how much transitional protection element you might receive.

Here's an example to show how it works:

Example: Tamara is entitled to £500 a month on legacy benefits and her Indicative Universal Credit amount is £400 a month. When she goes through the managed migration process she will be paid £100 a month as a transitional protection element to top up her Universal Credit.

However, once you've moved to Universal Credit, if your 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 protection element will be reduced by the same amount as the increase. Changes to your childcare costs will not reduce your transitional protection element.

Example: If Tamara's rent increases by £50 and her Universal Credit award becomes £450 a month, her transitional protection element will be reduced by £50, meaning she still receives £500 Universal Credit in total.

Once awarded, the transitional protection element will not increase each year like benefit rates can. Your transitional protection element will only ever be reduced, so that in effect your income from Universal Credit is frozen until your transitional protection element becomes nil. Once it has reduced to nil it will no longer be included with your Universal Credit award.

Example: When Tamara's Universal Credit award reaches £500 a month or more, her transitional protection element will have been reduced to nil and her top up payment will end. If she has any further increases in her Universal Credit award the amount she receives can now go up.

Who can get a transitional protection element?

In most cases, a transitional protection 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 protection element included.

Why is the transitional protection element temporary?

Your transitional protection element will be eroded/reduced penny for penny as your Universal Credit award increases. This means you won’t receive any increase in your Universal Credit award until your transitional protection element is reduced to £0.

Your Universal Credit award might increase if, for example:

  • your rent increases, leading to an increase in your housing element
  • a new element is added to your Universal Credit award (except the childcare element)
  • annual uprating increases the Universal Credit rates (except the childcare element) and/or Local Housing Allowance rates for private renters

The transitional protection element doesn’t reduce until you have been receiving Universal Credit for at least a month but, from your second assessment period onwards, any reductions are made in the same period an increase occurs.

The transitional protection element won't change if your earnings fluctuate (unless you are affected by the administrative earnings threshold rule described below) but the amount of Universal Credit you are eligible for may change based on your earnings in the usual way.

Can I lose my transitional protection element?

Your transitional protection 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 protection 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 protection element can be included again.