Universal Credit is gradually being rolled out across the UK in stages. From 1 January 2018 onwards, whether you will be asked to apply for Universal Credit or existing benefits will usually depend on where you live.
When your postcode moves to Universal Credit you can no longer make a new claim for tax credits, Housing Benefit or out-of-work benefits like Income Support.
If you are making a new claim for benefits, or are already claiming benefits and have a change in your circumstances, you may have to claim Universal Credit at some point before December 2018 as the roll out for new claims will have covered the whole of the UK.
Families with three or more children making a new benefit claim are an exception to this rule. They can continue to make new claims for existing benefits and tax credits until at least February 2019.
Once the full roll out for new claims is complete, existing benefit claimants who have not had a change in circumstances, will be moved over to Universal Credit at some point between July 2019 and March 2022. See our What changes might trigger a move to Universal Credit guide for more information.
You can find out exactly when you could be affected by putting your postcode into our Universal Credit postcode checker.
What were the rules before 2018?
Until 1 January 2018 there were slightly different rules in place. There were some areas, called live service areas, that only asked single unemployed people without children to claim Universal Credit.
If you made a claim in a live service area you will eventually convert to being full service area at the same time as almost everyone else in your area.
Existing benefits and tax credits claimants who do not have a change of circumstance (see our What changes might trigger a move to Universal Credit guide) will not be asked to claim Universal Credit until July 2019 at the earliest. The government expects to finish moving existing benefit and tax credit claimants onto Universal Credit by March 2022.
From 11 April 2018, if you are transferring from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit your Housing Benefit payment will continue for an extra 2 weeks after the start of the Universal Credit claim.
This extra 2 weeks of Housing Benefit is to help with your housing costs while you wait for your first payment of Universal Credit, which will take at least five weeks.
The payment will be made automatically when you apply for Universal Credit and you don't need to pay it back. It also won't affect how much Universal Credit you get.
For more general information about Universal Credit please see our Universal Credit guide.