factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“I can’t go back on my old benefits once I have claimed universal credit”

The short answer:

Generally true .... but not always so

If you live in a full service area you cannot usually make a new claim for legacy benefits to replace your universal credit (except for some families with more than 2 children who have come off universal credit for six months, or if you or your partner have reached the qualifying age for pension credit).

However, if you are entitled to universal credit in a live service area, you have the option of closing down your claim and reclaiming legacy benefits. This may be worth looking into if you are entitled to more from legacy benefits than you currently receive from universal credit.

Tip: If you go ahead and close your live service universal credit claim yourself, you need to be careful about the date you choose to do this to ensure that you do not lose entitlement to universal credit in the assessment period that you close your claim. The best date to close your claim is on the first day of your assessment period, or as soon after that as possible.

In addition, if the DWP closes your live service universal credit claim - for reasons other than increases in earnings, or because of increased earnings and six months have passed since your claim closure - and your area is still a live service, you will have to claim legacy benefits rather than go back on universal credit.

Finally, if you have claimed universal credit in a full service area when you could have remained on legacy benefits, but the claim has not yet been determined, you are able to withdraw it by contacting the DWP. It may then be possible to continue on your legacy benefits.

NB - to check if your postcode is in the full service or live service use the universalcreditinfo webtool .


Law and case law:

FOI response (dated 12 February 2018) that reproduces the text of the determination that prevents new claims for universal credit in live service areas.

Regulation 31 of the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 provides for the withdrawal of a claim before it’s been determined.


Official guidance:

Housing Benefit Urgent Bulletin U4/2017 explains the effect of the changes that prevent new live service claims.

Chapter A4 of Advice for Decision Makers  looks at ending entitlement by relinquishing benefit (paras 4120 to 4131).

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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