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Moving from ESA to UC

This will depend upon your circumstances. If they do not change, then you can remain on your current legacy benefits and you will be invited to apply for UC by the DWP at some stage between July 2019 and December 2024, based on current timescales but these are subject to change. This is a process called “managed migration”.

However, in the meantime, if your circumstances change in a way which would previously have resulted in you making a new claim for one of the legacy benefits that UC replaces, then you will need to claim UC instead. At this point, your entitlement to ESA and any other legacy benefits and tax credits will end. This is a process called “natural migration”.

What is Universal Credit natural migration?

If you have a change of circumstances that would usually lead to a claim for a different or additional “legacy” benefit, you may have to apply for UC at that point. This is called “natural migration” and some examples include:-

You move from work to unemployment or reduce your working pattern to less than 16 hours per week. Previously, you may have claimed income-based JSA so you will now need to claim UC.

You move from unemployment to employment or self-employment. Previously you may have claimed Working Tax Credit so you will now need to claim UC.

You are employed and experience sickness or a disability which means you are unable work. Previously you may have claimed income-related ESA so you will now need to claim UC.

You become responsible for a child for the first time. Previously you may have claimed CTC, so you will now need to claim UC. If you are already claiming WTC, you do not need to claim UC as you have an existing Tax Credit claim in place and it is not a new claim.

You receive Housing Benefit and move from one local authority to another. Previously you may have made a fresh HB claim in the new area so you will now need to claim UC.

You receive Income Support but are no longer a carer or lone parent of a child under 5 so your entitlement to IS ends. Previously, you may have claimed income-based JSA so you will now need to claim UC.

If you apply for UC as a result of natural migration, then your entitlement to legacy benefits stops straightaway, although you will continue to be paid Housing Benefit for 2 weeks. Your household income, savings and circumstances will be assessed under the new means-tested criteria for UC and you will not receive transitional income protection so you will not be guaranteed to receive the same level of income as you were receiving under legacy benefits.

This situation was identified as being particularly financially damaging to disabled claimants as there is no provision in UC for disability premiums which can provide additional payments within legacy benefits for people who are also claiming PIP or DLA. As a result of significant political pressure, the Government altered the UC rules to reduce the impact on this group. From 16 January 2019, if you receive a Severe Disability Premium (SDP) within a legacy benefit e.g. ESA, HB, IS, you will not be subject to natural migration and will not be able to claim UC until you are officially moved over during the later managed migration process. During this migration, your income will be protected so you will be no worse off than when you were receiving legacy benefits. Until you are subject to managed migration, you can continue to claim new legacy benefits if your circumstances change and you become eligible to apply.

What is Universal Credit managed migration?

Between July 2019 and 2024, the DWP is planning to move most existing claimants of legacy benefits to UC through “managed migration”. You will be contacted by the DWP and told that your legacy benefits are ending and will be invited to apply for UC instead. If you are part of this process the DWP has confirmed that you will get cash protection if your UC is less than what you received under your previous legacy benefits.

Due to the complexity of moving an estimated 3 million people from legacy benefits to UC through managed migration, the DWP is planning a pilot from July 2019 “to support 10,000 people through the process” before the roll-out of managed migration takes place between 2020-2024.