Universal Credit for people previously claiming Employment and Support Allowance

How are people moved from ESA to UC

People who live in Universal Credit (UC) full service areas should remain in receipt of Income Related Employment and Support Allowance until they are moved to Universal Credit under either Natural Migration or Managed Migration. Managed Migration is due to start in July 2019.

Some people will be moved before this date if they have a change of circumstances which trigger a new claim for UC this is called natural migration. Moving to UC for this client group can lead to financial consequences as well as tougher conditionality and an increased risk of sanctions.

The main changes of circumstances that may affect those in receipt of ESA are: (this is not exhaustive)


  • Being found not to have Limited Capability for Work following a review of ESA
  • Moving address to a different local authority
  • Having a first child
  • Forming a new relationship/ending a relationship
  • Doing permitted work and increasing your hours of work so that you no longer satisfy the permitted hours rules.


The following changes will not trigger a UC claim: (this is not exhaustive)

  • Challenging an ESA decision and not claiming another benefit
  • Moving address within the same local authority
  • Having a child when already in receipt of Child Tax Credit


What is becoming increasingly clear, both with brand new claims for UC and with “naturally” migrated ESA claims is that the system is not working as well as it could do.

First claims for UC on grounds of incapacity

Under UC  there is a 3 month assessment period for a new claim (13 weeks under ESA) – where additional components/elements on grounds of incapacity are not payable (unless the claimant is terminally ill and reasonably expected to die within 6 months). A claimant will complete their initial application for UC online in most cases and then a UC50 (equivalent to the ESA50) should be sent to them that allows them to explain their incapacity in more detail and how it affects their ability to work.  DWP state that they issue this form on Day 29 of the claim. This should be completed and returned and a medical assessment, if required, arranged within the 3 month assessment period. A fit note must also be provided. 

However this system is not working as well as it should. We are finding in some cases that UC50 forms are not being sent out in a timely way and we are hearing of claimants waiting up to 2 years to get these forms. This means that claimants are potentially receiving less money than they would receive if they satisfied the criteria for limited capability for work related activity and also they may be having to do fulfil a more rigorous claimant commitment than would be required if they had been assessed in time. This problem can also lead to sanctions being incorrectly awarded which would have been avoided if the system had operated correctly.

Advisers need to be aware of this – especially when working with vulnerable clients who may need to claim Universal Credit – and put pressure on the DWP to send out UC50 forms quickly . If this problems is identified it can be worth contacting the local partnership manager to ensure UC 50s are issued at the right time.


UC claims after natural Migration from ESA


If an ESA claimant has a change of circumstance and has to claim UC on grounds of incapacity (for reasons other than failing a Work Capability Assessment) they should claim UC online and, at their first meeting at the Job Centre with a work coach, inform then that they were in receipt of ESA and also tell them which group they were prviously placed inie so many weeks into the assessment period or  in the Work Related Activity Group or Support Group. The Work coach SHOULD be aware of this but we are finding that this is not always the case.


Basically the rules are that UC should take on claimants with their previous ESA status and transfer them into the equivalent status on UC.

  • those who were partway through an ESA assessment period their 13 weeks of assessment will end at the same point under UC as under ESA
  • those who were in receipt of the work related activity group rate of ESA will be transferred to the limited capability for work element
  • those who were in receipt of the support group rate of ESA will be transferred to the limited capability for work related activity element


It appears that in some cases this is simply not happening and claimants – including vulnerable claimants previously in the support group of ESA, are being told to provide new fit notes and undertake another Work Capability Assessment before they receive their extra money – and before their correct claimant commitment can be decided.

This is INCORRECT and, in some cases, leads to those claimants who were in receipt of the support group component of ESA (UC equivalent £328.32 a month) missing out for months on this amount that they are entitled to – and those who were in the work group of ESA and receiving the WRAG component (£126.11 a month UC) missing out on this amount. 

There are particular concerns for claimants who were in the work related activity group being given incorrect information as the extra element ceased for new claimants from 3rd April 2017 and is not available for new claims both on ESA and UC so it is really important that this entitlement is not lost.


In any cases where DWP make mistakes it is important that this is challenged. Claimants can ask for a review of a decision at any time on the basis of an official error referring to Regulation 19 of the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regs 2014. This issue has been brought to the attention of DWP many times by advice agencies.







Related Information

Posted in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit and tagged , .