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Larger families will lose exemption from Universal Credit later this week

Tuesday 29th January 2019

Currently families with more than two dependent children cannot be asked to claim Universal Credit. However that situation is changing from 1st February.

If you are a larger family and you are thinking of making a new claim for a means tested benefit like Income Support or Housing Benefit or a new claim for tax credits, you will need to act quickly if you want to avoid having to claim Universal Credit.

Who can be asked to claim Universal Credit?

Universal Credit replaces a number of means tested benefits. These are Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. These are known as the 'legacy benefits'.

If you try and make a new claim for one of these benefits, you are normally expected to claim Universal Credit instead. However up until now families with two or more children have been exempt from Universal Credit.

What is happening on the 1st February?

On 1st February the rule that exempts larger families from having to claim Universal Credit will be scrapped. If you try and make a new claim for a legacy benefit after that date, you will be told that this is no longer possible. You need to consider claiming Universal Credit instead, regardless of the fact that you have more than two children.

Many families will be worse off under Universal Credit than the benefits it is replacing, so get urgent advice if you have been thinking of making a new claim for a legacy benefit.

What happens if I don't try and make any new claims for benefit?

If you are someone who already gets legacy benefits these will continue for the time being, as long as you have no changes that mean you need to claim Universal Credit. However the government plans to move all existing legacy benefit claimants onto Universal Credit before the end of 2023. This process will start after May 2019 but initially only 10,000 people will be moved to test the process. Most existing claimants won't be moved onto Universal Credit until 2020-23.

More information

For advice on what Universal Credit means for your family, please visit our webpages written by our specialist family finances helpline or call our free Helpline on 0808 808 3555.

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If you can, Please donate to our Lifeline Appeal today and help save our Family Finances Helpline.