ESA to UC Managed Migration - Quick Reference

This quick reference guide is intended as a summary of how managed migration works and how it might affect you if you are claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  For further information, members can download our 28 page ESA to UC - a guide to migration from the ESA guides page. 

 What is Universal Credit (UC)?

Universal Credit (UC) is a means-tested benefit administered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is a single, monthly payment for people of working-age that is gradually replacing Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (irESA), Housing Benefit (HB), Child Tax Credit and  Working Tax Credit. 

There are many benefits that will not be replaced by UC, including: Contributory or ‘New-Style’ Employment and Support Allowance (cESA), Carer’s Allowance (CA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Council Tax Reduction.

When will I have to move to UC?

You may have to move to UC under ‘natural migration’ if you have a relevant change of circumstances.  The DWP is also moving people from legacy benefits and Tax Credits through ‘managed migration’.  This is where you will be notified that you need to make a claim for UC and your legacy benefits will end after a set period.  You can also choose to move to UC under ‘voluntary migration’ if you think it would be a better option for you. 

If you receive irESA and Tax Credits, you can expect to be asked to migrate to UC in 2024 or 2025.  If you received irESA only or irESA with HB, you can expect to be asked to migrate to UC in 2028 or 2029.   If you receive cbESA without any legacy benefits, you will not be affected by managed migration. 

How does managed migration work?

When you are selected for ‘managed migration’ by the DWP, you will receive a letter titled ‘Universal Credit Migration Notice’ inviting you to claim UC.  The letter will give you a deadline to claim and will inform you that your existing benefits will end.  You will no longer have the choice to remain on legacy benefits and Tax Credits.  

Your Deadline Day will be at least 3 months from the date on the migration notice.  If you have a good reason why you will not be able to claim UC before your deadline day, you can ask to have your deadline extended but you must do this before your deadline.  You can also ask the DWP to cancel your migration notice if it has been issued in error or in exceptional circumstances (seek advice).

If you make a claim for UC by your deadline day, you will be entitled to transitional protection if your UC is less than your legacy benefits.  If you receive Tax Credits, these will stop the day before your UC claim starts.  If you receive other legacy benefits, they will continue to be paid for two weeks after you make your UC claim. 

If you fail to claim before your deadline day, your Tax Credits will stop on the day before deadline day and your other legacy benefits will ‘run on’ for two weeks after your deadline day.  You will have a Final Deadline Day, which is one month minus a day after your deadline day.  If you make your UC claim before your final deadline day, you will still be entitled to transitional protection.  If you fail to claim UC before your final deadline day, you can still make a claim, but you will not receive transitional protection. 

Will my UC payment be the same as my previous benefits?

The amount of UC you are entitled to depends on your personal and household circumstances.  UC is made up of a standard allowance plus additional elements for different situations.  It includes an amount for your rent and for your children.  There is more information about these elements in our main guide. 

If you are moved to UC under managed migration and your UC entitlement is less than your legacy benefit amount, you should be entitled to ‘transitional protection’ to top up your UC award to the same amount you were getting from legacy benefits and tax credits.   Transitional protection will only apply if you made your UC claim before your final deadline day.  It will ‘erode’ (reduce) if extra elements are added to your claim or if benefit rates increase. 

When will I get my first payment of UC?

Most people will receive their first UC payment 5 weeks after they make their claim.  You can ask UC for an ‘advance payment’ to help you if you are in financial need whilst waiting for your first payment. 

Limited capability for work and work-related activity

If you migrate from ESA to UC, then any existing decisions about your ability to work should migrate with you.

If you are in the ESA Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), you should be awarded the Limited Capability for Work element when you move to UC.   If you were receiving a payment for being in the WRAG group (because you were placed in that group before 6/4/2017) you will receive a similar payment on UC.  If you are in the Support Group for ESA, then you should be awarded the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity element when you move to UC.  This is currently worth £390.06 per month.   

These elements will apply as soon as your claim starts, and you should not have to wait for the ‘relevant period’ (three months) that a new UC claimant would generally have to wait for before they can receive these elements. 

What are the main differences between UC and ESA?

You may notice some big differences when you claim UC:

  • UC is usually paid as a single monthly payment instead of fortnightly like ESA. 
  • The housing costs element of UC is usually paid to you rather than to your landlord, so you have to budget it and make the payments for your rent.
  • UC is paid as a single payment into one bank account.  If you have a partner, you might be used to one of you receiving the ESA payment and the other receiving Child Tax Credit, for example. 
  • UC is a digital system – your claim is made online and you maintain it through an online journal 
  • You will normally need to sign and adhere to a claimant commitment detailing your responsibilities. You will be placed in one of four conditionality groups and if the claimant commitment is not followed, then you may be subject to sanctions.

The DWP can agree ‘alternative payment arrangements’ such as paying UC twice a month, paying rent directly to your landlord or splitting the UC payment between you and your partner in some circumstances.  Seek advice or see our main guide for more information.  

Making your UC claim

UC is a digital system and claims will normally have to be made online here.  If you have a partner, you will both need to make a claim and your claims will be linked together. For details of the information you will need to have to make your claim, see our main guide. 

If you would struggle to make an online claim, you can receive help from Citizen Advice’s Help to Claim Service (Freephone 0800 144 8444).  They can assist you to make the online claim or organise a three-way call with the DWP to make a telephone claim. 

If you need to make a telephone claim and cannot access the Help to Claim service, you can contact the DWP Universal Credit Service Centre on 0800 328 5644.  They may help you with the claim or send a DWP visiting officer to support you if necessary.  

Managing your UC claim

You will usually manage your claim via your online journal.  If you made your claim by phone or in person you will need to ring the UC helpline if you need to discuss your claim, as you will not have a journal. 

You will need to do the things set out in your claimant commitment in order to continue receiving UC.  If you have a partner, they will have their own separate claimant commitment. 

If you were in the support group on ESA, you will have no work-related requirements when you move to UC.  If you were in the work-related activity group, you will usually have regular conversations with your work coach and have to participate in activities to improve your prospects of finding work, like updating your CV or taking part in a computer course.  You should make your Work Coach at the Jobcentre aware of your health and personal circumstances so that your claimant commitment is fair and achievable. 

Quick questions…

  1. Can I go back to my legacy benefits if I change my mind about moving to UC? No, once you have submitted a valid claim for UC your legacy benefits will stop and you cannot return to them, even if you are unhappy with UC.
  2. Will I still get Housing Benefit? Instead of HB, you will receive a housing costs element in your UC. If you are living in ‘specified’ or temporary accommodation, you may continue to receive HB instead of help with your rent through UC.
  3. Will UC cover my council tax? No, UC does not include an element for Council Tax. You should claim Council Tax Reduction via your local authority instead.   
  4. I receive ESA and do Permitted Work. Can I still do this when I move to UC? There are no permitted work rules for UC. Instead, people who have limited capability for work can have a work allowance deducted from their wages. This will be £379 per month if your UC claim includes a housing costs element and £631 if it does not.  55% of anything you earn above your work allowance will be taken into account as income when calculating your UC.

Is there anything I can do now to prepare for managed migration?

  1. Check you are receiving your full entitlement to legacy benefits
  2. Think about the timing of your UC claim – As your first payment of UC will normally be received 5 weeks after you make your claim, you may need to think about exactly when is best for you to claim in the period before your deadline day.
  3. Think about how you will budget whilst you wait for your first UC payment.
  4. Seek debt advice about any overpayments of benefits or Tax Credits – The DWP can deduct repayment of these from your UC award.

Sources of help

You can find general help about managed migration in this Government leaflet.

DWP Managed migration helpline: 0800 169 0328

DWP Universal Credit main helpline: 0800 328 5644 (Welsh language: 0800 328 1744/ Textphone: 0800 328 1344) - all lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Citizens Advice Help to Claim

This a national telephone helpline and webchat service, funded by the DWP to provide advice on eligibility for UC and support with making a claim.  That support can continue up to the date of your first correct payment of UC. 

Telephone: 0800 144 8 444

Webchat:  Both services are open Monday-Friday, 8am – 6pm.

There are details of other advice agencies who may be able to help you in our main guide. 

We use cookies

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.