Universal credit: Elements
In order calculate a claimant’s Universal Credit entitlement, the first step is to calculate their maximum amount before taking account of any income or capital. The maximum award is made up of a standard allowance and various elements. The circumstances of the claimant will determine which elements they qualify for.
You can find out more about how to calculate an award of UC in our calculating UC section.
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 outlines the elements to be included in an award of UC. The detailed requirements for each element are set out in the Universal Credit Regulations 2013. The DWP ADM guidance also contains detailed information about each element. We have noted references to each ADM chapter after each element.
This is included in all claims but the amount depends on age and whether the claimant is single or claiming as part of a couple. See our rates page for the current rates.
A child element will be included in a Universal Credit award where a claimant is responsible for a child or qualifying young person who normally lives with them. Where a child lives in 2 separate households, claimants will be expected to agree who has main responsibility and claim accordingly. If no agreement can be reached, DWP will make their own decision.
There are 2 separate rates for the child element; one rate for the first/only child and then a reduced rate for second and subsequent children. NOTE: Changes have been announced to the child element from April 2017. You can read more about these changes in our Policy section.
The child element is increased by a disabled child addition if the criteria is met. There are 2 rates of disabled child addition, only one is included in the award for each child:
- lower rate – payable where a child is entitled to any rate of disability living allowance or personal independence payment.
- higher rate - payable where a child is entitled to the highest rate of the care component of disability living allowance OR the enhanced daily living component of the personal independence payment. It is also payable where a child is registered blind.
More detailed information on the child element can be found in ADM Chapter F1.
A housing element can be included in the maximum amount of Universal Credit which helps towards qualifying housing costs. Housing costs can either be owner occupier costs (mortgage interest) or rent. This element replaces housing benefit.
Three basic conditions must be met to get the housing element: payment; liability; and occupation conditions. This means that a claimant must be liable for payments in respect of accommodation they occupy as their home, they must pay the costs and they must occupy the home.
Eligibility criteria for the housing costs element is complex. One important point to note is that for owner occupiers, no housing costs element can be included in any assessment period where there is any earned income. It doesn’t matter how much the earnings are or whether the work is temporary or permanent.
If a housing element is included to help with rent, the claimant will receive a lower work allowance (meaning more of their income is taken into account that would have been the case).
More detailed information on the housing element can be found in the following ADM Chapters:
There are two elements under this heading – limited capability for work element (LCW) and the limited capability for work and work related activity element (LCWWRA). It is important to note that a claimant cannot get both elements – they only get one or the other.
Limited capability for work element (LCW)
The LCW element is included in the maximum amount if the claimant has a limited capability for work. In a joint claim only one element is included even if both claimants satisfy the criteria. In addition, a claimant cannot get the LCW element and the carer element if they are the one who satisfy the criteria for both.
The element may not be payable immediately and can be subject to a three month determination period during which the DWP decides whether the claimant does have limited capability for work or whether they should get the LCWWRA instead. Some people are exempt from the requirement to wait three months.
Limited capability for work and work related activity element (LCWWRA)
The LCWWRA element is included in the maximum amount if the claimant has a limited capability for work and work related activity. The rules are similar to those for ESA. As with the LCA element, only one element can be included in a joint claim even if both claimants meet the criteria and the claimant cannot get the LCWWRA element and the carer element if they are the one who satisfy the criteria for both. The three month determination period also applies to the LCWWRA.
More detailed information about the LCW and LCWWRA elements can be found in ADM Chapter F5. The ADM also contains more guidance about the work capability assessment and what constitutes limited capability for work and LCWWRA.
This element will be added to the maximum amount of Universal Credit where the claimant has regular and substantial caring responsibilities. This means that the person meets the entitlement conditions for carer’s allowance including caring for at least 35 hours a week. It also includes a person who would be entitled to carer’s allowance but their earnings are too high. There is no requirement to actually claim carer’s allowance.
Only 1 carer element is allowed per claimant and in joint claims two carer elements can be included providing both claimants are not caring for the same disabled person. If both claimants care for the same person, then they can decide who gets the carer element.
More detailed information about the carer element can be found in ADM Chapter F6.
Claimants with childcare costs may be able to get this element if they meet the two qualifying conditions which are:
- The work condition:
To meet the work condition a claimant must be in paid work or have an offer of paid work that is due to start before the end of the next assessment period. Where the claimant is a member of a couple, both members have to be in paid work unless the other member has limited capability for work, has regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person or is temporarily absent from the claimant’s household.
- Childcare costs condition:
To meet this condition, childcare costs must be paid for a child or qualifying young person (until 1September following their 16th Birthday) who the claimant is responsible for. The childcare costs must be incurred for the purposes of enabling the claimant to take up paid work or continue in paid work. Childcare must be reported to DWP before the end of the assessment period following the assessment period in which they are paid in order to be included.
Not all childcare can be covered by the childcare costs element. Only ‘relevant childcare’ is covered which generally includes childcare which is registered or approved.
The amount of the element is the lesser of 85% of the amount paid for relevant childcare OR the maximum amount (see our rates page for the maximum amounts). Childcare costs cannot be included if DWP deem them excessive or if the cost is met or reimbursed by an employer, some other person or other relevant support (such as other Government funding for childcare). NOTE: From April 2016, the value of childcare costs which can be covered by the childcare element increased from 70% to 85% of the amount paid, subject to maximum amounts. (See our Policy section for more about these changes).
More detailed information about the childcare costs element can be found in ADM Chapter F7.
Updated 26 July 2016