Universal credit: Elements

In order calculate a claimant’s Universal Credit (UC) 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.

Standard Allowance
Child element
Housing costs element
Capability for work elements
Carer element
Childcare element
Transitional protection – managed migration
Transitional SDP element


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.

Standard allowance

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.

Child Element

A child element will be included in a UC 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.

For UC, once a child reaches age 16 they become a qualifying young person and can be included in a UC claim up to the 1st September following their 16th birthday. After that, they can be included up to the 1st September following their 19th birthday, provided they remain in full-time non-advanced education or approved training, and they were enrolled on, or started, the course before they were 19. (Note: this is different to child benefit and to child tax credit, where a qualifying young person can be included in a claim until they reach age 20, as long as the course started before their 19th birthday).

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. From 6 April 2017, the higher first child amount is only available if the claimant(s) is responsible for a child or qualifying young person born before 6 April 2017.

In addition, from 6 April 2017 the child element in UC is subject to the two-child limit policy. The current rules limit the child element to two children. The general rule is that third and subsequent children born on or after 6 April 2017 will only qualify if an exception applies to them. For children born before 6 April 2017, a child element will be included. We explain the 2 child limit policy in more detail on our 2 child limit page.

A disabled child addition is awarded if the criteria is met. There are 2 rates of disabled child addition, only one is included in the award for each child:

More detailed information on the child element can be found in ADM Chapter F1.

Housing costs element

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). This is also the case where the claimant is entitled to UC and also to housing benefit for temporary accommodation (see below), in other words the level of work allowance that applies is the same as if they were entitled to the housing element.

From 11 April 2018, claimants are no longer eligible for the housing cost element whilst living in temporary accommodation and instead they are able to claim Housing Benefit for their housing costs alongside UC.

More detailed information on the housing element can be found in the following ADM Chapters:

F2: Housing costs element

F3: Housing costs element – support for renters

F4: Housing costs element – support for owner occupiers

Capability for work elements

Prior to 3 April 2017 there were two capability for work elements – 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. The limited capability for work element was removed from 3 April 2017.

Limited capability for work element (LCW)

The LCW element was abolished from 3 April 2017. From that date, anyone making a new claim for UC on grounds of a health condition and who is determined as having limited capability for work would be affected by the change. Existing UC claimants whose circumstances change after 3 April 2017 so that they are determined as having limited capability for work will not receive the additional element.

However, some claimants receive protection from the change and will continue to receive the LCW for work element including:

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. 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 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.

More detailed information about the LCW and LCWWRA elements can be found in ADM Chapter F5 and Chapters G1, G2 and G3.. The ADM also contains more guidance about the work capability assessment and what constitutes limited capability for work and LCWWRA.

Carer element

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.

Childcare costs element

Claimants with childcare costs may be able to get this element if they meet the two qualifying conditions which are:

DWP have said that where a claimant pays for their costs in assessment period (AP) 1 but reports them in AP2, and also reports and pays for further costs (occurring in AP2) in AP2 - depending on what the period covered is, the UC childcare element covering costs for AP1 will be paid through an ad-hoc payment if the AP1 award payment has already been made. The costs occurring in the separate assessment periods are not added together for the purposes of reaching the childcare element cap.

Example 1

Isobel is a working single parent and her UC assessment period runs from 20th to the 19th of each month. She arranges childcare for her son while she works and pays her childcare regularly on the 18th of each month. From 16 October onwards, instead of having to report her childcare costs by 19th of each month in which she pays, i.e. the day after, she has until the 19th of the following month to report her childcare costs to DWP.

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).

Some changes were announced to the childcare element in the Spring Budget 2023. The changes were introduced from summer 2023, and are:

Increase to the maximum cap on childcare costs; and parents claiming UC moving into work or increasing their hours will be able to access help with their initial childcare costs upfront.

More detailed information about the childcare costs element can be found in ADM Chapter F7.

Transitional protection – managed migration

People who move over from legacy benefits to UC by DWP under the formal managed migration exercise should be entitled to receive transitional protection where they have no change of circumstances and their new UC award, at the point they are moved, is lower than their former legacy benefits (see our managed migration page for more detail).

Transitional SDP element

From 27 January 2021, people who receive a severe disability premium (SDP) with a social security benefit (or have been receiving a SDP and continue to meet the criteria for SDP but the benefit has ceased in the previous month) are no longer prevented from making a new claim for UC and, consequently, can no longer make a brand new claim for legacy benefits.

The transitional SDP element is to be included in the calculation of the UC award for those SDP recipients who make a new claim for UC from 27 January. However, the transitional SDP element is liable to erosion over time in the same way as other transitional protection elements.

The transitional SDP element is not payable in cases where a transitional element is already being paid for claims made prior to 27 January 2021 and is not payable where the SDP recipient is joining the household and making a new joint UC claim with an existing UC claimant.

Further details about the new element are set out in the DWP’s decision makers guidance Chapter M7

Last reviewed/updated 18 December 2023