Universal credit: Roll-out timetable (GB)

Universal Credit (UC) full service is now fully rolled out across the UK for (most) new claims. UC was originally introduced in April 2013 and has gradually rolled out, initially via a live service and then via full service, across the UK. Full service roll-out was completed in December 2018.

This page explains how UC was rolled out between April 2013 and December 2018 and the plans for existing tax credits and other legacy benefit claimants.

Introduction and initial roll-out of live service - April 2013 to November 2014

Universal Credit was introduced in April 2013 in four postcodes in the North West. Between April 2013 and July 2013, further postcode areas were added. Only people who lived in the relevant postcodes and who met strict conditions were able to claim. These areas were called ‘Pathfinder’ areas. Generally only single jobseekers with no children were eligible to make a claim in the pathfinder areas.

Progressive roll-out of live service UC across Great Britain started in October 2013 and gradually more postcodes were added to the Pathfinder areas.

From 16 June 2014, new rules called ‘gateway conditions’ were introduced. These rules set out whether or not a person living in a designated live service postcode area was able to make a claim for UC. If the person met the gateway conditions and lived in a postcode that was accepting UC claims, then they were able to submit a claim. The initial set of gateway conditions were the same as the previous Pathfinder conditions.

Introduction of the digital service - November 2014 to May 2016

In February 2013, the Major Projects Authority expressed concerns about the UC programme. This led to a 'reset' of UC and new plans to be formulated. This included a proposal to operate a 'twin-trick' approach by running a live service system alongside a new digital system.

When UC began in April 2013, it used IT assets developed by private contract suppliers. These areas are known as live service areas.

Alongside the live service areas, the DWP built their own digital service system which started in a small number of areas in November 2014. Between November 2014 and April 2016, DWP introduced further digital test areas.

Replacing the live service with full service

The digital service changed its name to 'full service' and from May 2016, the DWP started rolling out the full service to existing live service areas in Great Britain. Claimants already claiming UC in these live service areas were transferred to the full service shortly after the full-service reached their postcode area. In January 2018, the DWP announced the closure of live service for most brand new claims and by April 2019, all live service claimants were moved across to the full service. Live service is therefore fully closed.

The UC full service finished rolling out across Great Britain and Northern Ireland in December 2018. This means that new UC claims are possible in all areas of the UK, although there are some exceptions (see our 'current eligibility to claim' section for more information).

Existing tax credit and other legacy benefit claimants

Now that UC is available across the UK, attention turns to existing tax credit and other legacy benefit claimants (those claiming housing benefit, income support, income-related jobseeker's allowance and income-related employment and support allowance). A pilot process for a 'managed migration' started in July 2019. The pilot was to involve up to 10,000 existing claimants (in Great Britain) and was due to finish in July 2020. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the pilot was suspended and no announcement has been made about re-commencing it.

The current official completion date for the move of legacy benefit claimants to UC is September 2024, however, this may change due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. We explain more about the process in our 'tax credits and UC' section.

Northern Ireland

UC full service started to roll-out in Northern Ireland from September 2017 and completed in December 2018. It is expected that Northern Ireland will start managed migration across to UC, after learning from the DWP pilot (although as above this may be subject to delay due to the coronavirus outbreak).

You can find out more in our dedicated NI section.

Last reviewed/updated 24 May 2021