Universal credit: Roll-out timetable (GB)
Universal Credit is being introduced over a number of years. To further complicate matters, two different IT systems are being used and different rules apply to each. There are frequent developments in the Universal Credit landscape – we advise that you check our blog for the latest news.
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. However the gateway conditions should not be confused with the entitlement conditions of UC. Even if a person meets the gateway conditions, it did not mean they would be entitled to UC. We explain the main entitlement conditions for UC in our entitlement to universal credit section. The initial set of gateway conditions were the same as the previous Pathfinder conditions.
From 30 June 2014, the gateway conditions were amended to allow claims from couples in certain postcodes. Further postcodes were announced throughout 2014 and from November 2014 some postcodes began accepting claims from people with children in the live service.
In February 2015, the national expansion phase of UC began with roll-out to more postcodes for single jobseekers without children. This national roll-out into these ‘live service’ areas continued until April 2016 when the live service was available in all Jobcentres across Great Britain.
However, from 1 January 2018, live service was closed down to brand new claims. This means that in some postcode areas, no new claims for UC are possible and, instead, claimants will need to claim legacy benefits, including tax credits, until UC full service reaches their postcode area.
Existing UC live service claimants will not be affected by the change and will continue their UC claims.
Other people who will not be affected by the change include:
- Those transitioning to full service - this means that, where a postcode area that has been part of the live service becomes a full service area, existing live service claimants will need to make a new claim to the full service soon after.
- Those who change address - according to a DWP memo, this will be classed as a change of circumstances within universal credit.
- Those who join an existing universal credit claim - where a person forms a couple with an existing live service claimant, the couple will continue their claim to universal credit.
- Those who separate from their partner - where a couple are claiming UC under the live service and they separate, both claimants will remain on UC as single claimants (if appropriate).
- Where someone has received universal credit in a live service area which ended because their earnings increased, their claim stays open for 6 months. If their earnings fall in that 6 month period, they should be awarded UC again without the need for a new claim. As no claim is required by the legislation, they are not affected by the 1 January 2018 change.
You can find out more about the changes the live service section.
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-track’ 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 have 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. 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 will be transferred to the full service shortly after the full service reaches their postcode area.
Once that process is complete (expected to be December 2018), from July 2019, DWP will begin migrating all remaining existing benefit claimants to the UC full service with a view to completion during 2023. Separate arrangements will be made for those who have reached state pension credit age. However, until that happens, the two systems will run side by side. To further complicate matters, the UC rules are slightly different for full service claimants than for those who are in live service. We explain more about this in our full service section.
The roll-out above applies only to Great Britain. Universal Credit started to roll-out in Northern Ireland from September 2017 with a view to completion by September 2018. You can find out more in our dedicated NI section.
Last reviewed/updated 16 October 2018