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.

Live service roll-out

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 postcode area is able to make a claim for UC. If the person meets the gateway conditions and lives in a postcode that is accepting UC claims, then they are 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 does not mean they will 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 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.

You can find out more about the roll-out in live service areas in the live service section.

Digital service

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 and will continue to be rolled out to April 2016 in order to test and learn about processes and policy.

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 digital (full) service to existing live service areas in Great Britain. Claimants already claiming UC in these areas will eventually be transferred across to the digital service system although when and how this will happen is not yet clear.

Once that process is complete, from July 2019, DWP will begin migrating all remaining existing benefit claimants to the full UC digital service with a view to completion by March 2022. Separate arrangements will be made for those over 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 digital claimants than for those who are in live service claimants. We explain more about this in our digital section.

Northern Ireland

The roll-out above applies only to Great Britain. Universal Credit will start to roll-out in Northern Ireland from September 2017. You can find out more in our dedicated NI legislation section.

Last reviewed/updated 16 February 2017