Universal credit: Roll-out timetable (GB)
Universal Credit (UC) 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
- Introduction of the digital service - November 2014 to May 2016
- Replacing the live service with full service
- Completing full service roll-out
- Existing tax credit and other legacy benefit claimants
- Northern Ireland
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.
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.
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. Between December 2018 and March 2022, there were some small groups who were still prohibited from claiming UC and had to claim legacy benefits instead but in March 2022 the last specific exception group was removed. This means that new UC claims are possible in all areas of the UK.
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) to move them from their existing legacy benefits. For the majority those who do not move by choice or as a result of a change in circumstances, DWP will have a managed migration exercise. 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. From May 2022, DWP recommenced work on the managed move of claimants from their legacy benefits to UC. This part of the exercise is not treated by DWP as a pilot but say they are developing their processes and communications as they go under a ‘test and learn’ principle.
The official schedule for the move of tax credit (and other legacy benefit) claimants to UC has changed several times over the years. In March 2023, DWP confirmed they expected to continue issuing migration notices to tax credit claimants (those who are expected to move over to UC) during 2023 and to complete the exercise for tax credit claimants, along with some other legacy benefit claimants, by the end of 2024-25 financial year. People who claim ESA (either ESA only or ESA + other legacy benefits but not tax credits) are expected to move over to UC under the migration exercise by the end of 2027/28 financial year. There are currently no published plans for moving those tax credit claimants who have reached state pension age – they will move to pension credit rather than universal credit. See our pensioner section for more information including on the status of mixed age couples. We explain more about the relationship between tax credits and UC in our 'tax credits and UC' section.
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, along similar lines to DWP, although no details have been published yet.
You can find out more in our dedicated NI section.
Last reviewed/updated 18 May 2023