Why would someone not want to claim Universal Credit at the same time as their contributory benefit?
Some people, depending on the situation, might be better off if they just claim contributory JSA or ESA and avoid Universal Credit. Anyone who lives in a Full/Digital UC Service area, who has been getting Housing Benefit and/or Child Tax Credit whilst they were working and who finishes work should get advice to check if they would be better off by avoiding Universal Credit. They may be able to keep their existing legacy benefits running (they will need to report their change of circumstances to the HB / Tax Credit Office) and claim their contributory JSA / ESA.
Note that contributory JSA is only paid for six months and contributory ESA for those placed in the Work Related Activity Group is only paid for twelve months. When these expire, a claim for Universal Credit would be necessary.
Also note that contributory JSA / ESA are a single person's benefit, so if the claimant has a partner who has no income, they are likely to be better off if they claim Universal Credit - which will include a top-up for the partner (as well as for the children and rent).
Farah and David have two young daughters. David works full time and Farah has, until recently, been working part-time. However, she has been laid off after working for the same company for 5 years. She will be looking for another job but wishes to claim Contribution-Based Jobseekers Allowance whilst she looks. As well as David's earnings they also get Tax Credits (which includes a disabled child addition for their youngest daughter).
They live in a Full / Digital UC service area.
To make a claim for Contribution Based Jobseekers Allowance, Farah will be advised (by the DWP/JobCentre) to claim it via the Universal Credit system. There is a risk that this will trigger a claim not just for CB-JSA but also Universal Credit. This would mean that their Tax Credits would be brought to an end and they may get less financial help from Universal Credit than they would have done from staying on Tax Credits (and any Housing Benefit where they already had a live claim - ie they will not be able to make a new claim for HB as they live in a 'Full'/Digital service area).
They should be advised to get a 'better off' calculation done, and, if they do not wish to claim Universal Credit, to make the claim for CB-JSA by calling the Full Service Helpline on 0800 328 5644 to get a UC JSA 1 claim form emailed/sent - and follow the advice on claiming above.
Does a Universal Credit claimant have to claim contributory JSA or ESA?
No! The Universal Credit award will only be reduced by the monthly amount of New Style JSA or New-Style ESA if it has been claimed. If the claimant decides not to bother to claim New Style JSA / ESA, their Universal Credit will be higher. Whichever way they decide to do things, overall the amount of benefits they will receive will be the same: either all as UC or New-Style JSA/ESA with a top-up of UC.
There are, however, advantages to claiming both benefits...
Why bother claiming New Style JSA or ESA if it is going to count as income for UC anyway?
Firstly, New-Style JSA and ESA are paid fortnightly - so this can help with household budgeting.
Secondly, if a Limited Capability for Work Related Activity Element (worth £328.32) is going to be included in the UC award, following the Work Capability Assessment - this will be paid one monthly assessment period earlier if the claimant also claimed New-Style ESA.
Thirdly, a change in household income or savings, or in who is included in the UC assessment, might mean entitlement to Universal Credit ends, but as New-Style JSA/ESA is not means-tested, that could continue to be paid, eg where the New-Style JSA/ESA claimant has a partner who starts work and their earnings 'float them off' UC.
Fourthly, whilst someone is getting contributory ESA they will get Class 1 National Insurance Credits onto their NI record, which help to qualify for more benefits than the Class 3 Credits they would get from claiming UC only. Both Class 1 and 3 Credits help people to qualify for the State Pension and a surviving spouse or civil partner to qualify for Bereavement Support Payment, whereas Class 1 (but not Class 3) could in the future help someone qualify for New Style JSA or ESA in the future.
Credits only claims
When someone doesn't meet the NI contribution conditions for New style ESA or JSA and has too much income/savings for UC, they can make a Credits only claim by calling the general Job Centre Plus claim line 0800 055 6688 or calling into their local Job Centre, and explaining that they cannot/do not wish to claim UC and/or new style JSA/ESA. Answer to FOI request 2158 in full on this page.
DWP Response to our Freedom of Information Request 1710 - here
DWP Response FOI
"The regulations are The Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 2013 (S.I. 2013/378) which can
The Government supports the contributory principle and believes it is right that people should
be able to access support after paying into the system. Both contributory Employment and
Support Allowance (ESA) and contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) continue to be
available to claimants who are able to claim Universal Credit (UC) and to others who are not.
A claimant cannot have entitlement to both UC and the current versions of ESA and JSA, (ie old style)
which include both a contributory element and an income-related element. Two new sets of
Regulations have therefore been introduced to provide a ‘new style’ of ESA and JSA, which
consists of a contributory element only and therefore can be paid alongside Universal Credit;
the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2013 and The Jobseeker’s Allowance
Claimants may continue to receive new style ESA/JSA in addition to UC, should they have
entitlement to both if the claimant has paid sufficient class 1 National Insurance contributions in the
relevant qualifying two year period. These contributory benefits will also continue to be payable
where claimants do not qualify for UC, as long as they satisfy the conditions of entitlement for
Therefore in a UC area claimants can receive:
• UC plus new style ESA/JSA
• UC only
• New style ESA/JSA only.
New style ESA/ JSA becomes the personal allowance and UC will pay the other elements that
are not included i.e. Housing costs, childcare cost etc.
The Department is looking at options to smooth the interaction between new style JSA/ESA and UC.
Full details with regards to eligibility, how to claim and payments for JSA New Style are available online in GOV.UK."