How will a change in circumstances affect my UC award?

CORONAVIRUS: If you have had a change in circumstances due to the Coronavirus outbreak then see the Coronavirus pages for more information on what you need to do and how this might affect your Universal Credit.
See Coronavirus for more information.

Change in Circumstances

When you have a change in your personal circumstances or a change to your income this could change the amount of Universal Credit that you receive.

You must notify your Work Coach about the change as soon as possible – you can do this on your Universal Credit account.

If you delay notifying your Work Coach about a change in your circumstances you risk:

Being underpaid – You only get the extra UC once you have told the DWP about the change – any extra money is not backdated. The DWP will only take this beneficial change in your circumstances into account from the beginning of the Assessment Period in which you notify them. You can give reasons for the delay but they do not always accept them.

Being overpaid – where the change means that you are now entitled to less Universal Credit, they will always re-assess your Universal Credit award back to the Assessment Period in which the change took place. Overpayments can build up quickly and are always recoverable. They will recover the overpayment by making deductions from your future Universal Credit payments.

IMPORTANT: Where the change is that you, your partner or dependant child have been awarded Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance or Carers Allowance, then special rules apply. These say that it doesn’t matter when that change is reported – any increase in your Universal Credit award should always go back to the date that benefit has been awarded from. If you don’t think the DWP have applied this rule correctly then contact a benefits adviser for help.

Example:
Hanna gets Universal Credit. Her Assessment Periods run from 6th of one month to 5th of the next. On 26th August she has her first baby – she is now entitled to have a Child Element included in her award. But Hanna doesn’t get round to telling the DWP about the change until 10th September. This means that when the DWP assess her award on 5th September it can’t include a Child Element. Hanna has missed out on £235.83!

Example:
Baksho gets Universal Credit. Her Assessment Periods run from 17th of one month to 16th of the next. Her 16 year old son has decided that he would prefer living with his dad and moves out on 27th October. Baksho doesn’t tell the DWP and her Universal Credit award continues to include a Child Element for him. On 7th February the DWP find out and reassess her award back to 17th October to remove the Child Element. This results in an overpayment of £707.49, which is recovered from Baksho’s on-going Universal Credit payments.

Common Changes

Going to struggle until you get your next payment?

If you have lost your job, or have had another change that means your UC should go up, you can ask for a Change in Circumstances Advance. You have to show that you will struggle to manage until your next UC payment.
See Need extra financial help? for more information.

Example:
Ruth gets Universal Credit to top up her wage and pay her rent. Sadly the business she has been working for has gone bust and she has lost her job. Her Assessment Periods run from 23rd of one month to 22nd of the next. She receives her last weekly wage on 26th June. She knows that her next Universal Credit will be more than usual but wonders how she is going to manage until then. She sends a message to her Work Coach on her journal who offers her a small Change in Circumstances Advance. It’s not much but it should be enough. She will pay back the Advance by having deductions taken out of her Universal Credit Payments for the next 6 months.

Why not take a look at our video below which explains more about how changes affect an award