New to Universal Credit

11. Health conditions or disabilities

If you have a health condition or disability which prevents you from working, or limits the amount of work you can do, Universal Credit can provide you with both financial and work-related support.

Work Capability Assessments

When you apply for Universal Credit, you’ll be asked if you have a health condition or disability that affects your ability to work. If you do, you’ll be asked to complete an assessment form and provide medical evidence.

You’ll then be told if you need an appointment for a Work Capability Assessment. This is to see how much your illness or disability affects your ability to work. If you need one, you’ll get a letter with a time for an appointment. Assessment appointments can take place face to face, by telephone or by video. Your appointment letter will set out how it will take place.

There are 3 possible outcomes from a Work Capability Assessment. You will be assessed as one of the following:

1. Fit for work

This means you will be expected to look for work or to increase your earnings. You will not receive any additional amounts of Universal Credit due to sickness or disability.

2. Having limited capability for work

This means that although you may not be able to look for work now, you can prepare for work with the aim of working at some time in the future.

If you are claiming benefit for the first time and have never had a Work Capability Assessment before, you will not receive any additional amounts of Universal Credit due to a health condition or disability.

However, if you were assessed as having limited capability for work, and have been continuously receiving a benefit because of that condition since before 3 April 2017, you will receive the limited capability for work amount of Universal Credit – currently £128.89 per month. You will still be able to receive this extra amount if you had a break in your claim because of earnings that lasted for less than 6 months.

3. Having limited capability for work and work-related activity

This means you will not be asked to look for work, or to prepare for work.

You will get paid more Universal Credit due to your sickness or disability. You will receive the limited capability for work and work-related activity component of Universal Credit – currently £343.63 per month.

With all 3 Work Capability Assessment outcomes you may be eligible for other benefits, including New Style Employment and Support Allowance. Use a benefits calculator to find out what you may be able to get.

Claiming as a couple

If you are making a claim as a couple and both of you have limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity, your joint household payment will include only one additional amount.

  • If one or both of you have limited capability for work and work-related activity you will receive the limited capability for work and work-related activity payment.
  • If you both have limited capability for work, and were receiving a benefit payment due to it before 3 April 2017, you will receive the limited capability for work payment.

If you are working

If you earn more than the equivalent of 16 hours’ work per week paid at the National Minimum Wage, you will not be able to receive either the limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity payment unless you are also getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you are getting DLA or PIP you will still need to attend a Work Capability Assessment to assess whether you can receive this extra amount.

If your condition changes

You must let the Department for Work and Pensions know if:

  • your condition has got better
  • your condition has got worse, or
  • you have a new health condition

If you are already getting Universal Credit and develop a health condition or become disabled, you must tell the Department for Work and Pensions as soon as possible. You won’t need to change benefits. You will stay on Universal Credit and your Claimant Commitment will be reviewed to take into account your new circumstances.

For more information about Work Capability Assessments and how Universal Credit supports people with a disability or health condition, see Health conditions, disability and Universal Credit

Access to work

Access to Work is a publicly funded employment support programme that aims to help more disabled people start or stay in work. It can provide practical and financial support if you have a disability or long term physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job.

An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support to help you:

  • start working
  • stay in work
  • move into self-employment or start a business

How much you get depends on your circumstances. The money does not have to be paid back and will not affect your other benefits.

Claiming Access to Work during the coronavirus outbreak

During the coronavirus outbreak, you can still get help from Access to Work if you have a disability or a physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job.

You may be able to get help with working from home, at your normal workplace, or a combination of both.

If you cannot use public transport safely because of your disability, and your doctor or healthcare professional supports this, funding may be available for extra travel costs.

If you employ your own support worker and have additional costs for personal protective equipment (PPE), Access to Work may be able to provide funding.

Access to Work can also provide funding for remote support services, such as video remote interpreting or British Sign Language interpreting.

You cannot claim help from Access to Work if you are no longer working. If you already have an Access to Work award, you can start using it again when you start working.

DWP is prioritising making grants for new claims from critical workers, those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group and people due to start work within 4 weeks. However, if you believe that you may be eligible for a grant, you should apply as soon as possible to ensure your grant is considered as quickly as possible.

Moving from Employment and Support Allowance

If you move from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to Universal Credit and have already been assessed as having limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity, and there is no break in your claim, UC may be able to use the ESA Work Capability Assessment.

This means if you received the work-related activity component in ESA and there is no break in your claim, you will receive the limited capability for work payment in Universal Credit.

If you received the support component in ESA and there is no break in your claim, you will receive the limited capability for work and work-related activity payment in Universal Credit.

You can receive New Style ESA at the same time as Universal Credit. For every £1 you receive from New Style ESA, your Universal Credit payment will be reduced by £1.

If you claim Universal Credit whilst appealing against a Work Capability Assessment decision that relates to your previous ESA claim, you will not be able to return to income-related ESA, even if your appeal is successful. You will remain on Universal Credit and any relevant changes will be made to your Universal Credit payments. You can return to contribution-based ESA/ New Style ESA. Arrears of ESA will be paid as a lump sum.

If your Work Capability Assessment has a review date, you will need to have another assessment at that time. If your health has changed at this point this may affect whether you continue to receive a limited capability for work or a limited capability for work and work-related activity payment.

Severe disability premium

If you have a change of circumstances that affects the severe disability premium (SDP) or your other benefits, report it and you’ll be told what to do next.

If you were entitled to the SDP in the month before you made your Universal Credit claim, you may be able to receive an SDP-related transitional protection amount as part of your Universal Credit payment.

If you’re entitled to this transitional protection amount, you’ll get it automatically as part of your Universal Credit payment. You will be told about this through your Universal Credit account. It will be shown on your Universal Credit statement as ‘transitional protection’.

If you have recently separated from your partner who received the SDP, you will need to apply for Universal Credit within one month of separating if you are to receive the transitional protection amount. You will need to tell DWP that your former partner received the SDP so that they know to consider you for an SDP-related transitional protection amount.

The amount you get will depend on your circumstances.

If you start work or begin earning more, your transitional protection amount may be affected in the same way as the rest of your Universal Credit payment. For every £1 you earn above your work allowance, your Universal Credit payment will be reduced by 63 pence.

If you have a change of circumstances that would increase the amount of Universal Credit you get, your transitional protection amount will be reduced by the same amount. Your total Universal Credit payment will therefore stay the same unless the increase is larger than your transitional protection amount, at which point your Universal Credit will increase.

Terminal illness

You may get extra money from Universal Credit if you’re terminally ill.

If you’re making a new claim you can declare this during your application.

If you’ve already claimed Universal Credit and are diagnosed with a terminal illness you should report this as a change of circumstances. This can be done through your Universal Credit account. You can also get someone else to report the change for you.

Find out more about benefits if you’re living with a terminal illness


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