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Changes in circumstances

This content applies to England

It is a claimant's responsibility to report changes of circumstances to DWP. A change will affect benefit from the first day of an assessment period.

Reporting changes of circumstances

An applicant will be expected to report a change of circumstances 'as soon as reasonably practicable' if:[1]

  • it might affect her/his entitlement to benefit, the amount of benefit, or its payment
  • s/he might reasonably be expected to know that there would be such an effect.

Effect of changes of circumstances

Where a change in circumstances results in entitlement to UC increasing or decreasing, the change will be applied at the beginning of an assessment period. However, which assessment period this is will depend on the nature of the change.

Change in claimant circumstances

Where entitlement changes because of a change to the claimant's circumstances, universal credit will normally be affected in the assessment period in which the change occurs although there are some exceptions such as where an applicant becomes terminally ill or where DWP has decided to make or to stop making a hardship payment.[2] However, where the applicant does not report the change until after the assessment period in which it occurred and it results in an increase in entitlement, the increase will only be applied from the beginning of the assessment period in which the report is made unless an extension request is granted.[3]

This 'whole-month' approach can result in a claimant losing a significant amount of universal credit depending on when a 'disadvantageous' change of circumstances occurs in the assessment period. For example, if a claimant whose assessment period starts on the 5th of the month becomes entitled to less universal credit because her/his capital increases on the 30th of the same month, the reduction or removal of universal credit will apply from the 5th of that month, meaning reduced or no benefit for over three weeks of the assessment period. Although not always possible, it is advisable to try and time such disadvantageous changes to fall as near as possible to the start of the assessment period.

Change in legislation

Where the change of circumstances is a change in the legislation, the new entitlement will begin:[4]

  • On the date of the change if that is also the start date of the claimant's assessment period
  • On the first date of the next assessment period in other cases.

Where DWP require more information

Where a decision maker requires more information in order to make a decision on how benefit will be affected by an applicant's change in circumstances, s/he will notify the claimant and give a deadline for a response.[5] Where a successful reconsideration would be to the advantageous to the applicant, there will be a 14 day deadline for the applicant to respond with the requested information. In other cases, the deadline will be one month.[6] If the claimant does not respond within this time, a decision may be made taking into account only the information available when the request was made.[7]

[1] reg 38(5) Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/380.

[2] paras 20-31, Sch.1  Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[3] para 21, Sch.1, Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[4] para 32, Sch.1 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[5] reg 33(2) and reg 33(3) Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[6] reg 33(3)(b) and reg 33(4 Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

[7] reg 33(3)(c) Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/381.

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