Who can claim universal credit

People need to meet the conditions of entitlement to claim universal credit.

This content applies to England

Conditions of entitlement to universal credit

Claimants must meet the basic conditions of entitlement to universal credit. 

The claimant must:[1]

  • be at least 18 years old, with some exceptions

  • have not reached the qualifying age for state pension credit

  • be in in Great Britain

  • not be in education, with some exceptions

  • have accepted a claimant commitment

A claim can be made by a single individual or jointly by a couple.[2] Where a claim is made jointly both claimants must meet these conditions.

People under 18

People usually need to be at least 18 years old to claim universal credit.

A claimant aged 16 or 17 is entitled to claim universal credit if they:[3]

  • have a dependent child or in some cases are a member of a couple and the other member of the couple is responsible for a child

  • have been assessed as having limited capability for work, or is awaiting assessment

  • are caring for a severely disabled person

  • are pregnant and it is less than 11 weeks until the expected date of birth

  • were pregnant and it is less than 15 weeks since the date of birth

  • are without parental support, including where the claimant is estranged or at risk from their parents

People who have reached pension credit age

Single claimants over the qualifying age for pension credit cannot claim universal credit.[4]

Where a claimant is a member of a couple in which one member has achieved the qualifying age for pension credit and the other has not, the ‘mixed age’ couple must claim universal credit.[5]

Before 14 May 2019 mixed age couples had the choice to claim housing benefit and pension credit. This is no longer the case.

Mixed age couples can still make a claim for housing benefit, where either the older member is in receipt of severe disability premium. The older member is treated as not having reached state pension age and can claim working-age housing benefit.

A mixed age couple can also make a claim for housing benefit if the younger member is not eligible for universal credit because they are:

  • not habitually resident

  • a person subject to immigration control

  • under 18 years old

  • in prison

  • absent from the UK for longer than the allowed temporary absence period

In these situations the older member is treated as a single claimant and able to claim pension age housing benefit.[6]

Requirement to be in Great Britain

Claimants must meet the condition that they are ‘in Great Britain’. That means both that they must be present in Great Britain when making the claim and that they are eligible based on immigration and residence requirements.

People in full-time education

Most people in full-time education are not entitled to universal credit. Exceptions to this rule include a student who:[7]

  • is under 21 and in non-advanced education

  • was under 21 when they started the course of study and is without parental support

  • has a dependent child

  • lives with a partner who is also in education and has a dependent child

  • is a foster parent

  • lives with a partner who is also in education and is a foster parent

  • is entitled to attendance allowance, disability living allowance or personal independence payment and has been assessed as having limited capability for work

  • is over the qualifying age for pension credit and their spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner is under that age

Claimant commitment 

People claiming universal credit must accept the claimant commitment. This sets out what activities they need to take to find employment.

People who are receiving housing benefit 

An applicant who is currently receiving housing benefit and makes a successful claim for universal credit continues to receive housing benefit for two weeks after they becomes entitled to universal credit.

A transition from housing benefit to universal credit is usually triggered by a change in the claimant’s circumstances.

Previous restrictions on claiming universal credit

Between 16 January 2019 and 26 January 2021 a claimant who was entitled to a legacy benefit that included a severe disability premium (SDP) could not claim universal credit under the 'SDP Gateway' provisions.[8] This restriction has now been revoked.[9] Claimants who are entitled to the Severe Disability Premium and make a claim on or after 27 January 2021 may be entitled to a transitional SPD payment.

Between 6 April 2017 and 31 January 2019 a person who was responsible for more than two children could not make a new claim for universal credit and had to claim legacy benefits and child tax credit. The exception was for people who had transitional protection. This restriction was removed for all claims made on or after 1 February 2019.[10]

Claimants aged 18 to 21 who applied for universal credit in a full digital service area between 1 April 2017 and 31 December 2018 were not eligible for the housing costs element of universal credit unless they were in an exempt group.[11]

Last updated: 18 March 2021


  • [1]

    s.4(1) Welfare Reform Act 2012

  • [2]

    s.2 Welfare Reform Act 2012.

  • [3]

    reg 8 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [4]

    s.4(1)(b) Welfare Reform Act 2012.

  • [5]

    reg 3(2) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [6]

    art. 2 The Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 31 and Savings and Transitional Provisions (Amendment)) Order 2019 SI 2019/935

  • [7]

    reg 14 Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376.

  • [8]

    reg 4A Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 inserted by reg 2 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) (SDP Gateway) Amendment Regulations 2019 SI 2019/10.

  • [9]

    Reg 7 The Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations SI 2019/1152

  • [10]

    reg 2 Universal Credit (Restriction on Amounts for Children and Qualifying Young Persons) (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Regulations 2019 SI 2019/27, repealing reg 39 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230.

  • [11]

    para 4A, Schedule 4, Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376 revoked by reg 3(6) Universal Credit and Jobseeker's Allowance (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018 SI 2018/1129.