Universal Credit for sick and disabled people

If you can’t work because of sickness or disability you might have to claim Universal Credit. This page tells you more about claiming it and how current sickness and disability benefits you might be getting like ESA, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are affected by Universal Credit.

If you’re employed

Got a question?

Our advisers will point you in the right direction.

Start a webchat online or call us on 0800 138 1677.

You might be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks if:

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  • you’re employed, but not able to work
  • your average earnings for the two months before you stopped working were at least £120 a week.

Some employers have more generous sick pay schemes and others will assess cases individually.

You will need to check the terms and conditions of your contract or staff handbook to find out exactly what is available.

Find out more about Statutory Sick Pay on Gov.uk.

Can I claim Universal Credit if I’m sick or disabled?

If you can’t work because of sickness or disability and need to claim benefits, whether or not you can claim Universal Credit depends on your:

  • National Insurance Contribution record
  • household income and savings.

If you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions

Living in Northern Ireland or Scotland?

If you’re in Northern Ireland, find out more on the nidirect website.

In Scotland, you can read our guide to Universal Credit in Scotland.

You may be able to claim new-style Employment and Support Allowance.

For the 2020/21 tax year you need to have been earning at least £120 a week for the last two full tax years to be able to claim new-style ESA.

If you need extra support with housing costs or bringing up children, you may be able to claim Universal Credit alongside ESA.

Your Universal Credit claim will depend on your household income and savings.

Help to Claim

If you’re claiming Universal Credit for the first time, Citizens Advice has a dedicated service to help you. Call 0800 144 8444 in England or 0800 024 1220 in Wales.
For more information and to find your local Citizens Advice on their website

In Scotland, call 0800 023 2581, via webchat on the Citizens Advice website or contact your local bureau directly during their usual business hours.

If you’re married, in a civil partnership or are living with your partner, they will have to make a claim for Universal Credit too.

Contributory ESA

You may be able to claim contributory ESA instead of new-style ESA if you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions but don’t qualify for Universal Credit. This could be because:

  • your partner’s earnings are too high
  • you don’t need to claim any elements of Universal Credit.

If you haven’t paid enough National Insurance Contributions

You may be able to claim the limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) element of Universal Credit.

You may be able to claim additional elements of Universal Credit to help with other costs, such as rent, caring or bringing up children.

To claim the LCWRA element of Universal Credit you will need to have a fit note from your doctor.

You’ll probably need to attend a work capability assessment with a medical professional.

Read our guide Universal Credit explained.
For more information on claiming Universal Credit, your commitments, sanctions and working while claiming download Universal Credit & You from Gov.ukopens in new window.

Can I claim Universal Credit if I’m working?

Make the most of your Universal Credit payment with personalised help from our Money Manager tool.

You can claim Universal Credit if you’re working, and if you’re assessed as having limited capability for work.

You can earn a certain amount before your Universal Credit payments are affected. This is known as the work allowance.

To be eligible for a work allowance, you (and your partner if claiming together) must either have:

  • responsibility for a child
  • limited capability for work.

Monthly work allowances are set at:

  • £292 if your Universal Credit includes housing support
  • £512 if you do not receive housing support.

If you earn more than the work allowance, your Universal Credit payments will gradually reduce as your pay increases.

Your Universal Credit payment will go down by 63p for every £1 you earn above your work allowance.

How does Universal Credit affect PIP and DLA?

If you’re getting Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA), it will continue to be paid along with your Universal Credit payment.

You get these benefits if your condition is severe enough for you to qualify for them. They won’t affect the amount you get in Universal Credit.

When will I move from Employment and Support Allowance to Universal Credit

If your circumstances stay the same

You don’t need to do anything for the time being. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will contact you when it’s time to switch to Universal Credit.

If your circumstances change

If there are certain changes in your life, what the DWP call a ‘change in circumstances’, you might now have to make a new claim for Universal Credit.

If this happens, all benefits you are getting which are being replaced by Universal Credit will also stop

As well as ESA, this will include Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and Income Support.

What are significant changes of circumstances?

A significant change in circumstances might include:

  • starting work
  • failing a work capability assessment
  • start renting a new property (certainly if you move to a new local authority).

Will I get less money if I move from ESA to Universal Credit?

Universal Credit payments are made up of a standard allowance plus payments (called elements) for your personal circumstances.

The limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) element replaces income-related ESA.

The rates paid for this element are lower than the current ESA rates.

If you move to Universal Credit because of a change of circumstances, you will be assessed under Universal Credit rules.

This means your Universal Credit payment might be more or less than the amount you’re getting for your current benefits.

To find out if you’ll be better or worse off on Universal Credit, use the Benefits and budgeting calculator on the Policy in Practice website.

If you are getting the Severe Disability Premium

The Severe Disability Premium is not available under Universal Credit.

Since 16 January 2019, you do not have to start claiming Universal Credit if you’re getting the Severe Disability Premium and your circumstances change.

If you have already moved onto Universal Credit and lost the SDP

If you were getting the Severe Disability Premium, but were moved to Universal Credit before 16 January 2019, you will continue to claim Universal Credit.

The government announced on 24 July 2019 that it will pay an additional payment on top of your Universal Credit as compensation for any money lost since your SDP stopped.

You will also start to receive an ongoing monthly transitional protection payment to top up your income as part of your Universal Credit award. This will be between £120 and £405 a month, depending on your circumstances.

To find out more about when backdated payments and when monthly transitional protection payments will start, contact your work coach or the DWP universal credit SDP team on 0800 181 4049.

Work Capability Assessments if you’re claiming Universal Credit


Due to the coronavirus outbreak all face-to-face work capability assessments for sickness and disability benefits have been suspended until at least the middle of June.

When you make a claim for the limited capability for work and work-related activity of Universal Credit, you may be asked to attend a Work Capability Assessment.

This is designed to assess how your disability or illness affects your ability to work.

You will be assessed as being in one of the following categories:

  • you are fit for work
  • you have limited capability for work - which means that although you may be unable to look for work now, you can prepare to work at some time in the future
  • you have limited capability for work and work-related activity - which means that you won’t be asked to look for work or prepare for work.

The assessment will also be used to decide which rate of the limited capability for work element you should get.

Limited capability for work rates for 2020/21

Rate Per month
Limited capability for work* £128.25
Limited capability for work and work-related activity £341.92

*Limited capability for work rate is no longer paid for claims on or after 3 April 2017.

Remember, this amount is paid monthly as part of your total Universal Credit payment.

Find out more about other elements of Universal Credit you may be able to claim in our guide Universal Credit explained.

You will need to have a fit note from your doctor to start your claim.

Work capability assessments if you’re claiming new-style or contributory ESA

You will usually need to undergo a Work Capability Assessment to find out whether you’re eligible for new-style ESA or contributory ESA.

If you’re applying for Universal Credit and new-style ESA, you will have a single assessment for both benefits.

You won’t have to undergo an assessment for certain medical conditions. For example:

  • any terminal illness
  • some pregnancy-related conditions
  • some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

After you’ve made your claim, you’ll be paid a weekly assessment rate for up to 13 weeks while you’re waiting for your work capability assessment appointment.

After your assessment, if it’s decided you can get new-style ESA, you’ll be placed in one of two groups:

  • the support group – if your condition is so severe that you can’t work or take steps to prepare for work
  • the work-related activity group – if your condition allows you to do some work or to take steps to prepare for work.

How much is new-style ESA?

New-style ESA is paid every two weeks for up to a year (365 days).

If you’re also getting Universal Credit the amount you’re getting in new-style ESA will be deducted from your Universal Credit payment.

Age 2020/21 assessment rate paid for the first 13 weeks
18 to 24 up to £58.90 (per week)
25 and over up to £74.35 (per week)

New-style ESA rate - paid after your Work Capability Assessment

Group Rate for 2020/21
Work-related activity group up to £74.35 (per week)
Support group up to £113.55 (per week)

If you’re in the support group and on income-related ESA, you’re also entitled to the enhanced disability premium at £17.10 a week.

You may also qualify for the severe disability premium, which is £66.95 per week.

Can I get new-style or contributory ESA after one year?

If you’re in the support group

After one year, you’ll usually have to undergo another Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to decide if you still qualify to remain in the support group.

You can continue to get new-style or contributory ESA for as long as you remain in this group, for example if your health has got worse.

If you no longer qualify to be in the support group, the WCA will also assess whether you can apply for the Limited Capability for Work and work-related activity (LCWRA) element of Universal Credit.

After one year, your new-style ESA payment will stop.

You’ll usually have to undergo another Work Capability Assessment to see if you’re still eligible for help because of your illness or disability.

If you are, you may be able to claim the limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) element of Universal Credit.

If you’re getting Severe Disability Premium you won’t be asked to claim Universal Credit.

You may be able to claim income-related ESA plus other benefits, such as Housing Benefit or tax credits, until the DWP asks you to make a claim for Universal Credit. This is unlikely to happen before November 2020 at the earliest.

Universal Credit if you have a sick or disabled child

If your child is disabled or has a long-term health condition, you may be able to claim the disabled child element as part of your Universal Credit payment.

The rate of disabled child element you get will depend on the rate of DLA or PIP you are getting for them.

You will get the higher rate if your child is:

  • already getting the DLA higher rate care component
  • already getting the PIP enhanced daily living component, or
  • registered blind

You’ll get the lower rate if your child is getting all other rates of DLA or PIP.

If you’re claiming DLA or PIP for a sick or disabled child, the rate of benefit you’re getting can affect your Universal Credit payment.

Disabled child element for 2020/21

Group Rate for 2020/21 (per month)
Higher £400.29
Lower £128.25

Universal Credit if you’re caring for someone

If you’re a carer for someone in your household who is severely disabled you may be able to get the ‘carer’s element’ as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment.

How much is it?

The carer’s element is £162.92 a month.

Who gets it?

You should be caring for someone for at least 35 hours a week. You don’t have to be claiming Carer’s Allowance to get the carer’s element.

Will it affect my other benefits?

If the person you’re caring for is also getting Universal Credit, it won’t affect their payment.

However, the benefits of the person you’re caring for can be affected if

  • you get the carer’s element, and
  • the person you’re caring for gets the severe disability premium.

What if there are two carers in one household?

If you and someone else in your household care for the same person, you can’t both get the carer’s element. You will have to decide between you who will claim it.

What if you’re already getting Carer’s Allowance?

If you’re getting Carer’s Allowance you can continue to get it, if you continue to be eligible.

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