What the new Universal Credit rules mean for parent carers of disabled children

5 mins read

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Tags: universal credit, part time work

Many parent carers have been asking us how they will be affected by the new Universal Credit rules for part-time workers announced by the Chancellor in the government’s mini-Budget last week – and now our finance adviser Derek has all the answers for you.

Have a read below to understand:

  • What the previous rules were;
  • What the new rules are;
  • What the new rules mean for parent carers;
  • How the new rules could affect couples who care for the same disabled child.

The ‘administrative earnings threshold’

Some part-time workers who claim Universal Credit can be asked by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to look for more work (or better-paid work) if their earnings are below certain amounts. This is known as the ‘administrative earnings threshold’.

If you are a Universal Credit claimant and you are not exempt from work-related requirements, you can be asked to look for work as a condition of getting Universal Credit. This can still apply even if you already work part-time but have low earnings. In that situation, Universal Credit can ask you to look for more hours or for better-paid work. If you fail to do this without good reasons, your benefit payments can be sanctioned (i.e. your payments can be cut).

However, this rule doesn’t apply to all part-time workers. Some workers on Universal Credit are exempt from any work-related requirements and cannot be asked to look for extra hours. For example, you will be exempt if you are someone who is treated as a full-time carer by Universal Credit.

You can only be asked to look for more work if you are a Universal Credit claimant who is not exempt from work related requirements AND whose earnings are below a certain amount – known as the ‘administrative earnings threshold’.

Up until this week, the thresholds were £355 per month for single claimants and £567 a month for members of a couple.

What changes has the Chancellor announced?

The government had already announced that these thresholds would be increasing to £494 for single people and £782 for couples from 26 September.

However, in Friday’s statement the Chancellor announced that from January 2023 the thresholds will increase again. They will become equivalent to 15 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage for single people (£617.50 per month) and 24 hours per week for couples (£988 per month).

As a result of this change, an additional 120,000 part-time workers on Universal Credit are likely to be required to look for extra hours.

Are parent carers exempt from these changes?

It’s important to remember that many carers of disabled children will be exempt from these rules.

These rules only apply to part-time workers who need to meet work-related conditions as part of their Universal Credit claim. If you are not sure whether this applies to you, check your Universal Credit claimant commitment.  

Some groups of claimants are exempt from having to meet any work-related conditions. This includes many carers for disabled children. You should automatically be exempt from any work-related conditions (and therefore exempt from having to look for more hours of work) so long as you meet all the qualifying rules for Carer’s Allowance, except for the earnings rule.

In practice, this must mean that:

  • You look after someone on a ‘qualifying disability benefit’ such as the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or higher rate, the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment, or their Scottish equivalents;
  • You provide at least 35 hours a week of care to that disabled person;
  • You are not in full-time education;
  • You meet certain tests linked to your immigration status and length of stay in the UK, and
  • No-one else is already claiming as a carer for that same disabled person.

If you meet all of the above tests, you should be automatically in the ‘no conditionality’ group of claimants and cannot be asked to look for extra hours of work.

How will the new rules affect couples?

If you spend more than 35 hours a week caring for someone on a qualifying disability benefit but aren’t eligible for Carer’s Allowance – for example, because your partner already claims this for the same child – you can still be made exempt from any work-related conditions — but this doesn’t happen automatically.

Instead, you will have to ask the staff dealing with your Universal Credit claim to exempt you from any work-related conditions under Regulation 89b of the Universal Credit regulations. Under this legislation, the DWP can use their discretion to not apply any work-related conditions to your claim so long as they are satisfied it would be unreasonable to do so. Seek further advice if they refuse to exempt you as a carer under Regulation 89b.   

Other exempt workers include some disabled workers and parents who are the main carer for a child aged under 3.