Work Rights Centre introduces free Universal Credit Eligibility Tool

By Emma McClelland - 27 May 2022

For many people, Universal Credit is a bewildering system. We have previously written about the many issues claimants face, including the DWP's sudden suspensions of UC claims, which are particularly prevalent amongst EU migrants. 

Yet with so many moving parts, the process of applying for Universal Credit in the first place presents a significant challenge, especially for non-native English speakers who are unfamiliar with Britain’s bureaucratic systems. 

At the Work Rights Centre, we experienced a sharp increase in requests for support with Universal Credit applications during the pandemic. The current cost of living crisis has only escalated the issue, and people are struggling to understand, let alone navigate, the UK's complex welfare system. 

The process is especially difficult for the 2.5 million EU citizens and their family members, who were given pre-settled status after Brexit. Although they have a right to live and work in the UK, when it comes to claiming benefits they are forced to jump through many hoops. DWP caseworkers will first want to see if they're working or have worked, and if that work was "genuine and effective"; but if they're too ill or unable to work, the criteria become incredibly complex. This is putting a lot of people off applying, and confining them to poverty. 

In response, we have developed a free and confidential tool, accessible on our website, designed to simplify access to Universal Credit. Translated into five languages by our staff and volunteers, the Universal Credit Eligibility tool has taken months to develop. The process involved painstakingly mapping complex eligibility criteria derived from years of case law, into a flowchart that's intelligible to all. It includes general criteria such as a claimant's savings, age, and education, as well as the intricate criteria that migrant claimants are subjected to. 

We hope this tool, and the languages we've made it available in, will take some of the fear and confusion out of the process of accessing Universal Credit, which is a vital lifeline for so many people. 

We'd also like to thank the individuals and organisations who helped us with the development of this tool and tested it at multiple milestones. They include Aoife O'Reilly, a Specialist Support Hub Lawyer at Public Law Project, Will Hadwen, a trainer with the Benefits Training Company, and Luke Piper, Head of Policy and Advocacy at the3million, and a newly appointed trustee at Work Rights Centre. Special thanks also go to the Brent Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (NCIL), which funded the development of the project. 

The Universal Credit Eligibility Tool can be found here.

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