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Getting Universal Credit if you're sick or disabled

This advice applies to Scotland

You might be able to get Universal Credit without having to work or look for work. This could be because of sickness, injury or mental health problems. Depending on how your condition affects you, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could say you:

  • won't have to work or do anything to prepare for work - called having 'limited capability for work-related activity' (LCWRA)
  • won't have to work, but you might have to do some regular tasks to get ready for work - called having 'limited capability for work' (LCW)

Getting ready for work could include things like going to regular meetings at the Jobcentre, writing a CV or going on training.

If you're making a new claim, use the online application to explain how your condition makes it hard for you to find work. If you're already getting Universal Credit, tell your 'work coach' - this is the person you have your Universal Credit interviews with at the Jobcentre. 

It’s important to show you have LCW or LCWRA as soon as possible. If you have a fit note you should add it to your online Universal Credit account at the start of your claim or when you become unwell.

Find out more about how to get a fit note and how to add one to your account.

Once you tell the DWP, you might get LCW or LCWRA automatically, or you might have to fill in a form and sometimes go to a medical assessment.

Get confirmation your documents have arrived

Put your mobile phone number on the top right-hand corner of your fit note when you send it to DWP. If you do, they’ll text you to confirm they’ve got it.

If you’re moving to Universal Credit from other benefits

You can claim Universal Credit even if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP).

You might get an extra amount in your Universal Credit - this is called the ‘transitional element’. 

You’ll get the extra amount if you apply for Universal Credit within a month after you stop getting the benefit with the SDP. You can’t get the extra amount if you:

  • were only getting the SDP with Housing Benefit
  • move in with a partner who is claiming Universal Credit

Before 27 January 2021, you couldn’t claim Universal Credit if you were getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with an SDP.

If you applied for Universal Credit before 27 January 2021, talk to an adviser to check what you’re entitled to.

Check if you have limited capability automatically

In some situations you're automatically treated as having LCW or LCWRA once you tell the DWP. Your work coach might ask you for some evidence, such as a hospital appointment or a letter from your doctor.

You're pregnant and this makes it hard for you to work

You'll have LCWRA if working and getting ready for work could be a risk to your health or your baby's health.

You already get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

You'll automatically have LCWRA if you're in the ESA support group.

If you already have LCW or LCWRA for ESA you don't need to fill in another form or have a medical assessment for Universal Credit. You'll still have LCW or LCWRA on Universal Credit as long as there's no break between your ESA claim and your Universal Credit claim.

The DWP might still say you need another assessment, but you don't. You can challenge your Universal Credit decision if the DWP say you need another assessment.

You're over pension credit age and getting other benefits

You'll have LCWRA if you're over pension credit age and getting any of:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) with the 'enhanced daily living component'
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with the 'highest rate care component'

You'll have LCW if you're getting either:

  • PIP, but not the enhanced daily living component
  • DLA, but not the highest rate care component

You're in hospital or quarantine

Tell your work coach straight away if you go into hospital or drug or alcohol rehab for at least 24 hours. You'll have LCW while you're in hospital. You'll also have LCW after you come out, if the DWP agree you need time to recover.

You'll also have LCW if you've been given official notice not to work because you have an infectious disease.

You have a serious illness

There are some treatments and conditions where you'll have LCW or LCWRA automatically. You'll still need to tell your work coach your diagnosis and explain how your illness or treatment stops you working or preparing for work.

You're likely to have LCWRA if you're:

  • being treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, are likely to start treatment in the next 6 months, or recovering from treatment
  • diagnosed with a terminal illness and might not live more than 6 months - in this case you'll always have LCWRA

If you’re terminally ill but your doctor expects you to live more than 6 months, you should talk to an adviser.

You're likely to have LCW if you're having:

  • weekly dialysis
  • plasma exchange
  • intravenous feeding

Your LCW will continue if you've finished one of these treatments and the DWP agree you need time to recover.

Showing you shouldn't have to work

If you don't have LCW or LCWRA automatically, you'll be sent a form to fill in, called a UC50. You might also need to go to a medical assessment. Based on your form and assessment the DWP will decide if you have LCW or LCWRA.

The decision should be based on what you can do on a typical day, not on what you can do on good or bad days. If your condition varies from day to day it's worth keeping a diary to show the DWP how you're affected.

If you have any aids, for example if you use a walking stick, you'll be assessed as if you're using them.

Filling in your UC50 form

You'll be sent a copy of the UC50 form after you tell your work coach about your condition. You can also download the UC50 from GOV.UK if you need another copy.

You'll need to send the form back within 4 weeks - check the letter that came with the form for the exact date. Otherwise the DWP will decide you're fit for work. 

The UC50 form is your chance to tell the DWP how your illness or disability affects your ability to work. Try to explain why you shouldn't need to look for work as part of your Universal Credit claim.

You should also use the form to mention anything you'd need at a medical assessment. For example, if you need an interpreter, British Sign Language or Makaton signer, speech-to-text software or a deaf/blind manual, put this on the form.

You can talk to an adviser if you need help with the form. They can help you fill it in and explain everything to you in person.

You can also get help from your local disability support agency or local mental health charity.

Sending medical evidence

You can send medical evidence of your illness or disability with your UC50 form. Medical evidence can give the DWP a better idea of how your condition affects your ability to work.

It's best to send copies rather than originals, as you might need to show the same evidence again later. You should also staple your evidence to the form so the DWP don't lose it. Make sure you include your name and National Insurance number on every separate sheet of paper.

If your condition is diagnosed

You should send evidence that supports what you're saying on the form. You might already have it to hand - for example:

  • a print-out of the medication you're on
  • x-ray results
  • scans
  • a hospital discharge sheet
  • an occupational therapist's care plan

You can ask your GP for copies of recent medical notes or letters from any specialists they have referred you to. You could also provide a letter from your partner or carer.

If you have problems with your mental health (such as depression), you should think about any documents or letters you have from people like:

  • your community psychiatric nurse (CPN)
  • counsellors
  • a cognitive therapist
  • social workers

If your condition is undiagnosed

You might not have a diagnosis if you have unexplained symptoms like stomach problems, tiredness or dizziness.

The form says "don't ask or pay for new information", but it's a good idea to see your doctor if you don't have anything to send. Ask them if they can give you a letter explaining your condition and how it affects your ability to work.

Some doctors might charge you for a letter or new report. If you can't afford this it's worth asking if they can give you copies of recent medical notes or letters from any specialists they've referred you to. You could also provide a letter from your partner or carer.

Sending the form back

The form will come with an addressed envelope - use this to send it to the DWP. Don't take it to the Jobcentre, as this could cause delays.

When you send the form, ask the Post Office for proof of postage. This is free, and will let you prove when you sent the form.

It's a good idea to keep a copy of your completed form. You can then take it with you to your assessment and use it to make sure that you don't forget anything you want to mention at your assessment.

Sending the form back late

You need to send the form back within 4 weeks. If you're late, you should still fill in the form and send it as soon as you can. The DWP might still accept it if you have a good reason for the form being late.
There's a box on page 3 where you can explain why you're sending the form back late. Include as much detail as you can about why the form's late, for example if you:

  • didn't get the reminder letter - if this happens, check your work coach has your correct address
  • have been in hospital
  • were too ill
  • had an emergency at home
  • had a bereavement
  • were out of the country

When you'll need a medical assessment

After you return your form, the DWP might ask you to go to a medical assessment called a 'work capability assessment'.

If you’re waiting for a medical assessment

At the moment, the DWP will try to do the assessment by looking at your medical evidence and talking to you over the phone or by video call. It’s important to send your medical evidence as soon as possible.

If the DWP can’t assess you over the phone or by video call, they’ll invite you to a face-to-face medical assessment.

You’ll keep getting Universal Credit until you have a medical assessment. The amount you get won’t change.

Your assessment will be with a medical professional like a doctor, a nurse or a physiotherapist. They'll ask you questions and might do a physical examination too. They'll send a report to the DWP, who will decide if you have LCW or LCWRA.

You can bring someone with you to the assessment, like a relative or carer.

The DWP will schedule the assessment and send you a letter saying when and where it is. It might be up to 3 months after you return your UC50 form. You should get at least 7 days' notice.

Tell the Health Assessment Advisory Service straight away if you can't go to your assessment. Their contact details will be on the letter you get. They can rearrange the assessment if you have a good reason and you tell them at least 1 day in advance. If you don't tell them you won't be classed as having LCW or LCWRA.

You can ask the assessors for a home assessment if you're too ill to get to the assessment.

You can also ask for adjustments if you'd need any help at the assessment, for example:

  • going up and down stairs
  • getting out of a chair in a waiting room
  • moving from room to room

It's worth telling the assessor about any adjustments you need if you already mentioned them when you sent your form back.

At the assessment

You'll be able to tell the assessor about your medical problems in your own words. Tell them about any medication, counselling, physiotherapy or other treatment you're getting.

As well as telling the assessor about anything you find difficult, tell them if something gets harder the more you do it. They need to take into account how often you can repeat activities, not just if you can do them once.

You can be assessed from as soon as you arrive. For example, the assessors can watch you while you're in the waiting room. But they can't base their report solely on how you are on the day of the assessment. They have to consider how your condition affects you overall, on good days and bad.

Getting to your assessment

You can be paid back for travel expenses, but not in advance. You’ll need to ask for an expenses form at the reception of the assessment centre. Keep your tickets and receipts for your journey as you’ll need to know how much you spent.

Call the Health Assessment Advisory Service in advance if you'll need to pay for:

  • a taxi - they'll expect you to take public transport instead unless you ask in advance
  • someone coming with you to the assessment

Health Assessment Advisory Service

Telephone: 0800 288 8777

Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Saturday, 9am to 5pm

The travel expenses will be paid straight into the account you use for your Universal Credit payments.

Getting the DWP's decision

The DWP will write to you after your assessment. It can take several weeks or months for them to make a decision. If you haven't heard anything after 8 weeks, ask your work coach why you haven't had a decision letter yet.

You won't have LCW or LCWRA while you're waiting for your assessment. If you give your work coach a doctor's note they should still take your condition into account when deciding what work-related activities you need to do.

If the DWP say you don't have limited capability

You can ask the DWP to reconsider their decision if you think it's wrong.

You should also ask the DWP to reconsider their decision if your condition has got worse. You'll need to send evidence to show that your condition has changed.

If the DWP say you have limited capability

Having LCWRA means you won't have to work or do anything to prepare for work. Having LCW means you won't have to work, but you might need to do some work-related activities. Find out more about what work-related activities you'll need to do on Universal Credit.

If you have LCWRA you'll get extra money with your claim and you won't be affected by the benefit cap. Normally the benefit cap sets a maximum amount you can get from all your benefits added together.

The extra money will start in your next Universal Credit payment if you’re terminally ill or you already had LCW or LCWRA from a previous benefit claim.

If you don’t have LCW or LCWRA from a previous benefit claim, you’ll start getting the extra money in your fourth or fifth payment. This will happen after you give the DWP evidence that you have LCWRA. If it takes longer for the DWP to decide, they'll backdate your payment so you don't lose out.

You'll also get extra money if you've had LCW since before April 2017.

Check how much Universal Credit you'll get to find out more about how LCW and LCWRA affect your Universal Credit payment.

The DWP will usually reassess your LCW or LCWRA every 1, 2 or 3 years. They might also reassess you if you start work.

If you’ve got LCWRA, the DWP might decide they won’t need to reassess you in future - they’ll tell you in the decision letter they send you after your assessment. They’ll only do this if your condition’s unlikely to improve much in the future, and this means you’ll always have LCWRA.