DWP urged not to restart ‘dangerous’ managed migration process to Universal Credit for people on legacy benefits

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More than 20 charities have urged the UK Government not to restart moving 2.6 million people receiving older benefits on to Universal Credit unless it can guarantee nobody’s income will be cut off during the cost of living crisis.

Groups have written to Work and Pensions Secretary Dr Therese Coffey warning that plans to move legacy benefit claimants on to the new system are “too dangerous to continue”.

They say the incomes of more than 700,000 people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and dementia could be put at risk, and that the consequences of having benefits halted could be “devastating and life-threatening”.

In a written statement submitted to the House of Commons on April 25, Ms Coffey said she is “absolutely committed to making this a responsible and safe transition”.

From Monday, May 9 the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will restart ‘managed migration’ of people on benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Working Tax Credits on to the new system.

The process was paused during the pandemic and the UK Government hopes to transfer everyone on to the new system by the end of 2024.

Claimants will be given a minimum of three months’ notice that they need to make a Universal Credit claim and given the number for a dedicated helpline.

The charities said that if people do not apply by the deadline, the DWP will be able to stop their existing claim.

They also said it is “unacceptable” that the UK Government will trial the process using 500 people as “guinea pigs”.

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In the letter to Ms Coffey, the groups wrote: “We believe that your approach to moving people receiving older benefits on to Universal Credit risks pushing many of them into destitution.

“We ask you to consider the devastating consequences for someone who faces challenges in engaging with the process having their only income cut off, especially during this cost-of-living crisis.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind and a signatory, said: “The DWP’s managed migration plans could leave people with mental health problems with no income.

“Those too unwell to engage with the DWP could be left unable to pay their rent, buy food, or pay their rising energy bills.

“During a cost-of-living crisis, this could put the entire incomes of over 700,000 people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and dementia at risk. This is completely unacceptable.

“The DWP should halt this process until they can guarantee they will not stop anyone’s old benefits until they have successfully made a claim to Universal Credit.”

He said the DWP must take responsibility for helping people navigate the “complicated system”.

DWP research from 2018 showed that almost a quarter of people with long-term health conditions could not register a claim for Universal Credit online, while 53 per cent said they needed more support setting up the claim.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Over five million people are already supported by Universal Credit.

“It is a dynamic system which adjusts as people’s earnings change, is more generous overall than the old benefits, and simplifies our safety net for those who cannot work.

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“Roughly 1.4 million people on legacy benefits would be better off on Universal Credit, with top up payments available for eligible claimants whose Universal Credit entitlement is less.”

Legacy benefits moving to Universal Credit

  • Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit

Everyone moving over from legacy benefits will have their entitlement to Universal Credit assessed against their current claims, with top-up payments available for eligible claimants whose entitlement would have been reduced because of the change – ensuring they receive the same entitlement as on a legacy system .

These will continue unless their circumstances alter.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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