‘Managed Migration’ to Universal Credit to cause serious difficulty for claimants Thomas Pocklington Trust are calling on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) not to proceed with “managed migration” until the many outstanding problems have been analysed and addressed Key Points “Managed migration” in its current form will cause many claimants serious difficulty. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should not proceed with “managed migration” to Universal Credit until the many outstanding problems have been analysed and addressed. When “managed migration” does go ahead, there should be no termination of an individual’s existing benefits until an award of Universal Credit has been determined. These regulations will be critical to the well-being of around three million people. There is a widespread and well-founded belief that the Universal Credit system is simply not ready and that the prospect of large numbers of disabled people finding themselves without income for a protracted period is very real. Thomas Pocklington Trust fully endorse the wider recommendations of the Disability Benefits Consortium. Context “Managed migration” (due to start next year) is the process by which benefit claimants are moved from “legacy benefits” to Universal Credit. “Managed migration” will affect around three million people (over two million claimants and their families) and as matters stand, it seems certain that large numbers will experience serious difficulties. Further to this, the DWP has acknowledged that a large proportion of the caseload being migrated from legacy benefits will have a disability or health condition. As an indication, 36% of those being migrated will be claiming income-related ESA. Our Key Recommendations 1. The DWP should halt managed migrations until the outstanding problems have been addressed The current proposal for “managed migration” will entail simply stopping the current benefits received by the three million people concerned and telling them to take their chances with a demanding Universal Credit claims process. Some of the key issues that need to be addressed include: The stop-and-start approach to “migration” means that claimants will have a 5-week wait for payment and in practice, it could be much more. How claimants will access passported benefits (free prescriptions, dental and optical treatment, free school meals etc.) during the 5-week gap. How the DWP will successfully and promptly identify claimants who require support, in order for the necessary resources to be put in place. This recommendation is backed by the National Audit Office in a report from June 2018, which states that the DWP should “Ensure that operational performance and costs improve sustainably before increasing caseloads through managed migration” and recommends that “The programme does not expand before business-as-usual operations can cope with higher claimant volumes.” “managed migration” will entail simply stopping the current benefits received by the three million people concerned and telling them to take their chances 2. When “managed migration” does go ahead, there should be no termination of an individual’s existing benefits until an award of Universal Credit has been determined Universal Credit is of major significance to disabled people. This is partly because it replaces benefits, or aspects of benefits, that specifically concern disability or long-term health conditions; and partly because, as a means-tested benefit, it focuses on low incomes, which disproportionately affect disabled people. It is vital that existing benefits are not prematurely terminated, for the following reasons: Disability organisations are fully expecting many of their clients to be without an income for a lengthy period when their legacy benefits cease – and we should remember that not all of those claimants affected will be in touch with an agency that can help. We are concerned about the stress and anxiety caused by receiving a notice of termination of legacy benefits, particularly for claimants who are already coping with the impact of an illness or disability. People who are disabled or have long-term health conditions may well be disadvantaged in seeking to navigate a challenging claims process heavily dependent on information technology. Evidence suggests there is already a worryingly high level of failure to complete a claim – according to a recent Parliamentary answer by a DWP Minister, a quarter were turned down because of problems with the claims process. Geoff Fimister, consultant for Thomas Pocklington Trust and policy co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, said: “Over the next few years, starting next year, existing claimants of a number of benefits (the means-tested versions of Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Income Support and Tax Credits) will have their current payments stopped and will be invited to claim Universal Credit” “TPT is opposed to this stop-start disruption of people’s incomes and has joined with the other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium to call for a pause to the process while problems are fixed and for an orderly and unbroken transition from the old to the new payments. We shall do our best, along with other organisations in the visual impairment field, to prepare and support blind and partially sighted people through the change, but it seems inevitable that many will be left without money unless the Government is prepared to listen now.” Notes to Editors About Thomas Pocklington Trust Thomas Pocklington Trust identifies and meets the needs and aspirations of blind and partially sighted people across the UK, by funding and supporting our strategic partners.