The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), an independent body of experts set up to advise the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on secondary legislation, has been consulting on the way people already claiming certain benefits will be moved onto universal credit. This process is called 'managed migration' - although this is a misnomer.
You can read our response to the consultation here. Some of the key points are:
- Universal credit has been described as the biggest change to welfare benefits since the welfare state began, and it's being imposed on claimants. It is surely therefore up to the DWP to make the transition as smooth as possible, to support people, and to do everything needed to avoid hardship arising among claimants.
- Instead the process of moving millions of people across to universal credit has been designed in such a way that both the burden of arranging the transition, and the serious financial risks associated with it, fall almost entirely on to the shoulders of claimants - those least able to bear it.
- The DWP plans to write to people giving them a deadline to apply for universal credit (as little as a month). If they don’t claim, their existing benefits will stop on the deadline. When they eventually claim, they won't get transitional protection if they have missed the deadline (an additional payment so that their new benefit amount is no less than their previous amount)
- We know many won’t claim in time - they're busy, stressed, ill, don’t have a computer, can’t get through to the helpline or don’t understand what they have to do. The DWP knows this and has written to CPAG and others to help ensure everyone claims. Of course we will do what we can but this approach won't reach everyone. One in five claims to universal credit already fails. Simply telling everyone to claim will guarantee hundreds of thousands fall through the cracks.
- We will be asking the DWP to rethink its approach and set out a true ‘managed migration’ approach in which it moves people across to universal credit without requiring everyone to make new claims. Our response sets out simple proposals for how this could be done.
- Our response also calls for claims to universal credit – whether through managed migration or simply new claims – to be suspended until government has made a series of improvements to universal credit. These must include improvements in the automation of key processes which are currently not working and a reduction in the number of claimants facing hardship.
- Overall our proposals would ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from a smooth migration, transitional protection, and an improved system.