Charities issue warning over Universal credit switchover

10th May 2022

Charities have warned the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Thérèse Coffey, that plans to restart ‘managed migration’ must immediately be halted.

In an open letter, the coalition of charities have urged the DWP to stop the process due to the risk of cutting off people’s incomes.
‘Managed migration’ is the process the DWP are using to transfer people on ‘legacy benefits,’ such as income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Jobseekers Allowance, across to the Universal Credit system. Starting on 9 May, people receiving these benefits will gradually be asked to move to Universal Credit by 2024.

The DWP plans to tell people they have a three-month deadline to apply for Universal Credit. If they don’t apply within this deadline, the DWP will be able to stop their current benefit claim, regardless of their circumstances. This potentially affects 2.6 million people, including 700,000 people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and dementia receiving income-based ESA. Those unable to engage with the process, for example because they are in hospital, risk being left with no income at all.

Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, and other signatories are calling on the DWP to take responsibility for supporting people through a system that its own research has shown to be difficult to navigate. The DWP’s own 2018 research with people making a claim to Universal Credit for the first time showed that of people with long-term health conditions:

• 24% could not register a claim online
• Only 57% were confident in managing their payments
• 53% said they needed more support setting up their claim and 38% said they needed more ongoing support

While the DWP will initially only migrate 500 people across to Universal Credit in a ‘discovery phase,’ Mind is highlighting that using 500 people as guinea pigs for whether a system can potentially cause financial destitution is unacceptable. The consequences of being left without any support from benefits can be devastating and life-threatening.

Mind and 21 other charities are demanding that the UK Government halt the process unless they can guarantee that no-one’s benefits are stopped until they have established a claim to Universal Credit. The DWP must prioritise safety by providing proactive support that enables people who face challenges to get the support they need and avoid penalising people based on arbitrary deadlines.

Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, 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. The DWP must also take responsibility for supporting people through a complicated system that its own research has shown to be difficult to navigate.”

“Mind – and many other charities representing people affected by health problems and poverty – is willing and able to help shape the managed migration process into one which is fit for purpose and which does not risk the financial security of hundreds of thousands of people. But as things stand, the managed migration process is too dangerous to continue.”