Good afternoon

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) have just published its annual report for 2018/19. A large part of the report, not surprisingly, focuses on the final phase of Universal Credit’s Managed Migration exercise – and explains, in detail, the various exchanges it’s had, with both DWP and Parliament on this important topic. The full report can be found here

In its foreword, it states: “One set of regulations that came our way – The Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) (Managed Migration) Amendment Regulations 2018 – dominated the agenda for most of the year. We had significant concerns about the sheer scale of the operational challenges facing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and also the risk of financial hardship being faced by claimants as they moved from fortnightly to monthly payments.  Those concerns led to a decision to take the regulations on formal reference, requiring the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to present both our advice, and the Government’s response to our recommendations, to Parliament.”

It goes on to say how many of its recommendations were accepted by the  Government, with issues like, for example, the introduction of a two-week run-on, of claimants’ legacy benefits, for those out of work, being implemented, so as to reduce the financial pain, caused by the much criticised 5 week delay before the first payment of Universal Credit.

At pages 7-9 SSAC elaborates on some of the specific concerns it had:
“In examining each of the proposals, we considered the following questions:

  • Is it deliverable? Is it likely to work or would it be too complex or unwieldy?
  • Is it explicable? Will those affected understand it and what they must do?
  • Is it proportionate to the problem it is trying to solve?
  • Is it fair? For example, does it impose disproportionate burdens on groups of people?

“Our recommendations focused on those aspects of the proposals that did not meet the above criteria. Calling on the Government to undertake a rigorous and transparent assessment of its operational readiness – including the potential impact on different groups of claimants – and to engage delivery partners and claimants in developing its detailed delivery plans and communications. Our recommendations also made clear that the responsibility for ensuring that claimants are moved safely onto Universal Credit should rest with the Government.  We considered it particularly important that a safe transfer to Universal Credit took place for those claimants who would find on-line processes difficult or who faced other barriers to completing a new claim.”

As I’m sure you’re already aware, the Managed Migration pilot in Harrogate started in late July. Between now and next summer, another two areas are to be added, with an overall maximum of 10,000 cases being examined, with DWP maintaining, no one will be forced to participate and will be assisted through the process. It also insists, it will adopt a “test & learn” approach throughout and make any necessary changes to make the process as seamless and robust as possible.

Meantime, we’re up to 2.3 million current recipients of Universal Credit, added by  “Natural Migration” (those, supposedly, experiencing changes in circumstances), with 180,000 new awards added in July alone. None of these additional claimants qualify for Transitional Protection (TP) payments, so during the process of transitioning have to suck up any financial loss they encounter. In contrast, those moving to UC under the Managed Migration process do qualify and will be compensated for their losses in full.

At current rates, DWP is likely to add circa 2 million more under Natural Migration.  Based on those numbers, it’s difficult to envisage DWP finding anything under the pilot, that they haven’t already encountered during the Natural Migration process, other than TP.

I would recommend you circulating this report to Housing & Income Management staff and those front-line troops grappling  with Universal Credit, on a daily basis, in their attempts to assist tenants overcome the many obstacles (e.g. online journals; explicit consent; refusal to accept and act on “change of circumstances” information provided by landlords etc.) generated by a DWP administration that is ambivalent to the problems & hardship it’s creating.

If you require any further information on this or any other aspect of Universal Credit, please contact me or 07733 080 389

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd