09 May 2022

Managed migration needs safeguards for vulnerable claimants

CIH has joined numerous charities' calls to halt the process until further safeguards are in place, signing an open joint letter to the Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

DWP aims to move all 2.6 million benefit claimants onto UC by 2024. ‘Managed migration’ was put on hold due to the pandemic, but letters will start to be sent out today, giving benefit claimants a deadline (usually three months) to apply. It is important to remember that most non-vulnerable claims have already migrated naturally through a change of circumstances, so many of the people to be migrated are long term claimants – often severely disabled. The largest group is made up of 1.15 million employment support allowance claimants, of which 700k get help with their rent.

We should stress that we are not saying that people should not be moved across to UC. But it is wrong to move (often vulnerable) people from existing benefits until we can be certain that they can be adequately supported to make that transition and that their new UC claim is ready to begin. Without such safeguards, people risk facing an interruption in income at the worst possible time. On the same day that these letters are being issued, a charity, the Food Foundation report, shows that more people in the UK struggle to afford to eat every day as food prices rise. Leading debt charity StepChange has also noted that debt levels are rising.

Unfortunately, DWP has given no assurances that vulnerable people who do not respond to the letters in time will have their benefits protected. Therefore, we are very concerned that the enforced switchover risks leaving thousands - particularly those with mental health problems and learning disabilities - unable to pay their bills.

CIH is calling for the following assurances:

  • The UC managed migration notice should not be subject to an absolute time limit – benefits should be able to be restored if the claim is late
  • Out of time claims should not lose transitional protection
  • Every effort should be made to contact claimants both before and after notice is served (an aspect social landlords can assist with)

Rachael Williamson  |  Head of policy and external affairs

Given the growing cost of living crisis, we are concerned about the DWP’s timing for UC managed migration - moving people on legacy benefits onto UC without additional safeguards risks pushing many into hardship and debt. Experience has shown that vulnerable residents, including many disabled people and those with mental health problems, need proactive support establishing their UC claims. We would urge the government to pause its approach until it has addressed financial, safeguarding and well-being risks and commit to completing a thorough trial of the process before rolling out further. We would also urge the government to address the broader cost of living crisis for people on benefits, including restoring the local housing allowance to at least the 30th percentile, returning to annual uprating and abolishing the benefit cap.

Copy of open joint letter to Therese Coffey

We are writing as a group of organisations who are gravely concerned about the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) plans for Universal Credit managed migration starting today. We believe that your approach for moving people receiving older benefits onto 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.

No-one subject to managed migration should have their existing benefit stopped until they have established a claim to Universal Credit. Instead of setting arbitrary deadlines, the DWP needs to take responsibility for ensuring people’s safety. You must provide proactive support that enables people who face challenges, including many disabled people and people with mental health problems, to establish their claim to Universal Credit.

We urge you to refocus on supporting people by creating and communicating a clear safeguarding process. We ask you to pause your approach until you have addressed these risks and commit to completing a thorough trial of the process and putting the outcomes to parliament for scrutiny.