180,000 stripped of DWP benefits in latest move

  • Post last modified:May 21, 2024
  • Reading time:8 mins read

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has stripped over 180,000 people of their benefits. It is doing so through its so-called ‘managed migration’ process. Specifically, this is where the department is forcing people on old-style benefits like Tax Credits onto Universal Credit.

Moreover, the Canary has crunched the numbers – and this equates to a massive 28% of all claimants who the DWP has so far forced to apply for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit: loss of benefits during managed migration creeping up

Previously, the Canary has calculated the staggering number of people the DWP had been denying benefits to through this. To March 2023, the DWP had stopped benefits for 24% of claimants it was forcing to migrate. Then, this dipped, but still stood at a shocking 20.3% of claimants to September 2023.

Now, the situation looks even worse. Notably, it has shot up past these earlier figures, and even past the department’s own revised forecast. To the end of January 2024 this was 28%. The alarming rise in benefit-stripping sits in the context of the DWP’s plans to rush ahead with the process.

Managed migration: a disaster in the making

The DWP is replacing old-style benefits like Tax Credits and Employment Support Allowance. To do this, the department has been rolling out what it calls its ‘managed migration’ process. This is where the DWP forces those who have yet to move to Universal Credit voluntarily over to the new benefit.

Specifically, this forced migration involves the department issuing notices, with a three month deadline for claimants to make the move. It officially began this process in July 2022. Since then, the department has progressively stripped claimants of their benefits.

The Canary’s Steve Topple has previously calculated the percentage of claimants the DWP has denied benefits to across two prior DWP statistical releases. In particular, he found that it had stopped benefits for 24% of claimants it was forcing onto Universal Credit between July 2022 and March 2023. Moreover, Topple identified that this disproportionately impacted women at 79% of cases.

Following this, he crunched the data up to September 2023. This showed that 20.3% – or 31,720 people – had lost their benefits entirely. Once again, the DWP’s denial of benefits worst affected women, at 82.9% of these.

DWP denying 28% of people benefits

Now, the DWP’s own data has revealed that it is depriving people of their benefits apace. In fact, it has actually ramped this up.

Notably, the Canary found that the data up to the end of January 2024 shows that:

  • The DWP has stripped 28% (184,120) of people it has sent migration notices to of their benefits entirely.
  • 58% (107,520) of these people ending up without benefits were women.
  • 99.9% (183,970) of these, were again, previously claiming Tax Credits.

By contrast to previous releases, the proportion of women affected has dropped. However, they still account for a significantly high percentage of claimants that the DWP has denied benefits to.

Moreover, this data now includes many of the months the DWP has upscaled its roll-out. That is, between October 2023 and the end of January 2024 alone, the department sent out 501,250 migration notices. Notably, this is 60% of the total number it has sent since July 2022 – in just four months.

As a result, the number of people now ending up without benefits has risen exponentially. Topple previously showed how the DWP could have predicted this would be the case. Specifically, he referred to a pilot study the DWP had conducted in May 2022.

Using the data in this – which showed 23% of Tax Credit claimants left without Universal Credit – Topple extrapolated that the DWP could strip 135,000 people of their benefits. Of course, the picture is in fact, worse still, with it already leaving over 180,000 people without any benefits.

Ignoring Universal Credit warnings from the get-go

Despite this, the DWP has routinely refused to heed warnings about the impacts of the shift to Universal Credit.

Before it even began its roll-out, the parliamentary Work and Pensions select committee (WPSC) warned the process could leave many claimants destitute.

What’s more, it told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in April that ahead of starting the migration, it had:

assumed an overall non-claim rate of 3% for all legacy benefit types, based on what had happened with the earlier move from incapacity benefit to ESA. It did not break the rate down between different types of benefit.

However, the DWP acknowledged that:

before the migration started, it had no evidence to use to assess how many Tax Credit claimants would not transfer to UC.

In November, it then revised its estimate. Specifically, it said that it would leave 26% of Tax Credit claimants without benefits, and 4% on other old-style benefit types. Obviously, this is closer to the current dire figures.

DWP “saving” money from denying people benefits

The PAC report also found that:

The Department has a limited understanding of why some people do not switch to Universal Credit

So, what’s the government doing about it? Purportedly it is planning to conduct a survey. However, the DWP itself admitted that it doesn’t expect many to respond to this. Ostensibly then, it’s just another tick-box exercise, and does nothing to resolve the sky-high rates of people losing benefits.

The Canary contacted the DWP for comment, but it did not come back with a specific response by the time of publication. Instead, it linked to a previous statement by the minister for employment Jo Churchill, which can be found here.

At the end of the day then, this was entirely predictable. As Topple highlighted previously, the DWP’s own trial data showed that this could happen. Moreover, its repeated statistics have only served time and again as red flags for this throughout the roll-out. Of course, it hasn’t stopped the department from ploughing ahead anyway and moving up its timeline to boot.

However, the DWP never intended the migration to improve the situation for benefit claimants. A recent Resolution Foundation report demonstrated this distinctly – showing that even those getting Universal Credit after the shift are £2,800 worse off a year.

Instead then, as I pointed out before, the Tories instigated this precisely to “save money” and scale back the welfare state. In fact, the department estimated that it would save £5bn from claimants it had denied these benefits to in the process. Now, it appears likely it will reap even greater so-called savings from stripping benefits from the poorest, disabled, and most marginalised members of society.

Featured image via the Canary

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