DWP has ADMITTED it’s already stripped tens of thousands of people’s benefits by forcing them onto Universal Credit

  • Post last modified:March 13, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has released its latest figures regarding so-called “Universal Credit managed migration“. This is where it forces people on old-style benefits like Tax Credits to move to Universal Credit.

The Canary previously raised the alarm over just how many people – 24% – the DWP were denying benefits to in the process. However, the department dismissed us at the time. Now, its own updated figures show once again that the number of people losing benefits – 20% – is a huge cause for concern.

Universal Credit managed migration by the DWP

The DWP began rolling out managed migration in July 2019, as a pilot scheme. This is where the department forces people who have not yet moved to Universal Credit, either voluntarily or because of a change of circumstance, onto it. This is because the new benefit is replacing old ones like Tax Credits.

Then, the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit, so the DWP had to pause its work on managed migration. In June 2022, it said that it was aiming to get everyone on old benefits onto Universal Credit by 2024.

The DWP started writing to people in July 2022. It sent them “migration notices”, telling them they needed to move to Universal Credit. It then released full figures up to March 2023 on the outcomes of managed migration.

At that time, as the Canary exclusively reported, there were warning signs. 24% of people, mostly women, who the DWP told they would have to move to Universal Credit ended up with no benefits at all.

20% of people losing benefits under managed migration

Now, the DWP has released more figures on managed migration. It has complete data up to September 2023 – and the story is the same as before.

Looking at the data, the Canary found that:

  • 20.3% (31,720) of people the DWP sent migration notices to ended up with no benefits at all.
  • 82.9% (26,290) of these people were women.
  • 99.9% of people were previously claiming tax credits.

Of course, the DWP data is not sufficient to gather a fuller picture. It doesn’t tell us:

  • How many children are affected.
  • What the value of people’s previous legacy benefit claims were.

Also, it should be noted the figures it has fully published are a small number of claimants. The DWP has the data on the number of migration notices it sent from October-December 2023, which saw a large increase – from around 40,000 a month to over 100,000. It has not published the data yet on how many of these claimants ended up with no benefits.

The DWP says…

Regardless, 20% of people losing out is still a huge figure – albeit a slight reduction on the figures to March 2023.

The DWP previously told the Canary:

It should be noted that claimants who have been sent an MN to date will not be representative of the complete population who will be sent an MN.

In particular, the vast majority so far have been single TC [tax credits] households whose likelihood of claiming UC… may be different to couple TC households and/or DWP legacy benefit claimants, the majority of whom have not yet been sent a migration notice.

This is a poor response – basically implying single people losing benefits is less of a problem – and it only came after a press officer gave us a different statement, which they then retracted.

However, this is not the first time that the DWP is hearing that large percentages of people on Tax Credits are not entitled to Universal Credit under managed migration.

135,000 Tax Credits claimants potentially affected

The department performed a trial of the scheme in May 2022 in Bolton and Medway. There, the DWP found that 13% of the overall cohort did not end up claiming Universal Credit. However, for Tax Credits the figure was 23% – almost identical to the figures the Canary calculated on both occasions we looked at them.

This should be a red flag to the DWP. Its defence – that the majority of claimants so far have been people on single Tax Credits – is of concern. This is because as of April 2023 there were 595,000 people falling into that category. Moreover, the majority of these people had children, and were claiming Child Tax Credits (CTC):

If the 20% figure of Tax Credits claimants not getting Universal Credit in the early stages of managed migration is extrapolated to the overall numbers, this could potentially mean the DWP could leave nearly 120,000 people without benefits.

Universal Credit managed migration: leaving people destitute

For those Tax Credits claimants that do end up on Universal Credit, the DWP already admitted admitted that some of them, including people with children, may be no better off. In fact, it even forecast that some families with children would be made worse off by moving from Tax Credits to Universal Credit.

In 2019, a parliamentary committee raised concerns about the DWP’s rollout of managed migration. It warned that without proper preparation, the process could:

plunge people further into poverty and could leave them destitute.

While it is not known what has happened to the Tax Credits claimants whose benefit claims stopped, there’s a risk this has happened to some of them. The DWP must urgently look at the managed migration rollout, before any more people are left worse off than they were before.

Featured image via the Canary

By Steve Topple

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