DWP Universal Credit news for 1.6m people BURIED by election

  • Post last modified:July 5, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

With all eyes trained on the final sprint to general election day, a local news site quietly dropped news on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) so-called ‘managed migration’ process. Specifically, this is where the DWP is forcing old-style benefit claimants over to Universal Credit – like those on ESA.

Crucially, the piece highlighted the department’s plans to start shifting Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants to the new-type benefit.

However, as the Canary has highlighted before, this sudden move by the DWP runs counter to the former government’s previous promises. Unfortunately, it could leave lots of people without benefits, and many more worse off.

Universal Credit roll-out: DWP ploughing ahead again

On 1 July, CambridgeshireLive published an article detailing the DWP’s sudden managed migration plans. In particular, the outlet reported how:

Important letters from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will drop through the letterboxes of thousands of homes in July with a warning that they must not be ignored. They will impact those who receive Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

Essentially, the DWP is sending out “migration notices” to claimants. These will demand that ESA claimants start the process to shift over to Universal Credit. The DWP gives claimants three months in which to do this. In particular, this is part of the department’s work phasing out old-style benefits.

It follows a recent roll-out in June for claimants in Wolverhampton and East Suffolk. However, as Disability News Service (DNS) noted at the time, this was despite the fact that former employment minister Jo Churchill had confirmed:

in a written statement that this extension would not begin until September.

Churchill, who is not standing for re-election as an MP, wrote on 21 May: “Our current planning assumption is that we would begin notifying this group in September 2024, with the aim of notifying everyone to make the move by December 2025.”

Notably, this is part of the former government’s revised timetable for its mass roll-out. The Canary stated in May that:

Previously, the DWP planned to complete this by 2028. Now, it has brought this forward in a bid to cut costs. In particular, it intends to notify all old-style benefit claimants by December 2025.

Of course, the new timetable raises serious concerns that many claimants could lose out. This is because, to date, the department’s own statistics show it has already been callously denying Universal Credit to tens of thousands of legacy benefit claimants.

Now, it appears the DWP is pushing ahead with this further – just as the UK elects a new Labour government.

Bogus assurances over ESA

In June, a spokesperson for the DWP told DNS that the 500 claimants in Wolverhampton and East Suffolk were part of its activity to:

gather more learning to inform our planning for migrating these cohorts at scale in due course, with one of the key learnings we are keen to understand being what proportion of households will require support through the enhanced support journey.

In short, it was using these claimants as guinea-pigs ahead of its full roll-out.

It’s unclear whether this new roll-out is also part of this testing phase. It could just as easily be that the DWP is now launching the full-scale of its operation.

What is clear, is that the DWP is rushing ahead with little attention to the consequences. Incongruously, the CambridgeshireLive piece said that:

Claimants have been assured they won’t lose any money as a result of the switch to UC. It continues the long-running process of moving people on ‘legacy’ benefits over to the new system.

However, the assurances have so far proved bogus. To date, the mass migration process has left over 180,000 former claimants without any benefits. The large majority of these – over 99% – have been Tax Credit claimants.

DWP: more Universal Credit chaos on the cards?

For the other type of benefits the DWP is forcing over to Universal Credit – including ESA – the Canary previously estimated its migration process could leave approximately 68,000 more claimants without benefits. This was based on calculations using the government’s own figures. In particular, it used the department’s own conservative estimate that 4% of non-Tax Credit claimants could lose out.

What’s more, a report by the Resolution Foundation in April found disabled claimants are much worse off on Universal Credit. In particular, it estimated that that the DWP was diddling disabled claimants transferred to Universal Credit out of £2,800 a year.

As recently as 3 July, the DNS carried a new story detailing how claimants on two other former disability benefits have been losing out. Specifically, law firm Leigh Day has investigated the migration of over 100 people on severe disability payment (SDP), and enhanced disability premium (EDP). For all of these, support under Universal Credit was lower than on the legacy type benefits. Over 200 disabled claimants are taking group legal action against the DWP, with the firm.

Needless to say, this rushed new roll-out is another callous, calculated move from a DWP – and a benefit – that’s not fit for purpose.

Featured image via the Canary

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