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MPs say delay the vote on the next phase of Universal Credit

22 November 2018

Government must set - and meet - next phase Universal Credit tests.

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The Work and Pensions Committee says the Government must delay the vote on the next phase of Universal Credit until both its own Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) and Parliament have had a chance to assess the Government's plans.

The Committee said that despite changes announced in last month's budget, "major areas of concern" about the Government's plans remain.

The Committee, the National Audit Office and SSAC have all called on the Department to set tests for readiness that must be met before so-called "managed migration" – the next phase of transferring existing benefits claimants onto Universal Credit - begins.

The Committee says the Government's insistence that it will not do so until 2020—a year after its "managed migration" pilot begins—"is simply not good enough: it must commit to setting the tests it will meet before the pilot begins. The tests, and an analysis of whether they have been met, should be published before managed migration moves to scale in 2020."

Suspending managed migration until some tests are met is something Disability Rights UK recommended to the SSAC, for example:

The DWP should consult with disabled people organisations and disability organisations to agree ‘quality and performance benchmarks’ for the DWP to achieve before managed migration begins. 

Disability Rights UK’s recommendations in its response to the SSAC consultation on UC migration are that:

1. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the administration and claiming of universal credit before managed migration to it should commence.
2. The migration process should not be carried out on a “test and learn” basis and that the DWP publish research to justify universal credit’s fitness for purpose before any legacy benefit claimant is managed migrated.
3. Instead of requiring migration by direct claim the DWP should instead seek to convert legacy benefit claimants wherever possible.
4. If a claim is needed, no claimant should have their existing benefit stopped until they have established a universal credit claim.
5. A starting point for identifying claimants who might be vulnerable to the migration process would be those who are in receipt of ESA, limited capability for work national insurance credits, PIP or the disability premium within their legacy benefit.
6. The DWP should consult with disabled people organisations and disability organisations to agree ‘quality and performance benchmarks’ for the DWP to achieve before managed migration begins. 

This should as a minimum include:

  • the percentage of claimants not being paid on time;
  • how disabled claimants will be identified; and
  • how disabled claimants will be supported in making any claim and that such support is in place.

7. Finally, we ask that the SSAC does not limit itself from reporting on its and others views on the provisions of Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) (Managed Migration) Amendment Regulations 2018.

Instead, we hope that the SSAC also seeks to exercise its other recommendations as to the timing and nature of any migration and how disabled and other claimants can be properly safeguarded.