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ESA will not stop for those failing to claim UC within three months during managed migration ‘discovery phase’

08 June 2022

On 9 May 2022, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) began its compulsory ‘managed migration’ process of moving around 2.6 million ‘legacy benefit’ claimants over to Universal Credit (UC).

500 legacy benefit claimants will be told they must claim UC in a piloting ‘discovery phase’ taking place in Bolton and Medway.

Legacy benefit claimants include:

  • 1.2 million on income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
  • 1 million on working tax credit and child tax credit
  • 100,000 on income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and housing benefit
  • 200,000 on Income Support

However, this will need to increase substantially in the future for the DWP to achieve its end of the full roll-out of UC by the end of 2024.

Under managed migration legislation, legacy benefit claimants are notified that they have three months to claim UC. If they fail to do so without good reason, the DWP has the power to stop their legacy benefits.

However, in a letter to the Work and Pensions Committee, Therese Coffey Secretary of State for the Work and Pensions has said concerning the claimants in the initial discovery phase: “I have decided the Department will not terminate any benefits if the claimant fails to claim within the three-month period given.

“Instead, if these claimants have failed to engage with the Department, DWP will make a minimum of a 1-month extension to the deadline outlined in their notice.

“In this time, we will undertake proactive engagement with the claimant to understand why they have not claimed.” 

In addition, the Minister said concerning identifying people who may need more support or reasonable adjustments during managed migration that: “As part of our learning during the discovery phase, we are keen to understand what additional support is required for people to make their claim to universal credit and what this means for the scaled-up process.

However, she added: “We will also be excluding some particularly vulnerable and/or complex groups from the managed migration process initially, including claimants who are terminally ill.”

DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said: “It's unclear how the DWP will identify “particularly vulnerable” claimants and “complex groups” from the UC discovery phase. Or if those concerned will be told they have been excluded.

“The DWP has admitted that it is not itself able to identify all claimants who will need support, and plans to rely on a hard-pressed voluntary sector and others to help with this

“The DWP should halt UC migration until they can guarantee they will not stop anyone’s old benefits until they have successfully claimed UC. The DWP must also take responsibility for supporting people through a complicated system that its own research has shown to be difficult to navigate.”

For more information see the Work and Pensions Committee’s correspondence with the Secretary of State available from parliament.uk.

See also our related news story Government must halt ‘managed migration’ to universal credit, charities UK wide demand.