The government has published the proposed new regulations for managed migration of claimants from employment and support allowance (ESA) to universal credit (UC). The new regulations have been largely welcomed by the social security advisory committee (SSAC).
The draft regulations include some concessions, following the enormous concern expressed by a wide range of organisations and MPs of all parties about the migration of claimants.
- Claimants will get a minimum notice period of 3 months warning them that they must make a claim for UC.
- There will be no maximum notice period, allowing DWP staff to extend the deadline where the claimant, for example, has a disability or caring responsibilities which make it harder for them to make a claim.
- Claimants who miss their deadline for claiming, but make a claim within one month of it will still be eligible for transitional protection.
- Claimants who make a defective claim for UC will not lose their transitional protection as long as they make a further effective claim within the deadline for their migration.
- Claimants who need to will be able to have home visits to make a claim or make a claim by telephone.
The Chair of SSAC, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, said the committee was:
“. . . delighted that both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions have listened to the advice of this committee – and to the views of the 455 stakeholders who submitted evidence to our consultation – and taken steps to reduce risk for millions of people.”
He added that:
“We are pleased that the government has largely accepted our advice – in particular by introducing a 2 week run of payments to out of work claimants to bridge the gap before Universal Credit is paid, by taking more time over the testing phase, by ensuring those whose claim is late or who make a mistake in their initial claim don’t lose protections, and by agreeing to publish operational readiness tests which have to be met before the main migration begins.”
However, there was also still some concern about the burden being placed on claimants:
“Nonetheless, a lot of detail still has to be worked out. We are disappointed that the DWP continue to expect that everyone must make a claim to Universal Credit in order to be migrated to it. And we remain concerned about the degree to which the department will in practice demonstrate the openness and flexibility to which they have committed.”
The publication of the new regulations underlines once again the government’s intention to go ahead with the mass migration of claimants, beginning with a pilot of 10,000 people from July 2019.