The DWP has begun sending out the first 500 forced Migration Notices moving claimants from legacy benefits to universal credit (UC) in the Medway and Bolton areas.
The forced move comes in defiance of a plea by charities to halt the move until proper systems are in place to safeguard vulnerable claimants.
Initially just 500 claimants will be affected as the DWP tries to work out how exactly it is going to move 2.6 million claimants onto UC by the end of 2024. Currently, if you do not live in either the Bolton or Medway areas you are unlikely to receive a Migration Notice. Even in those two areas, the vast majority of legacy benefits claimants will not be affected yet. However, no details have been given for when other areas will be brought into the programme or when numbers will increase.
The DWP has published a page of guidance for claimants who receive a forced Migration Notice.
The new page includes details of a Universal Credit Migration Notice helpline which they say will allow you to claim by phone if you are unable to do so online.
Universal Credit Migration Notice helpline: 0800 169 0328
The line is open 8am to 6pm and calls are free. At the moment the line should not be very busy as only 500 notices are being sent out. But how long it will be before it takes multiple attempts and hour long waits to speak to anyone remains to be seen.
Claimants are warned that they have just three months from the date on the letter to complete their claim for universal credit.
If you are unable to complete the claim in time you can contact the Universal Credit Migration Notice helpline and ask for an extension of the time limit.
However, you must do this before the deadline date on your original letter and you will have to give a good reason for needing an extension.
The benefits affected by forced UC migration are:
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Working Tax Credit
If you don’t make your claim to UC within the deadline, your tax credit entitlement will end on the day before the deadline. [Thanks to Will Hadwen for correcting this]
Your entitlement to other legacy benefits will continue for 2 weeks after you have made a claim to Universal Credit. This means you may receive payments from your existing benefits for another 2 weeks after you’ve made your claim.
We’ll be updating the Benefits and Work ESA to UC migration guide in the members area to take account of the new information.
Meanwhile, if you have received a forced Migration Notice, we’d be very interested to hear from you.