DWP must prove readiness before new UC powers granted
13 December 2018
DWP must demonstrate “operational capacity” and ensure claimant welfare before it gets new powers for mass transfer of claimants onto UC
The Committee has written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions proposing a way forward for so-called “managed migration” - the process of transferring existing benefit claimants on to Universal Credit on a large scale – in light of the deep, ongoing concerns expressed by MPs on all sides, the Social Security Advisory Committee, Commons and Lords Committees and a wide range of stakeholders.
The Government has argued that it must be granted the new powers necessary to begin this process by the end of the year, so that it can begin to pay the intended top-up payments to severely disabled people that they would otherwise lose in the transition to UC. Under existing benefits, the extra costs of care and living for people with severe disabilities are addressed by the “Severe Disability Premium” – this will not exist under Universal Credit.
Building on the Lords' Committee's conclusions published a week ago, the Committee says the two parts of the process could be separated out: the regulations for the transitional protection payments to people with severe disabilities could be passed quickly, and then Government can “seek parliamentary consent to the further powers needed for the next stage of managed migration once it has demonstrated to Parliament, on the basis of the lessons learned from the pilot phase, that it has the necessary capability and safeguards in place.” The Chair has previously warned that if the Government's new plans for managed migration “don't have enough safeguards to protect the vulnerable, then MPs will be left with no option but to vote them down.”
Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
“The Government's initial plans for moving people onto Universal Credit were seriously flawed and risked plunging some of the most vulnerable people in society further into debt and destitution. If a delay means that the DWP has finally listened to the wide range of voices—including the Work and Pensions Committee—calling for a major rethink of its approach, then that would be very welcome. But the Government cannot simply bury this in the long grass: it must come forward quickly with a better plan.”