Universal Credit: tests for managed migration Contents


What is ‘managed’ migration?

1.Universal Credit (UC) is the Government’s flagship welfare policy, which subsumes six separate benefits into one, paid as a single, monthly payment in arrears. The process of transferring people claiming the benefits that UC replaces (“legacy benefits”) onto Universal Credit is called “migration”.

2.Migration can happen in two ways:

i)‘Natural’ migration. This is where a claimant’s circumstances change, and they have to make a new Universal Credit claim because they are not able to adjust their legacy benefit claim.

ii)‘Managed’ migration. This is where claimants of legacy benefits are required to move to UC, without any change in circumstances.

3.The Department for Work and Pensions (the Department/DWP) will migrate approximately three million people in two million households to Universal Credit through managed migration.1 This will include some of the most vulnerable people in society. Managed migration therefore represents a huge operational challenge, with significant risks. As the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), an independent statutory body which provides impartial advice to DWP, noted:

it is a huge logistical task to contact several million people in several million households, who may be receiving anything up to four different benefits administered by three different organisations, collect any additional information needed to decide Universal Credit entitlement, and seamlessly terminate legacy benefit awards as Universal Credit awards start, without leaving any gaps or overlaps in entitlement.2

4.The Department has acknowledged that managed migration will bring substantial operational challenges. It has also recognised that managed migration faces another challenge: rebuilding the trust of claimants in Universal Credit. The Secretary of State told us:

The business of managed migration is a trickier situation because you will have people who haven’t changed at all and are very resistant, for understandable reasons: they may be on very low incomes and they are very nervous about any changes. They may have heard things that worry them about Universal Credit. What we are going to try to learn is about the best way to reassure them and to move them safely, carefully and reassuringly—where they don’t lose out on money—from one benefit to the next.3

5.Neil Couling, Director General, Universal Credit Programme, also emphasised to us that rebuilding trust in Universal Credit will be important to its overall success:

For all the public interest in Universal Credit, I am on record saying that I am worried that we are worrying people just on Universal Credit. This process will work best if people engage with us, and we need to create an environment in which they are happy to do so.4

6.In November 2018, we reported on the Government’s plans for managed migration. We concluded that it is impossible to overstate the importance of getting managed migration right. Getting it wrong could plunge people further into poverty and could even leave them destitute.5

7.Our report made several recommendations aimed at improving the process of managed migration and safeguarding claimants. Primarily, we recommended that the Government delay asking the House to vote on the revised managed migration Regulations, to allow for further scrutiny. We welcome the fact that it has done so. It is, however, vital that the Government uses this delay to improve its plans in light of the scrutiny they have received.

8.We also recommended that the Department set tests for readiness for managed migration. So far, it has refused to do so. We stated that, should the Government fail to set tests, we would make recommendations for appropriate tests of readiness for managed migration in early 2019, which we would expect the Government to adopt or, failing that, provide suitable alternatives of its own. We wrote to the National Audit Office (NAO) in October 2018 asking for its views on how DWP should assess readiness for managed migration. The Comptroller and Auditor General, in response, stated that, whilst it would not be appropriate for him to set explicit tests for managed migration, DWP does not yet have all the measures that it needs; and that any measures may build on existing metrics and the criteria used by the NAO to assess value for money. The Comptroller and Auditor General set out these measures in his letter.6 Having had the Government’s response to our Report, we wrote to stakeholders7 in February 2019, asking them for their views on the Department’s decision not to set tests of readiness before beginning the managed migration pilot and asking for their comments on tests for managed migration based on the measures provided by the NAO. In this report we explain in further detail why tests are necessary and recommend what the tests should include.

9.We remain of the view that we set out in our 2018 report on managed migration: it is impossible to overstate the importance of getting managed migration right. It is a huge operational and logistical challenge, with significant risks for Jobcentre Plus staff, for public spending and for the people most affected by the change: claimants. Without clear tests and measures to prove that it is ready to move claimants to Universal Credit, the Government will struggle to win the trust of claimants, support organisations, Parliament and the wider public—something it acknowledges will be vital for managed migration to be a success.

3 Oral evidence taken on Monday 11 March 2019 (HC 1983), Q24

5 Work and Pensions Committee, Twentieth Report of Session 2017–19, Universal Credit: managed migration, HC 1762, para 11

7 Citizens Advice, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, Mind, NAWRA, SSAC, and the Trussell Trust

Published: 1 May 2019