What is Natural Migration?
“Natural Migration” from a legacy benefit to Universal Credit (UC) occurs for a number of reasons – such as moving address to a different local authority area or having a first child, for example. “Managed Migration” will start from July 2019 when those on a legacy benefit will be moved to Universal Credit and the amount they received currently will be protected. We will post an update about the time periods for Managed Migration when these are available.
Those who “naturally” migrate will not benefit from transitional protection so may find that they are both far worse off both financially, and also the conditionality that they have to adhere to, may be far tougher – the exception to this will be those who are currently in receipt of Severe Disability Premium. The Government has announced that they will introduce some protection for this group.
How are vulnerable claimants protected
The IT systems that identified vulnerable claimants on legacy benefits included information pertaining to their vulnerabilities are not available in UC.
This meant that Job Seekers Allowance work coaches and decision makers could make some allowances – in deciding appropriate work search activity, and led to fewer sanctions.
Advisors cannot rely on DWP taking any steps to protect UC claimants in this position. This is true even if the claimant in question remains with a previous work programme and Job Coach. The only way to make Universal Credit staff aware of vulnerabilities at present is for claimants to tell them when they start their claim or as soon as possible thereafter and to ask for this to be taken into account in the claimant commitment. This information should then be recorded in the UC system. In any case where the failure to pass on vulnerability information causes a claimant to be sanctioned it could be argued that this failure from DWP would constitute good cause to challenge a sanction.
This change in policy is not being brought to the attention of advisors or claimants. So in a case we are working on at the Law Centre a JSA claimant with Aspergers known to the Job Centre for 15 years was on transfer to UC not afforded any consideration of his vulnerabilities. This information did not transfer over and consequently he was asked to do more activity at the work programme and in job seeking than he could manage. In his case this has led to many sanctions being imposed.
We are now assisting this particular service user to challenge these decisions and trying to ensure that the UC systems include information on legacy benefit concerns – to this end we are seeking urgent clarification from the Partnership Managers to ensure that this does not continue to affect vulnerable service users.
How to Help
We would advise organisations to check that their vulnerable service Users have raised this fact with DWP. If claimant commitments are considered to be too onerous then you can ask for these to be reviewed. If things have progressed to sanctions then advisors should challenge any sanctions decisions in similar situations and, importantly, to raise issues with local MPs who continue to be unaware of the effect that sanctions are having on vulnerable constituents.