The DWP’s new Universal Credit plans have already turned into a farce

Amber Rudd and the DWP logo
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) latest policy shift on Universal Credit is already turning into a shambles. Because the plans it announced last week now have some serious problems.

The DWP: changing the goalposts

As The Canary previously reported, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has delayed MPs’ voting on the new benefit. It was to get their approval for “managed migration“. This will be where the DWP moves people on “legacy” benefits (old ones like Jobseeker’s Allowance) over to Universal Credit. The vote was happening because the government was amending existing laws. But now, Rudd will ask parliament to vote on a trial of managed migration instead. She is proposing that the DWP transfers 10,000 existing legacy benefit claimants onto Universal Credit, to test the process. The DWP will review how it worked afterwards.

So, as DWP minister Alok Sharma said on 11 January:

once 10,000 claimants have been moved onto Universal Credit as part of managed migration, no further migration notices can be issued. In this way the Government is legislating for ‘piloting powers’ rather than the migration of all claimants… The Government will report on our findings from the pilot before bringing forward legislation to extend managed migration.

Sadly for Rudd and the DWP, this hasn’t gone smoothly either. Because now a top government committee has expressed its concerns over the changes.

Ignoring numbers

As Inside Housing reported, the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has written to Rudd over the changes. It welcomed her decision to cap the managed migration regulations at 10,000 trial claimants. The letter also said that the DWP reviewing the process was a “positive step forward”. But there were several catches.

First, it said it:

would like to have a greater understanding about the rationale for the design of the cap, and how it will be applied in practice.

The SSAC appears to be concerned that the Rudd’s plans have a basic flaw. Because the DWP will base the 10,000 claimant figure on the number of Universal Credit claims it signs off on, not on the number of “migration notices” it issues. In other words, it will cap the number of people moving onto Universal Credit at 10,000, even if more are already in the process of moving. As the SSAC notes:

The proposals mean that the department cannot know precisely how many claimants will be migrated before the cap takes effect.

A “missed opportunity”

Secondly, the SSAC said that Rudd’s plan “misses an opportunity” to do key analysis. Because the DWP won’t look into the people who drop out of claiming Universal Credit before the process is complete, as it will focus on the migration notices it signs off on rather than all those it issues. As the SSAC said, this means the DWP can’t:

develop a greater understanding of the extent of the fall-out rate of those that never proceed to Universal Credit and the reasons behind that. This is a widely held fear, and limiting the number of notices issued to 10,000 would help to keep that concern in focus.

It remains to be seen if Rudd and the DWP will respond to the SSAC’s concerns. Because she has not replied to its previous letter and concerns from last December.

A DWP spokesperson told the Canary:

We are pleased the Committee welcomes the changes to these regulations. We are currently working closely with a wide and diverse range of stakeholders to design the managed migration process and we are carefully planning our approach to the pilot

Wilful ignorance?

The SSAC’s letter has exposed Rudd’s plans as a farce. If the DWP will stop taking migrated claimants when it has signed off on 10,000 Universal Credit claims, this could leave countless people in limbo. They will have started the process of going on to the benefit only to be stopped because of Rudd’s flawed plans.

But moreover, the fact the DWP seemingly isn’t going to analyse why people are dropping out of moving onto Universal Credit stinks of wilful ignorance. Rudd said she was listening “very carefully” to people’s concerns over the benefit. This latest fiasco, though, gives the impression that her department is merely choosing to hear what suits its agenda. That is, carry on regardless in the face of criticism.

Featured image via BBC Newsnight – YouTube and UK government – Wikimedia

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  • Show Comments
    1. I fear the 10,000 smokescreen is just that, a smokescreen. In the SSC letter to the DWP they may just have given the game away. “We accept the Department’s assertion that an impact assessment should be an iterative process, and be updated to reflect experience and learning.” The clue lies in the
      use of “ITERATIVE PROCESS” . A process for arriving at a decision or a desired result by repeating rounds of analysis or a cycle of operations. The objective is to bring the desired decision or result closer to discovery with each repetition (iteration). The iterative process can be used where the decision is not easily revocable, or where the consequences of revocation could be costly. In other words, the means whereby they can to amend and legislate after the process of discovering exactly where the major flaws (as they see them) are. A cost controlling measure.

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