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Lords report questions universal credit migration regulations

6 December 2018

Regulations effecting the transfer of nearly 3m benefit recipients to universal credit have been strongly crtiticised by a House of Lords committee.

In a report published today, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC), subcommittee B describes the Draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration) Regulations 2018 as "vague and aspirational", and concludes that they "may imperfectly achieve their policy objective". It flags the regulations as "Instruments drawn to the special attention of the House" for that reason.

Reflecting the concerns of organisations including Child Poverty Action Group, Mind, SCOPE and the Trussell Trust, the report concludes that the DWP "may be attempting too many changes at once", when a National Audit Office report has already raised concerns about its ability to run the programme as it currently stands. The committee highlights that the DWP may have acted prematurely in seeking such extensive powers, and suggests that it would be better just to seek legislative cover for the pilot, which the DWP already describes as a distinct phase.

Whilst the committee welcomes the DWP’s intention to consult representative groups in formulating its arrangements, it considers that those plans should be far more developed before regulations permitting the full conversion to universal credit are put before the House.

On transitional agreements, a particular concern is that it appears that many vulnerable people are expected to survive the changeover period on less money than they need. "DWP’s reliance on repayable advances to bridge any gap does not take account of the long-term hardship subsequent deductions can cause", the report states. "DWP is initiating these changes but it is the claimant that bears all the risk if their income is interrupted. Transitional arrangements should ensure not just that migrated claimants are paid the correct amount for each benefit week but also that the pattern of payments during the changeover period does not force them into hardship or debt."

In correspondence with the committee, Secretary of State Amber Rudd claimed the DWP needed to have legislative certainty so it could get on redesigning its IT systems ready to start paying the run-on from July 2020, and the regulations represented "fixed Government policy on managed migration". The regulations were "vital to ensure that people missing out on benefits in the legacy system will receive them".

Click here to view the relevant section of the report.


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