The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) must be able to demonstrate “operational capacity” and ensure claimant welfare before it gets new powers for mass transfer of claimants on to Universal Credit, an influential group of MPs have said.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs charged with the oversight of Government welfare policies, has written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd MP, proposing a balanced way forward for so-called “managed migration”.
This involves transferring existing claimants from legacy benefits – social security benefits that are being replaced by Universal Credit – on a large scale, despite ongoing concerns about the new system.
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.
But the WPSC says the two parts of the process could be separated out, meaning 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.
However, the powers should not be sought until the Government has demonstrated to Parliament that it learned lessons from the pilot phase, the Committee says.
The DWP must also show that the necessary capability and safeguards are in place to protect existing claimants, as they are gradually transferred to Universal Credit.
WPSC chair Frank Field 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.”