Insufficient detail for the House of Lords to make an informed decision on DWP's latest Universal Credit proposals
6 December 2018
The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) Sub-Committee B has used its strongest ground to criticise the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration) Regulations. Their report describes the Regulations, which would provide the basis for transferring nearly 3 million people into Universal Credit, as ”vague and aspirational” and concludes that the Regulations “may imperfectly achieve their policy objective.”
These Regulations seek to transfer the nearly 3 million people who are receiving claiming benefits under the “legacy” system of different benefits into Universal Credit; the Regulations would require each of them to make a new claim for their benefits. Of particular concern are the 745,000 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants, many of whom are especially vulnerable people on long-term benefits who may struggle with the process.
DWP's Explanatory Memorandum provides information on the individual regulations, but fails to set out the broader context and timetable in which they will operate. The Committee's report provides some additional information to assist the House but concludes that DWP's explanations provide “insufficient information for the House to make an informed decision”.
SLSC Sub-Committee B Report
In its 8th Report published today, the SLSC says that DWP may be attempting too many changes at once when a National Audit Office report has already raised concerns about the Department's ability to run the programme as it currently stands. The Committee highlights that DWP may have acted prematurely in seeking such extensive powers and suggests that it would be better for DWP just to seek legislative cover for the pilot, which the Department already describes as a distinct phase.
Whilst the Committee welcomes the Department's intention to consult representative groups in formulating their arrangements, it considers that those plans should be more developed before Regulations permitting the full conversion to Universal Credit are put before the House.
On transitional agreements, the Committee said that these 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. DWP's reliance on repayable advances to bridge any gap does not take account of the long-term hardship subsequent deductions can cause. DWP is initiating these changes, but it is the claimant that bears all the risk if their income is interrupted.
- The full version of the 8th Report can be found on the Committee's publications page.