DWP rejects call for ‘readiness test’ before continuing Universal Credit rollout
Department says the 10,000-claimant pilot will be sufficient to test the managed migration process
The Department for Work and Pensions has rejected a call from a parliamentary committee to delay the transfer of claimants onto the Universal Credit system until it has set and passed a series of readiness tests.
Last year, the Work and Pensions Select Committee said the department must set out tests to complete “before a single claimant is transferred to Universal Credit via the managed migration pilot”. The department’s existing plan is to carry out tests in 2020, a year into the pilot phase but ahead of the full rollout, which the committee said was “simply not good enough” to ensure DWP was ready to ensure the transfer to its new welfare system would go smoothly.
The committee said the independent group Citizens Advice should play a role in developing the tests.
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Responding to the report today, DWP said readiness tests were unnecessary because it had now “put beyond doubt” that it would pilot the “managed migration” of benefit claimants from the old to the new system before transferring claimants en masse.
“The government is incorporating involvement from a variety of stakeholders, including Citizens Advice,” it added.
The committee’s report had argued that making mistakes in the managed migration process “could plunge people further into poverty and could even leave them destitute”.
Earlier this month, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd confirmed that she had abandoned plans for a vote on the legislation that would enable DWP to proceed to the next phase of the Universal Credit rollout. Jobcentres across the country are already enrolling new benefit claimants onto Universal Credit, but the legislation was needed to transfer existing claimants over to the new system, which will roll six benefits into one payment.
Rudd said she would instead seek approval for a six-month pilot phase involving 10,000 people, which she said would inform the next steps of the rollout.
This committee’s report said piloting the process without first carrying out tests to ensure the department was ready was “simply not good enough”. It has been preparing to recommend some appropriate readiness tests early this year, which it said it expected the government to adopt “or provide suitable alternatives of its own”.
The government also rejected the work and pensions committee’s recommendation to allow DWP’s independent advisers, the Social Security Advisory Committee, to scrutinise legislation to move onto the next phase of Universal Credit before MPs vote on it.
It said the SSAC had already examined earlier draft regulations and issued a series of recommendations for improvement, many of which the department had accepted.
DWP did however accept the committee’s call to use its pilot to test different approaches to managed migration.
“We fully appreciate the need for managed migration to meet the needs of claimants in different situations. Therefore, we intend to include claimants from a variety of circumstances in receipt of various benefit combinations in the pilot to ensure that we are able to move all claimants safely onto Universal Credit,” it said.
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