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Universal Credit Migration: Disabled People

Volume 718: debated on Monday 11 July 2022

12. What assessment her Department has made of the impact on disabled people of the move from legacy benefits to universal credit as part of the managed migration process. (900982)

We estimate that 600,000 people on employment and support allowance will be better off on UC, which is of course a modern, flexible benefit that includes targeted support for disability and which helps to simplify the benefits system, providing support in times of need and making work pay. I can add that the Department holds regular engagement sessions with external stakeholders, including of course disabled people and others in the health and disability sector, seeking their input into the process.

In 2019 the then Secretary of State promised that the Department would pause the migration to UC after a pilot of 10,000 cases, would report back and would provide parliamentary scrutiny of legislation for the wider roll-out. Instead of breaking this promise, does the Minister accept that migration to UC will make thousands of people worse off in real terms just when inflation is going through the roof, and will she now pause the process?

The answer is no, and that is because, first, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State updated the House through a written ministerial statement only recently in which she explained precisely the point about the prior piloting and exploratory work. Secondly, Parliament voted in 2012 to end legacy benefits and replace them with a single, modern benefit system, and on top of that, committed to providing transitional financial protection. That is the key point in this case: where a claimant may not already be better off—as we have said, in the majority of cases, they are—they are supported.

The truth is that many people migrating will be worse off because of the timing—in a period of high inflation. We know that the legacy benefit group to be transferred on to UC is on average much more vulnerable than those in the existing UC caseload; the great majority of legacy ESA clients are in the support group. Can the Minister tell us exactly how the migration process is going? Has it been tested at scale to ensure that it is safe for vulnerable clients?

As my right hon. and hon. Friends have laid out extensively to the House, the process being followed is one of initial discovery. After that, it will be possible to provide fuller answers to the House of Commons about how the broader process will work. The vast majority of claimants will either be better off or no worse off, and I want to lay on record one more time that 55% of people will see an increase in their award, 10% will see no change, and 35% will be protected transitionally.