DWP plans to move households to Universal Credit could see 900,000 Britons hit by benefits freeze

Long-term plans to move 2.6 million households to Universal Credit could make the situation worse for up to 900,000 households. Government ministers have announced that people will leave six old-style legacy benefits on May 9 and end in December 2024.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions admitted that inherited households would be worse off in the long term within the framework of universal credit. These households will receive transition payments. In return, their benefits will then be effectively frozen every April – possibly for years.

This will be the result of transition payments “eroding” each year as the UC increases with inflation until the benefit catches up to what they are paid, mirror reports. Sophie Corlett, of mental health charity Mind, warned the Mirror that the plans ‘could make hundreds of thousands worse off’ as inflation soars.

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She said: “The migration from disability benefits to Universal Credit poses a serious threat to many people with mental health issues. The consequences of cutting someone’s benefits can be fatal.

As a result of the transition, some benefit recipients will not receive additional money in April 2023 – despite forecasts that benefits will see an exceptional increase due to soaring inflation. Some will also lose their transition payments – or miss them altogether – if they have a change in circumstances, such as a move, a new job, a breakup or the birth of a first child.

The plans were unveiled in a 20-page government document after being put on hiatus due to the pandemic. Of the 900,000 people who will be affected by the change, 300,000 of them are claiming tax credits and 500,000 are sick and disabled people benefiting from ESA.

Only 500 people will be moved initially – but after “several months” the DWP will remove a cap of 10,000 claimants and “seriously” accelerate to move everyone by the end of 2024. Legacy claimants will receive a “ migration notice’ with a three-month deadline to apply for universal credit, failing which their benefits will be cut off.

Who has alarmed mental health and poverty campaigners who believe some people will fall through the cracks. A man, Errol Graham, was found starved to death weighing just five stone in 2018 after his disability benefits were cut off.

An inquest heard the DWP sent reminders to the 57-year-old from Nottingham but received no response, so it closed its ESA. The Social Security Advisory Committee is investigating further after warning that removing the 10,000 claimant cap “creates a significant risk”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “More than five million people are already being looked after by Universal Credit. It’s a dynamic system that adapts as people earn more or less, and simplifies our safety net for those who can’t work.

“Parliament voted in 2012 to end the complex web of six benefits inherited from the past, and as this work nears conclusion, we are making a full transition to a modern benefit, fit for the 21st century.”