factchecking myths and misconceptions about universal credit

“My benefit payment rate including disability premiums will be protected if I have to claim universal credit”

The short answer:

That’s not the case at the moment … and you may lose out even after transitional protection rules come into force

If you have extra disability amounts that increase your current legacy benefits - the severe disability premium, enhanced disability premium, disabled child element of child tax credit, and/or disability premium - under current rules your total payment rate may be lower if you have to move from your legacy benefits to universal credit (known as natural migration).

Natural migration

At the moment, there is no transitional protection of your current benefit rates if you have to claim universal credit - which may happen because of a change in circumstances such as moving to a full service universal credit area. Some groups of claimants may be better off on universal credit but others will receive substantially lower amounts after naturally migrating - such as people on employment and support allowance who also qualify for the severe disability premium or some families receiving additional amounts for a disabled child.

However, the government has proposed (in draft managed migration regulations) that from 16 January 2019 -

  • people who receive the severe disability premium (or who meet the conditions for getting it and have received it in the last month) who would have naturally migrated to universal credit will stay on their legacy benefits until they are migrated to universal credit through the managed migration process (paragraph 1 of the proposed new schedule 2 to the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014); and
  • people who were previously entitled to a severe disability premium and have claimed universal credit before the coming into force of the restriction on claims described above will be entitled to a flat rate 'transitional severe disability premium amount' ranging between £80 and £360 for each assessment period since the move to universal credit, which will be converted into a transitional element after a date determined by the Secretary of State (paragraphs 2 to 7 of the proposed new schedule 2).

Tip: If you have lost out after naturally migrating to universal credit you can currently only challenge the decision by taking individual legal action, for example as has happened with the successful challenge in the case of R (TP and AR) v SSWP and the pending case of R (TD, AD and IM) v SSWP.

Managed migration

The government is planning to start selecting people to move from their legacy benefits to universal credit (known as ‘managed migration’) from July 2019. However, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said on 5 November 2018 that the process will be tested for a year from July 2019 on around 10,000 claimants, before numbers increase from 2020.

The proposed scheme includes payment of an extra amount of transitional protection, in the form of a transitional element, to make up any shortfall between what a claimant was receiving from their legacy benefits and what they would receive from universal credit at the point of change. However, the amount of translational protection will be eroded over time as universal credit rates gradually increase each year, or by certain changes in  circumstance.

Warning: current proposals for managed migration say that if you don't comply with the requirement to claim universal credit by your personal 'final deadline day' set by the DWP, you will lose the right to transitional protection. Seek advice if you think you will have problems claiming or have not been able to meet the claim requirements.

Official guidance:

Draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration) Regulations 2018: SSAC report and government statement from gov.uk includes detailed current proposals for transitional protection.

SSAC's questions to DWP and HMRC following meeting on 20 June 2018, and responses from gov.uk provides further details about how managed migration transitional protection rules will operate.

Universal credit full service areas: Guidance for local authorities from gov.uk sets out guidance in relation to natural migration and managed migration in universal credit full service areas.

Need more help?

If you need help in finding out more about your rights and the options available to you, do consider contacting a local independent advice organisation. 

Enter a postcode on our advicelocal site to find details of advice organisations in your area. They will usually be able to offer free advice and support, and help to answer any questions you have.

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