Author - Rob Gowans, CAS Policy Officer
Last week the Work and Pensions Secretary made a written statement to Parliament on Universal Credit (UC) which marked some important evolutions in government policy. The key points relate to the transitional protection for clients who are moving from legacy benefits to UC.
Ministers have often said that these claimants will be protected from any drop in income by ‘transitional protection’. However CAS and CABs have recently been highlighting the losses already being suffered by clients as a result of changes of circumstances, which in full service areas means a move to UC.
The new written statement announces that those claimants receiving the Severe Disability Premium, which is for people who live alone with substantial care needs, will not now be transferred onto UC until such time as they can qualify for transitional protection. Those who have already lost out – in some cases by as much as £64 per week - will have the payments made up and arrears paid. CAS welcomes this important change for severely disabled people - though we are keen to see details of exactly how this money will be paid back to clients.
Other changes include ensuring that increases in support for childcare costs will not erode transitional protection, as long as the claimant’s income reaches a certain level.
The statement also announced that, given the infrastructure needed to accommodate the above, the completion date for roll-out of UC will be extended to March 2023.
Overall these changes are significant and show a welcome commitment from Ministers to listen to the evidence CAS and others have presented. However, there are some clients who will not be covered by the changes, due to a lack of transitional protection before July 2019.
It should also be noted that the UC Managed Migration and Transitional Protection Regulations will not be presented to Parliament until Autumn 2018, so the longer term position is not yet clear.
We will of course continue to monitor feedback from CABs and to engage with Ministers to highlight these and call for further changes we believe necessary.