Key dates have been laid out for a huge change which will impact on 500,000 people receiving benefits. Yesterday the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that 500,000 people would be getting letters telling them they need to migrate to Universal Credit.

Those impacted are receiving ‘legacy’ benefits which are being phased out - and anyone receiving a letter has to take action because what they are currently receiving will stop arriving in their bank accounts. They have to apply instead for Universal Credit - failing to do so could see them miss out on thousands of pounds of help.

The DWP has now given timetable for the change which impacts anyone getting a number of key benefits. Here is a list on when people will start receiving letters - and when they must take action.

  • April: Income Support and Tax Credits with Housing Benefit
  • June: Housing Benefit only
  • July: ESA (Income Based) with Child Tax Credit
  • August: Tax Credits (Pension Aged including mixed aged couples)
  • September: JSA (Income Based)

The switchover started last year focusing on tax credits and the DWP said that 130,000 people have made the change. However concerns have been raised that people, especially those who are vulnerable, are not being given enough help to make the change as it is reliant on them making the application.

Last month Work and Pensions Topical Questions in the House of Commons was told that people are losing out on £3,200 a year by failing to switch their benefits over. It was thought that about a quarter of people were not actually applying for the change.

Dame Meg Hillier (Lab) said that this was a serious issue with people losing thousands of much-needed pounds as a result. She said: “Of people currently claiming tax credits, 20% are not moving over to universal credit in the migration. The Department tells us that those who are not claiming would have got a median amount of £3,200 a year. Will the Minister assure me and the House that she is doing everything she can to ensure that people are getting the money that they are owed?”

The Minister for Employment Jo Churchill replied: “I assure the hon. Lady that we are keeping a close eye on the issue, but ultimately it is the customer’s responsibility to claim. I gently point out that we have been rolling out the migration in her constituency since May ’23, with not one complaint. There is plenty of help available to those people as they transition.”

In the new announcement from the DWP Jo Churchill MP said: “Universal Credit is a proven benefits system fit for the modern age. With even more people moving to Universal Credit, we can continue to provide the best level of support for people to secure financial independence through work.

“I would encourage all those who receive their Migration Notices to take action to ensure they continue to receive the benefits they are entitled to.”

Migration Notices will be issued to all legacy benefit types, apart from ESA claimants, over the next six months. The National Audit Office has said that almost all of those people who have failed to claim Universal Credit after being told their legacy benefit is being stopped are on tax credits. In a report the NAO said by the end of December 2023, DWP had sent nearly 350,000 migration notices advising legacy benefit claimants they need to apply for UC if they want to continue receiving financial support. At this point, DWP had closed nearly 150,000 of these migration cases, with more than one in five (over 31,000) closed cases resulting in the claimant having their legacy benefits stopped and not moving to UC.

The NAO said: “DWP does not fully understand why some people on legacy benefits do not claim UC. It is monitoring the proportion of people who do not claim after receiving a migration notice and considers that the non-claim rate is not a cause for concern as it has received few complaints. However, DWP lacks data to be sure that people are claiming the benefits they are entitled to.”