How is the Move to Universal Credit ‘Who Knows Me’ pilot progressing?March 09, 2020 –
Last week the DWP ran one of its Universal Credit Stakeholder Update Events, where organisations involved in helping people access the new benefit are given an update on recent changes by the department. The main topic of this event was managed migration and how the Move to Universal Credit ‘Who Knows Me’ pilot is progressing in Harrogate, but a few other updates were covered at the same time.
As I’m sure you can imagine the meeting was well-attended with around 100 people from organisations across the UK travelling to London. I managed to speak to several of our clients in the room – if you were there too sorry not to catch you – but in case you didn’t make it to the event here is a summary of the key updates provided.
We first heard from Neil Couling, Senior Responsible Owner for Universal Credit, on the progress of Universal Credit migration to date.
As covered in recent news reports, Neil started with a recap of the numbers of people expected to go through managed migration. Revised numbers now suggest this will be 2.8 million people, rather than the previously expected 1.9 million. This is due to lower numbers of people reporting a change of circumstance and going down the natural migration route.
One expected change that has not been taking place is the number of people moving in and out of work, which has been lower than predicted.
Neil stated he is not concerned at the slower pace of people moving as this allows the department to adapt and learn. As soon as migration speeds up the DWP will be less able to make changes to the policy.
On that note, Neil was keen to stress during his presentation the department are still in listening mode. They have made some changes to the managed migration pilot based on previous feedback and so he encouraged organisations with views to share them.
Move to Universal Credit ‘Who Knows Me’
Universal Credit Product Director Lara Sampson then gave an update on the planned process of the ‘Who Knows Me’ pilot which started in Harrogate in July 2019. Once testing has been completed in Harrogate two other jobcentre areas with different groups of residents will also be chosen to pilot the three models described below.
This pilot work will be stage 1 of the managed migration plan and it was intentionally started small – in the same way the full service roll out was – so that changes could easily be applied during the pilot. There are three models being tested to see what works best for different audiences:
a) Working with DWP work coaches
This strand has already started and some people have been through the ‘move’ process and are now claiming Universal Credit. By virtue of people in this group being in contact with the jobcentre this group is mainly made up of existing JSA claimants (there are some ESA claimants too) and so it is accepted this is not currently representative of all groups of people who will need to move.
So far around 200 people in Harrogate have started the process. It begins with a leaflet explaining what Universal Credit is and what will happen during the ‘move’ process. This is followed by specific advice for each claimant based on their needs, for example, if someone says they are not very confident making an online claim they are told about the free Learn My Way website which gives help on using a computer, including a short intro to Universal Credit. https://www.learnmyway.com/courses/universal-credit-a-how-to-guide/
If you remember, last summer’s Managed Migration Regulations stated that people would be given a ‘deadline day’ that they needed to apply for Universal Credit before. And if they did not claim in time their legacy benefit(s) would be stopped. As you can imagine many concerns were raised about this approach. The DWP has said it has listened to these concerns and a key part of the pilot project so far has been that claims are not being closed if they are not completed in the given timeframe. While this policy is not guaranteed to carry through to all managed migrations it is positive to see it being tested.
It is likely work in this strand will soon start with a second jobcentre (yet to be announced) followed by a third a few months later.
b) A partner-led approach working with Housing Associations
This strand is due to commence in the next few weeks and initial work will take place with The Guinness Partnership in Harrogate. The two follow on jobcentres used for the strand above will also be used. The goal of this group is to carry out testing with some non-government agencies.
c) HRMC tax credit team
The final group will work with tax credit claimants via HRMC. This strand will start in Harrogate this summer and it is expected to eventually move into the two follow on jobcentres, as above.
Once all of these models have been tested and evaluated (more on this below) things will start to speed up. Stage 2 of the managed migration will be able to begin (expected to start towards the end of 2020) which will involve between 10,000 and 50,000 people being moved each month. And finally stage 3 (planned to be Oct 2022 to Sep 2024) will get quicker again with around 100,000 people being moved each month.
It has not yet been decided how these stages will be rolled out, for example by different benefit or geographically, but we are sure to hear more about this in due course.
Other recent service improvements
We also heard a little about other service improvements that have recently been applied for new Universal Credit claimants at the start of their claim.
These include more details being given on someone’s initial statement, which they will receive as soon as they submit their Universal Credit claim. New information will include what the impact of any advances may be, a breakdown of any deductions they are likely to have applied, a breakdown of their housing costs (to help people see if their full rent is covered) and information for people who receive more frequent payment (as well as what this will mean for their Universal Credit amounts over the coming months).
There has been some work on helping vulnerable claimants at the start of their claim, for example getting the right ID for verification purposes and having access to a bank account to receive their Universal Credit payment.
Procedures are also being improved for landlords with faster processing of APAs, so that landlords can be paid more quickly, and improvements are being put in place for private landlords too.
Finally, in the afternoon, Universal Credit Lead Analyst Graeme Connor, spoke about the ‘Move to UC’ Evaluation Strategy. In groups we shared views on what we would like to see covered in the initial progress report into managed migration, expected this Autumn.
There were too many suggestions to report on them all but a main theme was how the ‘Who Knows Me’ approach is going to impact on the resources of the wide range of partner organisations both in the room and not. I am sure these questions will continue to be raised and we look forward to hearing further answers from the department later this year.