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SFHA calls for pause to Universal Credit ‘natural’ migration

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The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) has responded to an inquiry by the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee into Universal Credit ‘natural’ migration by calling for a pause until key conditions are met.

Sarah Boyack, SFHA Head of Public Affairs, said:

“The DWP has correctly chosen to adopt a very cautious approach to moving over claimants on existing benefits, such as Housing Benefit, to Universal Credit, by undertaking a pilot to ensure that safeguards will be in place to minimise any distress and avoid adverse effects to claimants, who may have complex needs, before going to scale.

“Yet claimants who have a change of circumstance are ‘naturally’ migrated, many of whom will have similarly complex needs, and will not benefit from such safeguards. The change of circumstance that triggered the natural migration may itself be a cause of stress and anxiety, such as bereavement, the end of a custodial sentence or a relationship breakdown, so there is a real risk of adverse effects and distress.

“The SFHA therefore believes that, with the exception of JSA claimants who have found work but still need social security support, there should be a pause to natural migration to Universal Credit, with claimants allowed to continue to be assessed under the legacy benefits system until they can be managed migrated. All migration should only be implemented once key conditions are met.”

The SFHA would like to see the following conditions met:

  • the outcomes of the pilot have been assessed and there is an assurance that processes underpinning migration are reliable and safe
  • sufficient numbers of DWP staff have been trained and deployed to provide a consistent and accurate level of service
  • support mechanisms, such as the landlord portal and payment system, are sufficiently developed and robust
  • the Universal Credit service can be deemed to have reached a steady state and this is independently verified.

Sarah Boyack concluded:

“If there is to be no pause, then there must be safeguards in place to prevent natural migration whilst any outstanding mandatory considerations or appeals are being processed. Claimants should also be allowed to retain their existing benefit pending the outcome of the reconsideration or appeal process, rather than be pressured to apply for Universal Credit in order to receive any money.”

Ends

For further information, please contact SFHA Media Adviser Kirsten Walker on t: 0141 567 6221 m: 0788 788 8348 email: kwalker@sfha.co.uk

Visit our website at www.sfha.co.uk

Follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/SFHA.HousingScotland

Twitter www.twitter.com/sfha_hq

NOTES:

  1. The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) was established in 1975 and has around 133 members providing affordable housing and wider community services across Scotland, as well as a further 150 commercial associates. The SFHA is owned and governed by its members and exists to lead, represent and support the work of housing associations and co-operatives throughout Scotland.
  2. The SFHA is the voice of housing associations and co-operatives in Scotland. SFHA’s 133 members represent 85% of the sector, own and manage 86% of the 247,000+ housing association stock across Scotland. Together, housing associations and co-operatives provide housing for almost 500,000 people, which is one in every 11 households.
  3. Over 15,000 staff are employed by SFHA members across Scotland, 93% of the staff within the sector.
  4. Housing associations and co-operatives are not-for-profit bodies, regulated by the Scottish Housing Regulator.