West Cornwall’s Derek Thomas is one of a group of cross-party MPs who is calling for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to “prove it is up to the job” before a single claimant is transferred onto Universal Credit (UC).
Mr Thomas is a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee chaired by the Rt Hon Frank Field, which says that the DWP “should immediately set tests of operational readiness” and ensure it is meeting those tests before it begins even the pilot phase of managed migration.
“The DWP has yet to prove it’s up to the job of managed migration,” said Mr Thomas.
“Anyone who sees their income reduced or their circumstances and life chances adversely affected will find no comfort in learning this didn’t happen on purpose.
“‘Test and learn’ must mean just that: the DWP should not move one person onto UC until it does test, and does learn, and proves it is ready to safely do so.
“If the Department is confident that UC is operationally ready to begin the managed migration pilot, there is no excuse for not setting and meeting the tests to demonstrate this.
“The Department should publish the results of the tests so that it is clear to claimants, that the DWP is capable and ready to begin this process: without putting any claimants at risk of debt, hunger and homelessness.”
The “tests of operational readiness” proposed by the Select Committee are based on those recommended by the DWP’s own expert advisory council, the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) and the National Audit Office.
Mr Thomas recently held a meeting with a small group of constituents to hear their experiences of Universal Credit which will aid his input into the Work and Pensions Select Committee.
“I am grateful to LiveWest for facilitating this meeting and for the work they do to support people through transition onto Universal Credit (UC),” he added.
“The experiences I heard demonstrate that the intention of the change from legacy benefits to a ‘simpler’ single payment through UC is not the reality for people. More information and better support is needed for those whose circumstances change leading to this transition. On Wednesday I raised their stories directly with the Minister who has offered to meet to investigate the challenges they faced.”