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Transitional protection for universal credit claimants

This content applies to England

Transitional protection for claimants who move from other benefits to universal credit (UC) as part of 'managed migration'.

Managed and natural migration

'Managed migration' is the process by which DWP transfers people with live claims for existing benefits onto universal credit (UC).

In contrast, 'natural migration' occurs when a claimant of 'legacy benefits' (for example, housing benefit or income support) experiences a change in circumstances which means that s/he is no longer entitled to that benefit and has to claim UC. The government has the power to enact regulations around the process managed migration.[1]

The managed migration pilot started in July 2019 and it is envisaged the whole managed migration process will be completed by the end of 2023.[2] The current regulations allow only 10,000 awards of UC to be made under managed migration and once this number has been reached, new regulations will be needed.[3] Note that while the word 'migration' might imply an automatic process of transfer, both managed and natural migration require the claimant to actively make a claim for UC.

For more information about natural migration from housing benefit, see Changes in circumstances.

The Court of Appeal confirmed that claimants in receipt of disability-related legacy benefits who had been forced to claim universal credit (UC) as a result of relocating from one local authority’s area to another had been unlawfully discriminated against, because, unlike claimants relocating within one local authority area, they had suffered a significant drop in income as a result of transitioning onto UC.[4]

For more information about the arrangements for claimants in receipt of the severe disability premium (SDP), see Eligibility for universal credit.

Process of managed migration

The regulations allow DWP to send a 'migration notice' to a person claiming existing benefits. This gives a date by which s/he will have to claim universal credit, known as the 'deadline day'.[5] The deadline day must be at least three months after the migration notice, but can be changed to a later date in certain circumstances.[6]

If the claimant makes the claim before the deadline day, then in most circumstances, entitlement to UC will commence on the date of the claim.[7] Most existing benefits will stop on the day before the claim for UC has been made [8] Payment of housing benefit will continue for two weeks.[9]

If a person does not claim UC by the deadline day, then entitlement to most existing benefits will stop, although housing benefit will be paid for two more weeks.[10] Claims made within one further month will be treated as having been made in time and automatically be backdated to the deadline day.[11] However, if made after this time, a claim will be treated as new. In these circumstances, there will be no transitional protection (see below).

Transitional protection

Transitional protection ensures that most claimants will not be worse off as a result of the managed migration from their previous benefits to universal credit. However, in order to benefit from transitional protection a claimant has to claim UC by the date quoted in the migration notice (the 'deadline day') or less then a month after.[12]

Transitional protection applies where the total award that a household would receive in the first month of universal credit is less than the total award of benefits and tax credits that the household receive at the point of managed migration.[13] Transitional protection is achieved by including an extra element of UC in the claim to the value of the difference (the 'transitional element').[14]

Any sanction applicable to a household's entitlement is ignored in the calculation.[15]

Transitional protection does not apply to natural migration to universal credit, for example as a result of a new claim or a change of circumstances. 

The Court of Appeal has ruled that denying transitional protection to universal credit claimants who are financially worse off as a result of having their legacy benefits terminated in error and being prevented from re-claiming them on the discovery of the awarding authority’s mistake because of the ‘lobster pot’ or ‘no turning back’ principle is manifestly without reasonable foundation and contrary to Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[16]

The benefit cap

Note that the Benefit cap applies to claimants who are part of the managed migration process unless they are exempt. Under the current rules, there is no transitional protection to mitigate its effects.[17] This means that:

  • where a claimant has had her/his housing benefit reduced to less than the minimum amount, the reduction will also be incorporated into the universal credit claim
  • where reducing housing benefit to the minimum amount left the claimant with benefits above the cap level, no further reduction will have been made. When the claimant moves to UC, however, there will be further reductions to the level of the appropriate cap.

Disabled claimants

The Court of Appeal found[18] the £80 fixed-rate transitional payment scheme for claimants previously entitled to severe disability premium (SDP) who migrated onto universal credit naturally to be unlawful, because the difference in treatment between this group and the 'managed' migrants, who, as a result of different regulations,[19] would be prevented from migrating to universal credit (UC) naturally and would receive more generous transitional payments was manifestly without reasonable foundation.

For more information about the arrangements for claimants in receipt of the severe disability premium (SDP), see Eligibility for universal credit.

Reducing and ending transitional protection

Reduction of amount

If other elements of a claimant's UC award increase, there will be an equivalent reduction in the transitional element until the transitional element reduces to zero. This may mean that if, for example, a person's rent increases by £15 with a consequent increase in her/his housing cost element, s/he is no better off because of the effect on the transitional element. The only exception is childcare costs: if the amount awarded for these changes, the transitional element will be unaffected.[20]

Ending protection

The transitional protection lasts until there is no shortfall between the amount awarded under universal credit and the amount previously received or until:[21]

  • a partner leaves or joins the claimant's household
  • the claimant's earnings fall below the level at which s/he would be expected to look for work for three consecutive months
  • the ending of the universal credit's award.

If an award of UC which included a transitional element ends because of an increase in earned income and the claimant makes a fresh (successful) claim within three months, the transitional element will also be included in the new award.[22]

Wales

The information on this page reflects the law as applicable in England. Go to Shelter Cymru to check for variations applicable in Wales.

[1] paras 1 and 4, Schedule 6, Welfare Reform Act 2012.

[2] Hansard, HC Deb 7 June 2018 cWS.

[3] reg 2 Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[4] R (TP, AR & SXC) v SSWP [2020] EWCA Civ 37.

[5] reg 44 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[6] reg 44 and 45 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[7] s.7 Welfare Reform Act 2012, reg 21(1) Universal Credit Regulations 2013 SI 2013/376, reg 10, Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/380.

[8] regs 5, 6 and 8 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 and art 4, Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 9 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions and Commencement No. 8 and Savings and Transitional Provisions (Amendment)) Order 2013 SI 2013/983.

[9] reg 8(2A) Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 6(7) Universal Credit (Miscellaneous Amendments, Saving and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2018/65.

[10] reg 46(1) Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[11] reg 46(3) Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[12] reg 48, Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[13] reg 52(1) Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[14] reg 52(2), reg 53 and reg 55 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[15] reg 53 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[16] R (on the application of TD) v SSWP [2020] EWCA Civ 618; see also regs 8 and 13 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230; Article 4 Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Commencement No. 22 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions) Order 2015 SI 2015/101

[17] reg 53(11) Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[18] R (TP, AR & SXC) v SSWP [2020] EWCA Civ 37; see also reg. 63 and sch 2 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230, as inserted by the Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[19] reg 4A Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014 SI 2014/1230 inserted by reg 2 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) (SDP Gateway) Amendment Regulations 2019 SI 2019/10.

[20] reg 55 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[21] regs 55(3) and 56 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

[22] reg 57 Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014/1230 as inserted by reg 3(7) Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/1152.

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