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UC managed migration regulations for Northern Ireland

The Universal Credit (Managed Migration and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 were laid before Parliament on 23 July 2019. These regulations set out how the Department for Communities will move existing benefit claimants to Universal Credit under the managed migration process, scheduled to start sometime in 2020.

Managed migration process

The Regulations introduce a new Part 4 to the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016. The amended regulations now set out the process by which an existing benefit claimant will be notified that they must move to Universal Credit and provide for a three month period between the claimant being notified and the claimant's entitlement to legacy benefits ending. Regulations 49 to 56 contain detail as to how claimants who move to Universal Credit under managed migration will be compensated if they are worse off under the new benefit. This includes a transitional capital disregard which disallows capital valued at over £16,000 for a twelve month period for people who were previously in receipt of tax credits, but who would be entitled to nothing under Universal Credit due to the stricter capital rules. Regulations 57 and 58 set out the circumstances under which any transitional protection paid as a result of the managed migration process will end. 

The new regulations also provide for discretionary hardship payments to be paid to people who appear to be in finacial hardship as a result of their claim to an existing benefit ending under the managed migration process.

Compensatory payments for disabled claimants who have already moved to Universal Credit

The Regulations introduce transitional payments for certain claimants who received or were entitled to receive a severe disability premium before moving on to Universal Credit due to a change in circumstances. As there is no corresponding premium in UC, claimants who had received severe disability premiums in their legacy benefit claims are significantly less well off under UC. A legal challenge led to the Department for Work and Pensions decision to compensate severely disabled persons adversely affected by the transition to Universal Credit, and these regulations contain the outworkings of this effort to provide compensation. 

The Department for Communities will begin making compensatory payments to eligible claimants in August. This will be an automated process and claimants do not need to apply for this compensation. 

However, the regulations themselves may be subject to a further legal challenge. Solicitors Leigh Day report that a pre-action letter has been issued to Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd arguing that the mitigations regulations are unlawful as they fail to fully compensate severely disabled claimants who have already transitioned over to Universal Credit. The amounts set out in the regulations do not reflect the actual loss sustained by people who have lost their disability premiums as a consequence of moving to UC. 

Benefit run-on

Currently, claimants in receipt of Housing Benefit at the point of moving to UC are entitled to receive a two-week run-on of that benefit. Regulation 3 of the managed migration regulations introduces a two week run-on of income support, income-based jobseeker's allowance and income-related employment and support allowance to claimants who transition to UC. This change takes effect on 22 July 2020. 

Extension of minimum income floor

Universal Credit imposes a "minimum income floor" on claimants who are regarded as self-employed. This assumes a certain minimum level of earnings, (equivalent to the claimant's required hours of work multiplied by the appropriate minimum wage), regardless of the actual income the claimant's self-employed activities generate. At the moment, self-employed claimants new to Universal Credit and who have started their business in the 12 months preceeding their date of claim enjoy a 12 month grace period from the imposition of the minimum income floor. Regulation 5 extends this grace period to all new self-employed UC claimants, regardless of when their self-employed ventures began. 

Closing the SDP gateway

As a result of legal action criticising how UC treats people who are severely disabled, a gateway condition was introduced to UC in January 2019. This gateway prevents benefit claimants who currently receive or are entitled to receive a Severe Disability Premium under the legacy benefits system from making a claim to Universal Credit. Regulation 6 of the managed migration regulations revokes this gateway, meaning that even those in receipt of SDP will begin to transition to UC from 27 January 2021.

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Benefits, Welfare Reform