Universal Credit: Government urged to stop ‘dangerous’ deployment this week | Economic news

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Millions of people are expected to quit legacy benefits and switch to Universal Credit from Monday – a plan that charities have deemed “too dangerous to continue”.

More than 20 charities have written to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey asking her not to proceed with the deployment unless the government can guarantee that no one’s income will be cut during the process.

They say the incomes of more than 700,000 people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and dementia could be at risk, with “devastating and life-threatening” consequences.

During the pandemic, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had suspended the process of transferring people on benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credit to the new system.

Applicants will be given at least three months’ notice to make a universal credit complaint, with the number of a helpline they can call.

The DWP may terminate their existing benefits if they do not apply by the deadline.

In the letter, the groups wrote: “We believe your approach to transitioning older people on older benefits to Universal Credit risks pushing many of them into destitution.”

The government aims to transfer all applicants to the new system by the end of 2024.

Paul Farmer, Mind’s chief executive and signatory, said the plans could leave people with mental health issues with no income.

“Those who are too ill to engage with the DWP may find themselves unable to pay their rent, buy food or pay their growing energy bills,” he said.

“The DWP should stop this process.”

He said putting the incomes of hundreds of thousands of people at risk during a cost of living crisis is “completely unacceptable”.

DWP research from 2018 found that nearly a quarter of people with long-term health conditions were unable to apply for Universal Credit online, while 54% said they needed more help in establishing the application.

There are still 2.6 million households receiving legacy benefits, around half of which receive the main sickness benefit, Employment and Support Allowance.

Another million people receive tax credits, while 200,000 receive income support and another 100,000 receive jobseeker’s allowance.

Government analysis suggests 900,000 people will be worse off after the switch to Universal Credit, while 1.4million will be better off by £220 a month.

A DWP spokesperson said: “More than five million people are already supported by Universal Credit.

“It is a dynamic system that adapts to people’s changing incomes, is overall more generous than the old benefits and simplifies our safety net for those who cannot work.”

The spokesperson said top-up payments would be “available to eligible claimants” whose Universal Credit entitlement is less than their inherited benefits.

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