Leading charities have condemned the government’s decision to restart moving 2.6 million people off legacy benefits and onto universal credit, saying it risks pushing claimants into “destitution”.
Organisations are calling for the switch, which has been branded a “stealth-cut”, to be stopped altogether, with concerns it could leave some vulnerable people “unable to pay their bills”.
From this week, letters are being sent to claimants with a deadline, typically of three months, to apply for universal credit – and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be able to stop their existing benefits if they do not apply by the deadline.
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More than 20 charities have written to work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey urging her to stop the rollout unless the government can ensure nobody’s income will be cut off if they do not respond in time.
The managed migration scheme was originally put on hold due to the pandemic, and those on working tax credits will be targeted first, sparking fears among the 1.7 million claimants – most of whom are disabled or long-term sick – that they will be pushed into hardship. The DWP is aiming to have everyone transferred by the end of 2024.
The charities include Mind, The Trussell Trust, Shelter and Disability Rights UK, who state that as many as 2.6 million people could eventually be affected.