Paul Howarth is a policy consultant for Policy in Practice. He recently attended another of DWP’s managed migration webinars and in this blog post he recaps on the information shared. Read his thoughts on DWP’s managed migration March webinar here.

Ahead of the face-to-face stakeholder workshop on managed migration on Thursday 13 June, DWP held another webinar on Universal Credit managed migration in May. This followed a webinar in March when DWP set out the ‘who knows me’ approach to the managed migration pilot and explained the themes emerging from the service design workshops.

Richard d’Souza welcomed all the participants to the latest webinar and said that the purpose of the webinar was to report back on:

  1. The ‘vulnerable and complex needs workshop’ on Monday 1 April
  2. The service delivery workshop on Thursday 11 April

Paul Howarth listened in for Policy in Practice.

Vulnerable and complex needs workshop

DWP reported on the workshop which involved around 35 charities and stakeholders. The objective was to develop a framework that describes vulnerable people’s needs in the Universal Credit process but to do so in a way which avoids stigma and categorisation. It should not, for example, be assumed that all disabled people are vulnerable.

The workshop defined certain types of needs:

  • Access (e.g. to the internet, the phone, availability for visits, difficulty in travelling)
  • Daily life (e.g. difficulties preparing for or making a claim, lack of planning/financial skills, anxiety, fluctuating needs)
  • Communication (e.g. difficulties communicating verbally or in writing, concentration issues)
  • Connections (e.g. social isolation, unable to ask for support, necessary support lacking)
  • Availability (e.g. difficulty in providing ID, opening bank accounts, or obtaining and using assistive technology)

It was emphasised that this was still work in progress. I asked how the really good work emerging from the workshops would be applied in the Harrogate pilot. The helpful and re-assuring answer was that it will be used in the conversations taking place in the ‘who knows me’ approach in the pilot, and by making advisers more aware of what to look for. There were quite a few questions and contributions this time so DWP were kept busy! Some of the main points were:

  • Inevitably there will need to be some prioritisation in meeting all the various needs that had been identified– not all needs can be fully met, and different needs will be met in different ways – it is all about trying to lower barriers
  • The Harrogate pilot will include those who might not be able to have a face to face interview easily (e.g. in hospital) but not at the outset
  • It has not yet been decided whether claimants with a severe disability premium will be included in the pilot
  • There were no current plans to allow trusted partners (e.g. housing associations) to refer claimants to the visiting or telephone claim services, but the point was noted
  • Every effort will be made to ensure that claimants will not lose support if they fail to engage with the managed migration process.
  • DWP will take a deliberately slow approach to managed migration, reviewing as they go along, and learning from engaging with real claimants in the pilot.

Service delivery workshop

This was a fresh look at the ‘customer journey’ designed to establish what works and what doesn’t work, building on existing knowledge. The workshop considered:

  • The warm-up/prep conversation
  • Making a claim for Universal Credit
  • Understanding money – my first Universal Credit statement
  • Budgeting – financial assistance
  • General support

Participants in the workshop were asked to comment on:

  • What they currently do to support claimants?
  • What are the pinch points or challenges?
  • What would they change?

The issues raised by participants are familiar: for example, data-sharing, faster help-line access, improving the consent process, landlord portal development, lack of resources to support claimants were all cited as key challenges and areas that could be improved. In answer to questions, DWP commented that:

  • Implicit consent is being looked at, jointly with SSAC. So there is some work going on in this area, but not in time for the pilot
  • There have been and will continue to be some conversations with existing Universal Credit claimants in Harrogate to inform the pilot
  • Data-sharing is being considered as a result of the workshops
  • There are no plans at this stage to expand the pilot beyond Harrogate but this is not ruled out. DWP commented that they ‘need to understand the end- to- end journey before scaling’

I asked a question about the decision-making process: how would DWP respond in the face of all this valuable information and feedback? The answer was that looking at what works and what doesn’t is a continuous process and that, while very helpful evidence was being collected from stakeholders, DWP would need to understand this themselves and not take anything as given.

Conclusion and next steps

DWP’s general approach to managed migration is very welcome. Inevitably though expectations will be raised by the very full consultation with organisations who support claimants every day. It will be very helpful for DWP to say, as we go along, what points they are prepared to take on board as a result of all this activity and what they don’t feel able to accept (and why). A short explanation about why something can’t be done is often much better than no feedback at all. And, of course, we can all agree that the right outcome is more important than the right process.

DWP are clearly engaging with stakeholders and putting a great deal of effort into capturing a lot of detailed information from the process. All of this should help the exercise go well, and we look forward to many of the positive suggestions made by stakeholders being put into practice by DWP.

We will keep you posted about our involvement. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on managed migration.

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We will be joined by Monica Kaur from the Money and Pensions Service.
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