Paul Howarth is a policy consultant for Policy in Practice. He recently attended DWP’s managed migration webinar and in this blog post he recaps on the information shared. 

It was good to see DWP sharing information about managed migration openly, with partners interested in and engaged with the rollout of Universal Credit. The purpose of the webinar, shared by Richard d’Souza, Head of Engagement on the Universal Credit programme, was to:

  1. Outline the DWP approach to the managed migration pilot in Harrogate due to start in July
  2. Provide feedback after the service design workshops

Lara Sampson, product owner for Universal Credit, shared the overall approach to the pilot

Lara said that DWP recognised the concerns expressed by stakeholders that vulnerable people might get left behind in the managed migration process and/or become stressed by it. She outlined the ‘who knows me’ approach which essentially involves finding a personal connection for each claimant going through the process.

The idea to be tested is that if an organisation knows a claimant, that organisation will be best placed to assess readiness to migrate, and to support the claimant through the process.  (‘Knowing a claimant’ is defined as having recent face-to-face or telephone contact with the claimant, with an organisational or financial interest in supporting the claimant through the process.)

DWP estimate that around 50% of claimants have this sort of relationship with the Jobcentre, HMRC, their local authority, or their social landlord.

The idea is to see how far they can go with the ‘who knows me’ concept and assess whether it will work. In the pilot, they will start with Jobcentre Plus who may be able to deal with around 100 claimants through their own contacts. They would need to be convinced that the claimant was sufficiently engaged to understand the process and to claim UC at the right time, and that appropriate support mechanisms were in place.

DWP is deliberately starting locally with one pilot area, Harrogate, with one Jobcentre and one set of partners. It will be collaborative, bringing front-line colleagues into the design process. The idea is to establish what support people need, and what support partners need to help claimants. It will be iterative, open to change as the design is developed, and will focus on what works, not what will scale or what is affordable. It will grow ‘safely’, i.e. they are not chasing the 10,000 figure. That is a ceiling not a target. All groups will be covered – they won’t avoid ‘hard cases’.

In summary, ‘who knows me’ is an idea not an answer, and a genuine test.  The pilot can start in earnest, now an area has been selected.

Paul was able to ask whether the DWP would “Use household-level data to help local authorities and others identify vulnerable people who need support.” Whilst Policy in Practice agrees with the needs-led ‘who knows me’ approach, we believe it would be helpful to have a supplementary source of information to ensure an effective approach could be scaled, and that vulnerable claimants were not missed out.  When we met the DWP recently we showed them how our LIFT Dashboard can quickly identify specific households, such as those in more than one month’s council tax arrears, facing a cash shortfall, who would be worse off under UC. To read more about our initial suggestions for managed migration, click here.

Paul Howarth attended DWP's managed migration webinar. Policy in Practice helps local authorities to identify vulnerable people who need support by analysing and modelling their anonymised household-level data. Visual for illustration only.

Policy in Practice helps local authorities to identify vulnerable people who need support by analysing and modelling their anonymised household-level data. Visual for illustration only.

Lara said that there may come a time for modelling but not yet, they wanted to start with a bottom-up approach and see how far they could get.

In response to other questions, Lara said that no decision had yet been made about involving private landlords, that any involvement of third-parties could not lead to breaches of data security, measurement of success would be empirical and subject to change, the Citizens Advice contract to provide budgeting and IT support did not extend to managed migration, and the pilot process would not involve stopping benefits.

Outcome of service design workshops by Stephen Dunn and Kat Gough

Steve and Kat had gathered all the evidence from the workshops and grouped it into particular themes or ‘problem statements’.  These would be explored further with particular groups, some would be explored in the pilot but others might need a different approach. The nine areas were:

  1. Barriers experienced by people who are hard to reach, e.g. experience difficulty following instructions or using online resources, don’t seek help or experience other factors that make their lives difficult to manage.
  2. The needs of vulnerable people and those with complex circumstances, e.g. lack of evidence, lack of perseverance, difficulty with bank accounts, identity verification and tenancy confirmation.
  3. The risks of people not engaging through not receiving information, not understanding what is asked of them, choosing to ignore what is asked of them perhaps because they are unaware or fearful of the migration exercise, or responding incorrectly. A letter by itself may be unexpected and not enough to prompt action. Third party organisations may not be aware what is happening.
  4. Issues around the ability to act on behalf of claimants, e.g. need to identify friends or family to give support and need to alert them when migration is happening. Some of them may not have the expertise to help sufficiently.
  5. Issues claimants have in getting access to the correct or appropriate channels, e.g. they may not be aware of non-digital channels or may need support at home which third-parties can’t provide.
  6. Accessing third parties who have knowledge of the people they are supporting, e.g. they may have in-depth information about the needs of people but won’t necessarily be alerted about the roll-out schedule.
  7. Risks associated with termination of benefits, debts and arrears experienced by claimants, essentially the need to help avoid termination and understand the implications of arrears and debt.
  8. Critical evidence and easements from legacy benefits that may be lost, essentially how to make sure such evidence is made available fully and applied to the UC claim.
  9. Landlord time and resources spent supporting UC claimants and their claims, e.g. DWP may underestimate the administration effort involved in supporting tenants and reconciling payments.

Paul was struck by how similar all this was to the evidence we obtained in our supported housing and Universal Credit project which you can read here. I was very encouraged by the fact that DWP have clocked all these issues and will now be turning their minds to how they are addressed. On sharing information, I made the point that DWP should share information wherever possible, whilst protecting privacy.

Next steps

Richard concluded by saying that the next steps would be:

  1. Design the Harrogate pilot
  2. More webinars to go through specific issues
  3. Further workshops are planned on ‘those with complex needs’ (on 1 April) and ‘service delivery’ (in mid-April)
  4. A further update webinar in mid-May

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

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