In November 2018, the Government published its draft proposals for moving people currently receiving ESA on to Universal Credit. We have real concerns about these proposals and are campaigning to get them scrapped. You can find out more here.
This page sets out what we know about the proposals and what they may mean for people with mental health problems currently receiving ESA.
What has the Government announced?
The Government has published its draft laws for moving people from ESA to Universal Credit. These aren’t yet final, MPs and Lords still need to vote on them. We're campaigning to get them scrapped. You can join us and sign-up to be a campaigner here.
If the proposals go ahead – when will people start moving onto Universal Credit?
The Government have said that people will move to Universal Credit between 2019 and 2023. The process may not happen by area, so we don’t yet know who is likely to be affected first. We will provide more information here when we can.
Will they affect everyone receiving Employment and Support Allowance?
We know that these proposals will affect anyone receiving ‘Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance’ - which is ESA that’s awarded if you’re out of work and have a low income because of a health condition or disability. We are seeking more information about what these changes could mean for people receiving contribution-based ESA.
If I am affected by these proposals what will it mean?
Under the Government’s current proposals you would receive communications (e.g letters or phone calls) telling you that you will need to move to Universal Credit soon. Then you will receive another letter saying that your existing benefits will stop in the future and that you need to make a claim to Universal Credit. You might be asked to provide some information about your financial situation in case you are entitled to a top-up payment in Universal Credit. There might also be some support to help you with this process, which will depend on where you live. The Government have said that most people will be told they have three months to claim Universal Credit before their ESA claim stops, but that period could be longer for some people.
What if I’m too unwell to make a claim for Universal Credit?
The Government have said they will give an extension to anyone who gets in touch and says they are struggling to make a claim to Universal Credit because of a mental health problem (or in some other situations, for example for people who are homeless.) They have also said in some circumstances they will postpone the move to Universal Credit in the long-term if someone is unwell.
Will I lose money when I move to Universal Credit?
The Government have said that if you are receiving more money from your existing benefits than you would do under Universal Credit you will receive ‘transitional protection’ which is a payment that will mean that you won’t be worse off. That might affect you if you are receiving the ‘Severe Disability Premium’ or if you receive the ‘Work Related Activity Component’ on your ESA claim.
Will I have to go through another Work Capability Assessment?
The Government have said that if you are in the Support Group or the Work-Related Activity Group on ESA then this will be carried over into your Universal Credit claim and you won’t need to go through an extra Work Capability Assessment.
Will I have to start looking for work?
If you are in the ESA Support Group you should not need to start looking for work when you move on to Universal Credit. The Government have said the outcome from your previous Work Capability Assessment should be carried over to your claim. Similarly if you are in the WRAG then under Universal Credit you will still be required to do ‘work-related-activity’ but can’t be required to look for jobs or take a job.
What if I can’t use computers or manage my claim online?
The Government have said that people who aren’t able to manage their claim online should be offered alternatives, for example making a claim by phone or at the Jobcentre. You can get more information about how to request this from Citizens Advice.
How long will I have to wait for my first payment?
There is likely to be a gap of three weeks between your last payment of your older benefits and your first payment of Universal Credit, though for some people moving over earlier this gap could be longer. The Government have said that anyone can request an advance payment that will cover this period, but this will be a loan and will be deducted from your future Universal Credit payments. You can get more information about advance payments from Citizens Advice.
What is Mind doing about these proposals?
We do not think it’s fair that the responsibility for moving onto Universal Credit has been placed on people who are unwell. We’ll be campaigning to get these regulations scrapped so that no-one has to face the possibility that their existing benefits are stopped before they’re on Universal Credit – and so anyone with a mental health problem can get support and adjustments to help them manage the process. You can read our full statement here and stay up to date with all of our campaigns by becoming a Mind campaigner.
• Citizens Advice information on applying for Universal Credit