Universal credit: Managed migration - Move to UC

This page explains the managed migration exercise - this is where DWP/HMRC move claimants from tax credits (and other legacy benefits) across to Universal Credit (UC) under a formal exercise, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Move to UC’ by DWP. Tax credit claimants who have reached their state pension qualifying age (both claimants in a joint claim) will not be moved across to UC. It is expected that the exercise to move them from tax credits to pension credit, where appropriate, will broadly mirror the ‘Move to UC’ exercise although no details about this have been confirmed. Most mixed age couples will also be moved to UC but there are some complexities for those exception cases who would be entitled to claim pension credit.

What is managed migration/move to UC?

Until the managed migration exercise starts, most existing tax credits claimants are only affected by UC if:

Moving to UC in any of the above situations is referred to as 'voluntary migration' or 'natural migration' and is characterised by the tax credit claimant taking some action (either by choice or due to a change of circumstances requiring it) to move to UC.

However, some tax credit claimants may choose not to claim UC and may not have any change of circumstances that would require them to claim UC. Most of these people will eventually be moved across to UC, by DWP/HMRC, through a managed migration process called Move to UC' so that eventually the tax credits system will no longer exist.

The main difference between voluntary/natural migration and managed migration is transitional protection. The Government have committed that there will be no cash losers at the point of moving to UC (assuming no change of circumstances) for those who are part of the managed migration. Those who migrate naturally will not have access to any transitional protection - the one exception being for certain claimants entitled to a severe disability premium in their legacy benefits (income support, JSA and ESA).

When will managed migration happen?

In Great Britain, DWP began by testing the managed migration process from July 2019 through a pilot. The pilot was initially expected to last for 12 months before being evaluated and the process gradually scaled up. During the 12-month test period, up to 10,000 existing legacy benefit claimants (including some tax credit claimants) were expected to be moved across to UC through the new process.  However, due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK (March 2020 onwards) the pilot was suspended. The draft regulations for the pilot were published in January 2019 and were then formally laid before Parliament, under negative procedure, on July 2019, however they include the limit on the number of cases that can be migrated. Under the 2019 regulations, once 10,000 awards of UC have been made to people through the managed migration process, no further migration notices can be issued without further legislative provisions. It was confirmed that Parliament would be given a further vote in order to scale the migration up to the remaining legacy benefit caseload.

However, further draft regulations published in 2022 makes a number of amendments and remove the 10,000 restriction on the number of cases.

DWP have said that the migration exercise is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024. They restarted work on the migration process in 2022 and from May 2022 began issuing the first migration notices.

The migration exercise resumed from 9 May 2022 initially in 2 areas, Bolton and Medway. DWP plan to develop their processes gradually and will start by sending up to 250 migration notices in each of the 2 areas. It is expected that the exercise will gradually cover other areas and test processes with greater numbers of claimants before scaling up to the full exercise.

Although specific detail of the process for formal migration is not yet available, a broad outline of the migration exercise is published on the GOV.UK website.

Northern Ireland

The Department of Communities announced a delay to managed migration of legacy benefit claimants to UC in Northern Ireland. The intentions was initially to consider learning from the managed migration pilot in Great Britain from July 2019. Northern Ireland was due to begin managed migration in 2020 and aim to complete by the end of 2023. This also is likely  to change although no official update has been provided.

The letter to stakeholders is available via the rightsnet website.

What do the managed migration regulations cover?

The regulations, introduced in July 2019:

Further regulations covering the migration exercise are expected during 2022.

Who will not be moved across to UC?

Some people will not be moved across to UC because they are not entitled to UC - for example, where both claimants have reached state pension credit qualifying age. It is not yet clear what process will cover pensioners in this situation or anyone else who won't qualify for UC.

Most mixed age couples will move to UC because they are not able to claim pension credit. However,  it is not clear what the position of certain mixed age couples, who can make a claim for pension credit instead of UC due to the fact they were in receipt of pension age housing benefit on 14 May 2019 (and have not had a subsequent break in claim), will be. See our pensioners page for more information about this group.

DWP have published a chapter covering the managed migration pilot in their staff guidance, Advice for Decision Making, M7.

Last reviewed/updated 23 May 2022