DWP issued new deadline to move 1,600,000 off old benefits by end of next year

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has revealed that the deadline to scrap a series of older benefits, including Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), will be moved up to the end of next year amid a wider crackdown on the benefits system.

1.6 million people claiming these "legacy benefits" will be sent a letter by September 2025 telling them their benefits will stop unless they register for Universal Credit, with a three-month deadline to make the switch. By December of next year, anyone still claiming ESA or JSA that has not moved over to the new system will lose their payments from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

During a speech that announced plans to stop GPs from issuing sick notes, make it harder to claim Personal Independence Payments, and tackle the ballooning numbers of people living with long-term sickness, the Prime Minister also revealed the plan to end legacy benefits as soon as possible. He said: “We’ll accelerate moving people from legacy benefits onto Universal Credit, to give them more access to the world of work.”

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This unexpected shift was confirmed by the DWP on X. Following the speech, they posted: "The Prime Minister’s welfare reform speech earlier today announced the acceleration of the Managed Migration of legacy ESA/ESA & HB cases to #UniversalCredit. All migration notices will now be sent by the end of December 2025. We will work with stakeholders on the detailed plans."

The Prime Minister spoke at the Centre for Social Justice on Friday -Credit:Getty Images
The Prime Minister spoke at the Centre for Social Justice on Friday -Credit:Getty Images

The 1.6 million people still claiming these legacy benefits were previously scheduled to move over to Universal Credit by 2029 at the latest, though most were already forecast to be moved over before the Prime Minister's new deadline. Anyone who starts a new benefits claim or experiences a change in their circumstances is enrolled in Universal Credit, which has around 5 million claimants.

During previous "managed migrations" thousands of people failed each time to move to Universal Credit, on average losing £4130 each. The DWP has created a website to help people understand the change between the two systems and continue their claims.

In a speech at the Ian Duncan Smith-founded Centre for Social Justice Friday (April 19), Sunak decried the benefits system becoming a "lifestyle choice" and promised new Universal Credit rules would "make the system fairer and harder to exploit." Part of the wider move to force people off benefits, the PM said that claimants would have to work more than a minimum of 14 hours per week or look for other work, up from nine hours currently.

He also said: "“Anyone who doesn’t comply with the conditions set by their Work Coach such as accepting an available job will, after 12 months, have their claim closed and their benefits removed entirely.”