DWP/Universal Credit


This is a high profile, very visible government programme to move around 2.5 million households/4 million people from legacy benefits such as Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Income support over to Universal Credit.  This needs to be done over the next 2 years.

There are 2 user researchers in this programme and we split the work between research with claimants and research with internal users such as agents who would deal with claimants.  My role is as the lead on the claimant side.  We overlap to some degree but claimants are my responsibility.

This page simplifies what is actually quite a complicated service design process covering physical deliverables such as envelopes and letters, digital assets such as webpages, SMS messages and emails and support offerings in Jobcentres and call centres.  The audience is hugely diverse ranging from, maybe, someone on Tax Credits who is working full time and has no barriers to using the service through to the most vulnerable members of society with severe mental and physical issues where there is the potential for harm if they find themselves in a position that might impact or threaten their life and financial position.

To add, I need to be careful what I talk about as not everything I’m working on is in the public domain.

What have I done so far?


This started with a short discovery exercise.  Using an external recruitment agency to find participants we conducted telephone interviews with around 50 people.  In this phase we focused on building a picture of the lives of claimants. We were not interested in solutions or testing deliverables.  Everything from what they did with their time, what pets they had, what they spent their money on, what their relationship with the benefits system was like, etc.  The desired outcome for this was to begin to know our audience in order to provide a direction in what the Move to UC service would look like.


Once we all understood what our users looked like, the next stage was to start to look at some of the assets required:

  • A letter telling people they needed to migrate to Universal Credit within 3 months (Initial UR done)
  • Guidance material to answer some of the most common questions (Initial UR done)
  • A reminder letter for those who don’t make a claim by the 7 week mark (Initial UR done)
  • Extension letters for people asking for more time and people who are identified as vulnerable who don’t engage by their deadline (Initial UR done)
  • Termination letters for those who choose not to claim for various reasons (To be done)

Each of these was researched with users in either lab based sessions or remote.  All were moderated.  The lab based sessions were built around a simple role play so participants were given a personalised envelope with a migration notice to mimic the actual experience as closely as possible.

We wanted to understand everything about the experience from the moment the letter landed on their doorstep through to the point where they felt they had enough information to make a decision or reached a dead end if they didn’t know enough to decide what their next move is.  So the first sessions focused on the initial letter and the guidance material on the gov.uk website.

I wrote the discussion guide, acted as moderator in the research sessions, worked with the content team to iterate and then created a playback deck which is submitted to all stakeholders up to the Secretary of State.

This is very much a live project.  The service launched on the 9th of May 2022 giving us between 7 weeks and 3 months to continue iterating the initial comms and start to create new assets like the reminders and extension letters.  Although we’re starting with small numbers of people, this is not a pilot.  This is a live service that will evolve over time so that we can start to move people safely and at scale.

Where are we now?

The first letters have gone out, people are starting to move, reminders have been sent and we’ve hit the point where the first deadlines are approaching for claimants.

My next task is to work through a spreadsheet of around 350 people who have NOT claimed to find out what the barriers are.  So these will be people who we’ve written to inviting them to claim Universal Credit who haven’t engaged at all and have passed their deadline.  This will help us remove barriers for users of the service and define what out support offering will look like.