Good morning

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) recently published its report – “The Computer says “No!”

The report examines DWP “decision making” and, in particular, the associated quality of “ benefit notifications” sent to claimants. It includes case studies and analysis, from CPAG, which highlight serious misgivings about the information (or lack of) provided to Universal Credit claimants at the initial claim stage and in later revisions (or supersessions) of their claim. It also raises concerns that claimants are being impeded in their ability to pursue Mandatory Reconsiderations and appeals.

In the forward to the report, The Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of Appeal states:

“This publication demonstrates, the Department for Work and Pensions is repeatedly falling down on every element of these public law obligations in its administration of Universal Credit………………………….The communication of a decision is frequently opaque, making it hard to comprehend how the amount has been arrived at – how much has been allocated to housing costs – how much to childcare, and so on. This in turn makes the final amount difficult to challenge – a disaster not only if it is too little but if it is too much, since an overpayment, despite having been used in good faith, may be deducted from future benefits.

Alison Garnham, CPAG’s CEO expands – “Our research shows Universal Credit claimants do not always understand the amounts they’re getting so it’s harder for them to pick up on mistakes or to predict how their awards might change.  That is all the more worrying as the number of universal credit claims is set to double this year to 3 million and the scope for misunderstandings, omissions and errors is vast.  And because UC is an all-in-one benefit, with all your eggs in one basket, when things go wrong for claimants the financial fallout can be dire”.

I share Ms Garnham’s concerns and have highlighted similar issues in my bulletin updates. I believe, DWP’s staff is the most ill-informed and ill-equipped group I’ve encountered, in 30+ years of dealing with DWP. Adding a further 5 million UC recipients, in the next 3/4 years, will undoubtedly place considerably more pressure on Housing & Income Management staff, and those welfare rights and financial inclusion officers who provide critical specialist support & representation.

I would recommend the report especially to frontline staff – Housing Officers, Income Management, Welfare Rights, and Financial Inclusion. CPAG is also interested in hearing from you with any examples you may encounter. Details of how to convey such information can be found here:

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd

April 2019