The DWP is forcing loved ones to pay dead relatives’ rent

A coffin and the DWP logo
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is forcing family members to pay weeks of rent for their deceased relatives by stopping the Universal Credit payments that would have covered it.

The DWP: penalising grief?

This latest revelation was exposed via a parliamentary question from SNP MP Ronnie Cowan. He had asked the DWP:

How many universal credit applicants have died during the period that their application was being assessed and as a result have received a zero payment for the days during that period when they were alive.

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Minister for employment Alok Sharma said there had been 1,200 cases since the department began rolling out Universal Credit in 2016. This led Cowan to state:

I know of cases where no universal credit payment has been received when constituents have passed away towards the end of their assessment period. Essentially, the DWP classes someone who dies at the end of an assessment period as having died at the beginning. Will the Minister address this so that bereaved families are not financially punished?

Essentially, the DWP is abandoning grieving families.

“Callous”, “cruel”

Sharma said he would “look into the policy”. But Cowan told the Greenock Telegraph:

Once again, we witness the callous nature of the Department for Work and Pensions, which classes a person as dead from the beginning of their assessment period, even if they die towards the end of that period.

This means that family members had to meet the cost of the housing rent for a period of three weeks as the payment was stopped from the beginning of the assessment period.

This is fundamentally wrong and highlights the cruel nature of the current system which is not fit for purpose.

The DWP says… 

A DWP spokesperson told Welfare Weekly:

The death of a claimant is a relevant change of circumstances affecting entitlement to Universal Credit. When a single claimant dies there are no further payments due. For the purpose of the award calculation, the death is treated as if it occurred at the beginning of the assessment period.

If an overpayment is caused because one member of a couple dies, an overpayment decision should be made as usual. The overpayment will be recoverable from the surviving partner.

Unsurprising

The department has left Cowan unimpressed. He concluded:

This is something which is clearly lacking from this UK Government.

I will be writing to the minister to ask that they sort out this issue.

It seems outrageous that the DWP is leaving grieving families with little choice but to pay their deceased relatives’ rent out of their own pockets. But from a department, and government, accused by the UN of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights – anything is possible.

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Featured image via Ann Larie Valentine – Flickr and UK government – Wikimedia 

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