The DWP just revealed it’s rejected nearly half a million Universal Credit claims

DWP and Universal Credit logos against a fireball
Steve Topple

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister has revealed the percentage of Universal Credit claims the department rejects or that people abandon. His statement is actually a damning admission. Because it means that nearly half a million people have not got the benefit. But it also has implications for the forthcoming ‘managed migration’.

The DWP: more worrying figures

On Monday 21 January, DWP minister Alok Sharma responded to Labour MP Jo Stevens’ question on Universal Credit. She asked:

what steps… [the DWP] has taken to assess the number of eligible applicants who do not complete their application for universal credit.

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Sharma said that:

28 per cent of claims do not complete the process.

Continue reading below...

Of this figure around 8 per cent of claims were closed due to non-entitlement, for example because of capital or not passing the Habitual Residence Test. The remainder (around 19 per cent*) were closed due to non-compliance with the process, for example failure to sign a Claimant Commitment and failing to provide evidence to support their claim.

* percentages do not add up to 28 per cent due to rounding…

His figures are important on several levels.

Systemic failings?

Firstly, they show that the DWP has made no progress in improving the Universal Credit drop-out rate since last year. As the Guardian reported, a Freedom of Information request (FOI) in May 2018 forced the DWP to publish the number of new Universal Credit claims it turned down in a month. It showed that it turned down a fifth (20%) due to “non-compliance” with its process. The Guardian said that the DWP ended:

  • 6% because people hadn’t signed a claimant commitment.
  • 4% because claimants hadn’t attended an interview at a jobcentre.

The DWP said at the time the figures “don’t capture the reasons” for people dropping off the application process, adding:

It may be they’ve found higher-paying employment and no longer need support…

But it’s just as likely to be, for example, that claimants found the process too complex.

A damning admission

Meanwhile, DWP figures show that, based on a 20% drop-off rate, from May 2013 to October 2018 the DWP would have turned down over 445,000 peoples’ Universal Credit claims.

But this is not the whole story. Because Sharma’s admission has implications for people changing from old benefits to Universal Credit as well.

A ‘missed opportunity’

As The Canary previously reported, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has delayed legislation for managed migration. This will be where the DWP moves people on “legacy” benefits (old ones like jobseeker’s allowance) over to Universal Credit. Last week, the government’s Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) wrote to Rudd over the changes. One area of concern it highlighted was about the drop-off rate for Universal Credit.

It said that Rudd’s plan “misses an opportunity” to do key analysis. That is, the DWP won’t look into the people who drop out of claiming Universal Credit before the process is complete. Because of how Rudd has set up the legislation, the SSAC said it means the DWP can’t:

develop a greater understanding of the extent of the fall-out rate of those that never proceed to Universal Credit and the reasons behind that. This is a widely held fear, and limiting the number of notices issued to 10,000 would help to keep that concern in focus.

Sharma has admitted the DWP is keeping records of how many Universal Credit claims it rejects. So, this means that it must be able to do the analysis for managed migration drop-offs.

The DWP says

The Canary asked the DWP for comment. But it had not responded at the time of publication.

Wilful ignorance

Universal Credit is in constant chaos. But this new revelation poses yet more questions. Why are so many people dropping off from the process before completing their claim? Where is the full analysis of this? And why, despite Sharma’s admission, has the DWP so far got no intention of monitoring drop-off rates for managed migration? As The Canary previously wrote, the farce Universal Credit has turned into stinks of wilful ignorance. Moreover, what has happened to the 445,000 people the DWP didn’t give the benefit to? Sadly, we may never know.

Featured image via geralt – pixabay, UK government – Wikimedia and UK government – Wikimedia 

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