MPs blast the DWP’s response to Universal Credit report as the most ‘skimpy and disappointing ever’

The DWP logo and lightening
Support us and go ad-free

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is in hot water again. This time from the committee of MPs which attempts to hold it to account. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee blasted the government’s response to its concerns about childcare costs for parents on Universal Credit.

The committee described the response as the “most skimpy and disappointing response we have ever received” and “disrespectful”.

Punishing working parents

Under Universal Credit, working parents are reimbursed childcare costs in arrears. That means those who need childcare in order to work are forced to pay out large sums of money up front. The committee had said that this system was a “barrier” to work.

The committee highlighted the fact that DWP boss Amber Rudd admitted this in January. She said:

I recognise that this can cause financial difficulty, with some claimants struggling to pay upfront or report their costs on time.

But one of the solutions proposed by the DWP – the Flexible Support Fund – was in fact, not new. The fund is supposed to help people with the “costs of getting into work” by providing them with funds upfront. But the committee said it was:

described by one witness as the “biggest secret in the Jobcentre”.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The committee further stated that:

Gingerbread, a charity supporting single parents, told us that it was “very common” for claimants to receive little or no information about the Flexible Support Fund from their Work Coach.

The committee recommended that the DWP publish a “quarterly statistical update on the use of the Flexible Support Fund”. But the government declined because it didn’t want “to introduce unnecessary administration on operational staff which may deter the use of this fund”. However, the committee noted:

The Department did not explain what additional administrative burden would be created, nor how it had determined that this could deter Work Coaches from using the Fund.

Damning conclusion

The conclusion from the select committee was damning. It cited the DWP secretary’s acknowledgment that there are “structural flaws” in Universal Credit that cause “serious problems”. It continued:

This makes the Government’s curt and dismissive response to our recommendations all the more disappointing. Witnesses—including parents, charities and support organisations—gave up their time to contribute to our inquiry. They deserve much better treatment than this.

It also set out recommendations for the government, including publishing details of the Flexible Support Fund. It asked the government how it plans to “address the serious difficulties that both parents and childcare providers are experiencing with the current system”.

DWP response

The DWP responded to the committee’s claims in the Mirror:

These claims are disappointing – we take the committee’s input very seriously, have provided detailed responses to all of their recommendations and have already accepted some. We will now carefully consider their additional points.

It is good that the select committee is attempting to hold the DWP to account. Unfortunately, none of its recommendations go far enough. Universal Credit is a broken system punishing the most vulnerable people in society. No amount of tinkering around the edges will fix this. It needs to be scrapped before it ruins even more lives.

Featured image via Wikimedia/UK government and Pixabay/jplenio 

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. The DWP are currently a disgrace to our country. Their deliberate hostile environment to vulnerable people is something I never would have believed if I had not experienced it myself.

      If you are a jobseeker they are not even subtle in letting you know that they are not there to help you get a job, but rather to catch you out (sometimes by setting you up first) and sanction you. I personally have been lied to, misinformed or crucially under-informed on a number of occasions by many different staff. I have been advised to do things and had to inform the “coach” that I wouldn’t be doing that as it is against their own rules. I was specifically told to take a series of job-seeking actions that a different coach later had me sanctioned for.

      People don’t realise that a sanction takes away *all* of your money, not some of it. The DWP say that “Sanctions are only used on a very small number of people in extreme cases”. Total bullshit. Even without the staff conspiring to have you sanctioned, their own rules mean that if you are more than 10 min late more than once in any 12 month period, they can take all of your money for either 2 or 4 weeks. Second offence punishable by no money for up to 13 weeks. Does that sound even remotely reasonable?

      You could bite the Warden’s ear off in prison and they would still feed you. But the DWP has the power to starve you to death, and/or make you homeless, for being late to an appointment.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.