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

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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...

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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 

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  • 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.

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