DWP decisions continue to defy belief

The DWP logo and a man holding his face
Fréa Lockley

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continues to make decisions that defy belief. As the rollout of Universal Credit continues, the DWP stands accused of forcing through “inadequate” and “flawed” policy.

DWP thinking is “flawed”

Universal Credit, the DWP’s flagship welfare payment, combines six old means-tested benefits, including tax credits. From the outset, it’s been dogged by controversy. From a damning National Audit Office report to its links with increased foodbank use and rent arrears, the benefit has already caused difficulty for millions of people.

On 6 May, the Mirror reported that the DWP fails to take into account a quirk of the calendar. Universal Credit claims now include rent payments (formerly housing benefit) and the DWP calculates payments based on a 52-week year. But in some years, people who pay rent weekly – including those living in council or social housing – owe 53 weeks’ rent. For example, this year includes 53 Mondays, so many people on weekly tenancies need to make 53 weekly rent payments.

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.




Housing associations warned this means tenants may risk falling into rent arrears. The National Housing Federation fears this could affect around “290,000 households”.

The Mirror reported that Adam Jenner, head of income and home ownership at Islington Council, called this situation “very concerning” and claimed DWP thinking was “flawed”. Jenner said:

The fundamental problem is that it appears the DWP disagrees with the fundamental workings of the Gregorian calendar…

there are 52.143 weeks in a year. For the DWP to claim that they will only pay on the basis of 52 weeks is a rejection of this fact.

DWP response

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd is aware of this situation. In February, she was “considering whether this formula should be amended”. But a DWP spokesperson told the Mirror:

No year contains 53 weeks. Landlords who charge rent weekly on a Monday, every five or six years seek 53 rent payments in a year, but the additional payment covers the tenancy for the first few days of the following year.

Allegedly it’s still “considering whether changes are required”. But at the moment, this is government policy. And it’s not the only ongoing issue with DWP decisions.

“Inadequate”

On 1 May, a report from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) slammed DWP communication with Universal Credit claimants. It said people are:

routinely in the dark about how much they should receive, how their awards are calculated and if and how they can challenge DWP decisions, because the Department’s communications with claimants are opaque and inadequate

CPAG analysis of 1,110 cases found that DWP information to Universal Credit claimants is “frequently inadequate, payments may be wrong, and go unchallenged”. It warned that this puts many people “at risk of sliding into debt”.

In a foreword to the CPAG report, former Lord Justice of Appeal Stephen Sedley said:

It’s a fundamental principle in a democracy that governmental bodies must have reasons for their decisions. It’s equally fundamental  – or should be – that they should be able to explain what those reasons are.

Sedley was clear about the implications of these findings, especially for children:

People in need are left to guess at and grope for things which should be clear and tangible. The consequences…feed into the stress and worry that so many people managing on low incomes experience, which in turn can affect family life for children growing up in these environments.

The consequences of DWP decisions

The impact of botched DWP decisions and Universal Credit on real lives is devastating.

As the i reported, Savannagh Burke, a single mother with a three-month-old baby, says trying to survive on Universal Credit means:

After paying my rent and other bills I am left with around £10 a week to live off… It’s just not possible.

In cold weather, Burke has to wrap her baby in extra blankets because she can’t afford heating. Another single mother in Brighton said Universal Credit “isn’t enough to live on” and has been forced to use foodbanks. As The Canary has documented for some time, these aren’t isolated cases.

In 2018, UK foodbank use hit a record high, with Universal Credit named as the key reason. Child poverty in working families is soaring. But yet again, DWP decisions continue to defy belief.

Featured images via Free Stock Photos and Wikimedia – UK Government

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support
  • Show Comments
    1. It is a shame this Government is in total denial about the serious consequences of Universal Credit. I have worked all my life but was made redundant in June last year. I had no choice but to apply for Universal Credit as I am over 60yrs and finding employment, trust me, is really difficult. I did everything asked of me. I was billed as a ‘star’ claimant in terms of extensive job searches and my claim was accepted. I only claimed for Rent as I have a very small private pension which is equal to that paid by Universal Credit.

      Well, despite my claim being accepted, UC did not pay one penny of my rent to my Social Housing landlords – they did not notify me of this fact. Well by September my rent arrears had accrued to over £600 and I was threatened with eviction by the Housing Association – which did not happen as I was offered one of the millions of jobs I had applied for and was able to come to an agreement with my Housing Association. Not only this, my Job Coach quickly identified that the decision made by the DWP was based on wrong information which he correct in an extensive e-mail/file note on my file. He told me I would be paid on 19/11/2019. I got an e-mail telling me to accept my commitments prior to the payment being made on the Friday- which I did. When I went into my account after not having been paid, they had said my claim had been cancelled due to the information on file which was up to the 5th August 2019. I had been unemployed from 4th July 2018 to 24th September 2018. They had also closed my account so I could no longer contact my Job Coach or access my account. I wrote a letter to my Job Coach and dropped it in by hand to my Job Coach that was in November 2018, indicating I wished to appeal the decision and how to go about it. I have heard nothing since, nothing at all.

      The next step is to write to my snivelling, lying, cheating, incompetent sorry excuse for an MP called Julian Cleverley. I doubt he will help as the Government are in total denial as to the serious problems with UC. One of the huge problems is the Cameron Government ordered that, if you are claiming UC you have to contribute 25% to your rent. Well, on an income of £78 a week in my case, that amounts to £25.00 per week. Plus I have to pay £12per week to my Housing Association for service charges that are not included in the UC payment (which I paid), 25% of your council tax and more. Do the maths – talk about living in Poverty, this is it. I am lucky I do not have to pay any bills other than my council tax.

      I got a job anyway and have paid off the arrears but I am owed by the DWP. The whole system is designed not to pay anything and the more scandalous aspect which is not oft mentioned is that, Claimants who appeal, their UC is suspended until the appeal has been heard. Appeals take upwards of 18 months. This is an appalling system, no wonder there have been over 30,000 deaths of claimants of UC in the past three years, starving to death is no joke. Being evicted because of a corrupt and dishonest system is no joke. Claimants, contrary to what this Government believe, are not fraudsters or benefit cheats, they are honest claimants like me who have lost their jobs, are disabled and are not fit for employment and are vulnerable people. I would like to see May and her cabinet live on £20 per week (which includes having to pay bills).

      The U C system makes the UK look like a poor, third world country and one that has total contempt for the poor, the vulnerable, the elderly and the disabled. At least third world countries put their families first and care about them.

      However, with a Government that is in complete denial and refuses to look at evidence, even from their own quango, more people will die, be evicted and suffer severe poverty probably on par with some of the poorest countries in the world once demographic data, GDP, cost of living etc are factored in to the equation.

      1. Every time I read a heart breaking story like the above I am so grateful that as a 72 yr old disabled woman I am not subject to the vagaries of the DWP. I receive Attendance Allowance and my pension, enough to live on coupled with my husband’s pension. The in-built cruelty of UC is horrifying. I am impatient for the next General Election. This self-serving government has got to go before more UC claimants are driven to suicide or starvation.

    2. LOOK Tory party member at a new G.E.
      You will be kicked out of power FULL STOP
      Just on the 2 thinks here I post on below
      1–The not getting us out of E.U. betraying all leave voters a FACT!
      2–The SCAM U-CREDIT you Tory party is running now that kills people
      off -putting low working family into poverty increasing homeless people a FACT!
      FINALLY!
      So unless your SCAM U-CREDIT is SCRAPED NOW-A.S.A.P.
      you will loss power in Govt just on this mess alone.
      Then still Not getting us leave voter out of E.U. this alone will cost you power
      at any G.E. now you Tory party members in power you are numbered now.
      Unless SCAM U-CREDIT is SCRAPED FULLY
      Unless you get us out of E.U. this week A.S.A.P. Ms May
      Tory party is finished now in power FULL STOP!

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.