The DWP has taken a month to address a huge Universal Credit flaw. But it’s not actually fixed it.

The coronavirus and the DWP main logo
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has taken over a month to claim it’s sorted out a basic flaw in Universal Credit. But the damage from its negligence may have already happened. Because 1.4 million people who’ve already applied for the benefit could have had their money delayed. And what’s worse, when you look at the detail – the DWP has barely sorted it at all.

DWP: social distancing?

The Canary first reported on the DWP’s chaotic approach to new Universal Credit claims on 20 March. The department had previously said that new claimants wouldn’t have to go to the jobcentre. But this wasn’t strictly true. Because as part of the application process for Universal Credit, claimants had to prove their identity online. But if they couldn’t do this, then they physically had to go into a jobcentre.

When explaining how to claim Universal Credit, the DWP said:

You also have to verify your identity online. You’ll need some proof of identity for this

Acceptable verification includes a passport, driving licence, and/or credit and debit card.

But here’s where the chaos began. Because if you didn’t have the right ID, you couldn’t complete your Universal Credit application online. As the DWP again noted:

If you cannot verify your identity online… You can take 3 forms of proof of identity to your first interview at your local Jobcentre Plus.

So, what the DWP said was that if people infected with, or affected by, coronavirus could not prove their ID online, they’d have to go to a jobcentre to complete their claim. This was completely at odds with the government’s line of “social distancing”.

But now, it appears the DWP has woken up to this major flaw and attempted to fix it.

More tinkering?

It announced changes to the way people can prove their ID on 16 April. The DWP said:

People applying for Universal Credit will now be able to use their existing Government Gateway account to confirm their identity, helping to speed up their claim.

The move is expected to help thousands of claimants applying for the benefit and will be available to those who have used the Government Gateway in the last 12 months to access their Personal Tax Accounts, including to check their tax credits, send a personal tax return, or check their state pension.

If you have a Government Gateway account, it means that you’ve already verified your ID with HMRC. But as Public Technology noted, the DWP’s move to let people use this service is not without problems.

Unresolved issues

Government Gateway was decommissioned four years ago. And HMRC closed it to new users two years ago. Plus, new Universal Credit claimants can only use it if they’ve accessed the service in the past 12 months. So, it leaves the DWP’s new policy only available to some new claimants: specifically those who are self-employed, who have been claiming tax credits, or check their state pension online.

The government has not released much data on who the new 1.4 million Universal Credit claimants are. But some of them may be newly self-employed in the past 12 months. Therefore they may not have even set up a personal tax account yet. So, they will still have to go through the verification process. And if they can’t do this online, they have to follow the DWP’s latest policy of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. Therefore, if you can’t prove your ID online you’ll have to wait while the DWP sorts it. For a final sting in the tail, many of these people may be the poorest in the UK. Research shows it’s generally those classed as “low-skilled” (therefore low pay) who don’t have, for example, a passport.

But none of this resolves the other underlying issues with Universal Credit that 1.4 million people will be facing.

‘Fatal flaws’

The DWP has an inbuilt five-week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit. If people can’t wait that long, the DWP offers them an advance on this first payment. These are effectively loans. Claimants make repayments for the advance, spread out over 12 months. Policy in Practice has noted that these advances are often pushing already struggling people into debt.

But given that many of the current new claimants to Universal Credit may well be self-employed, the five-week wait and advance payments could be catastrophic. Research from investment company Fidelity found that 30% of self-employed people are not saving money or are unable to. So if these people are applying for Universal Credit due to losing work because of coronavirus, it could be a disaster.

The DWP may have sped up the Universal Credit process for a limited number of people. But it’s done nothing to sort the five-week payment wait for everyone; a wait one MP called a “fatal flaw”. The department is now merely tinkering around the edges of a system that was already unfit for purpose long before anyone had ever heard of coronavirus.

Featured image via mattthewafflecat – pixabay and Wikimedia 

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  • Show Comments
    1. The DWP has taken a month to address a huge Universal Credit flaw. But it is not actually fixed it.
      /////
      Just this to say to Tory Govt + D.W.P. Minister on a matter of E.S.A. payments
      we are looking into why cash payment was lowered by D.W.P. for
      for claimant on E.S.A. legless benefits the amount on award letter was not paid out is second fortnightly payments in April 2020 pay dates.
      //
      The amount on the benefits letter from D.W.P. Dept was before April 2020 was not pay out fully small amount of payment kept by Tory Govt D.W.P. Dept why?
      I personally have sent them an email –they have confirmed recreate of my email, I am awaiting a full reply (full clarity ) as to why they reduced the amount of payment without tell the claimants of their intentions to cut E.S.A. payments again to legacy payment from D.W.P. Dept plus Minister of D.W.P..
      //
      Our concerns are for the new claimant being forced onto E.S.A. payments (over the Virus outbreak) them unemployed by it
      And seeking Tory Govt benefit help.
      As the reduction in the amount for them not on legacy benefits will be far more aggressive to new E.S.A claimers now.
      They all could or maybe loss out on money they Vitaly need for their rents/ Food /energy bills/over bills they are entitled too of E.S.A
      if Tory Govt D.W.P. Minister cut the amount they are entitled to get?
      //
      The Tory SCAM U-Credit is not being used in the new claimants or virus outbreak unemployed people because it’s not means tested so if Virus claimant when on that benefit, U/Credit we believe the D.W.P. Minister would struggle to pay any Virus claimed out with the Tory SCAM U-Credit benefit that doesn’t work at all now.
      //
      To all new claimants we politely say (over the Virus time frame)
      We say get a guarantee letter from D.W.P. Dept for the full amount of E.S.A. Benefits you will be paid by Tory Govt keep it safe you may need it in any court cases you have with Tory D.W.P. payments Dept plus it Minister that cuts your payment without telling you a good reason for it to happen (lowering your personal income) without you knowing about it (withhold) your true entitlement money as stated on the letter you receive from Tory Govt D.W.P. Minister.
      //
      Remember all new claimant (over the Virus outbreak time frame we cannot trust U-Credit at all as it is defective benefit plus not means tested at all (to aid all claimant)
      So, the only thing left now in place is E.S.A. payments we believe Tory Govt is trying to cut down the entitlement amount to save cash only.

    2. What an absolute crock of lazy inflammatory journalism, you should be ashamed. DWP have been doing outbound telephone calls to claimants to verify identity but you dont mention that? Your information is way out of date. This addition is an addition, not an alternative if you read the release like I have. Unbelievable.

      1. This below is a reply I posted to a reply to my post on this matter of E.S.A. payments
        being cut without a letter explaining why or for what reason the cash was withheld by D.W.P. dept from paying out to a legacy claimant on E.S.A..
        //
        I will take No C**p of you Albi999 on my post O.K. That is my true information
        I have onlooking into this matter(also still awaiting Tory Govt + D.W.P. Dept)
        to reply to my email I sent them on this matter.
        ///
        My reply post to a commenter
        Jacob Butler
        Interesting reply SIR from you
        I have put full clarity to you in my reply, so you understand o.k.
        /////
        Jacob Butler your words not mine below here
        As I’ve’ said above, E.S.A is nothing to do with Universal Credit.
        No payments will of’ been lowered overnight without any 1 being told.
        I have proof of money being stopped/ being dropped of E.S.A. payment without any Letter of explanation to the claimant so
        Your words above are incorrect sir as of 19.4.2020.
        Nothing to do with personal change of circumstances of claimants.
        //
        And on checking the claim out they were NO changes had accord in the money or income of the claimant at time of looking into the matter this I’s why I emailed the D.W.P. Dept on this matter of under payments like a told you all in my post above O.K.
        //
        No explanation in writing or phone calls were given for clawing back any E.S.A. benefits money to legacy claimants. Only.
        //
        Finally
        To all piss takers this post is No joke to the new claimant that could loss vital cash to keep their homes + family fed + bills paid.
        If Tory Govt D.W.P. does not pay-out the right amount of benefits to new C/19 Virus claimant on E.S.A. – Not U-credit that a different benefit altogether now (that does not work as well for new claimant)

    3. Question on sick pay to Boris + D.W.P. Minister.

      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
      LINK to post 24.4.2020

      Firstly- hope you are well Boris now full recovered
      Now that is out of way down to some home truths that need answering Boris/+ D.W.P. Dept.
      ///
      Exclusive: Boris Johnson back at the controls on Monday – amid disquiet in Cabinet over lock-down
      ///
      Just this to ask /Boris + Tory Govt members –Plus D.W.P. Dept is Boris claiming sick pay yes or no?
      If Not, why he should not be paid his full wages while off work ill from Virus outbreak we public are not paid.
      //
      We have’ to claim SICK pay because of Virus outbreak he is no different as he is a public.
      (servant-paid) by us Joe -public to do a jobs)
      //
      If he was off sick because of Virus, he should claim sick payments not ‘paid his full wages a true’ fact!
      //
      So, to D.W.P. Minister plus Tory Treasury that pay his wages out of taxpayer money what will he have to claim for being off work ill from Virus outbreak?
      1- Normal sick pay?
      2- U-Credit scam payment
      3- E.S.A. payments
      I personal would like a’ answer to this comment
      From No/10–No/11 or D.W.P. Minister
      As taxpayer are paying his wages as our public servant he is to all Taxpayer in U.K/Wales/N/Ireland/Scotland.

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