Universal Credit – can we distinguish disallowances from withdrawn claims?

David Webster’s latest sanctions briefing will shortly be listed on the CPAG website.  He comments that the transfer of single people to Universal Credit seems to be distorting the statistics.

The Universal Credit statistics have already marked a large discrepancy between the number of people receiving the benefit, and those who have claimed  – 251,000 claims, but 141,000 current recipients.  There’s no immediate way in that of distinguishing rejected claims, sanctions and disallowances, and terminations.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to observe the Universal Credit process in a Jobcentre, and I think there may be an anomaly in the process.   The way it works is that people make an initial claim online, they go to the Jobcentre, and they’re told there what the conditions are.  Then they have to wait – the payment date is 5-6 weeks after claim, and the Jobcentre interview is meant to happen very shortly after the claim, so by the time of the JCP interview they’ll probably have four or five weeks more to wait.  After that point, JCP staff told me, a fair number of people disappear – they just don’t come back in, and JCP don’t know why.  But there is no easy way to terminate a UC claim.  The JCP officers aren’t expected – or permitted –  to handle this.  It’s left to claimants  to inform the Service Centre by telephone if their circumstances change.  If they don’t there’ll be warning letters, a sanctions procedure,  possible disallowance and so on.

There are lots of things we don’t know here.  How many people are put off by the waiting period?  How many find work shortly after claiming?  Are there people giving up claims they should carry on with while in work?  Are there people who think that telling one DWP officer ought to be enough?  There has to be a suspicion that the process of sanctions and disallowance is clocking up disallowances in cases where conditionality is not the issue at all.  If that’s happening, it’s an own goal for the DWP, because the UC figures may look worse than they should.

One comment

  1. Bill Irvine

    Paul,

    Until I read your post I was under the impression, the difference between claims made and awards, was mainly down to the effects of the “Gateway” conditions in most “live” areas. If you try and claim online the effect of these provisions prevents the majority of people for claiming Universal Credit because they fail to meet the stringent test. Whereas, I’m told, at the Jobcentre where most claims are processed, claimants who should be eliminated due to the same “eligibility” conditions are being allowed to claim. In some cases, my clients report, claimants have managed to bypass the conditions – even where they reside in “supported accommodation” – why is not so clear. They also suggest a few have been awarded UC but before payment is made are then told they must reclaim JSA/ESA and Housing Benefit.

    So, you’re right, we do lack the necessary information to reach any reliable conclusions in relation to these figures.

    Incidentally, you’re fortunate to have been invited by DWP to see the claim process in operation. My request for similar access was rejected on the basis, as a member of the general public I would pose a risk to Data Protection and client confidentiality. I’ve challenged the decision, pointing out I have around 1000 registered RSL users of my website; I was for many years, one of COSLA’s reps on the now defunct HB Standing Committee; and, on behalf of CIH, have delivered Housing Benefit advice, assistance and training over 30+ years in the social sector. CIH also asked me to run many of its Universal Credit training courses, UK wide. I now now operate UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd http://www.ucadvice.co.uk offering advice & support to Landlords (Private & Social) including representation at First & Upper-tier tribunals. Recently, I have secured the first “compensation” payments for RSL clients where APAs were either wrongly refused or delayed, resulting in payments being made and then misused by tenants.

    I patiently await their response.

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