Benefit delivery Contents

Summary

As MPs, we hear about many cases where individuals are entitled to benefit support but encounter delays and errors before they receive their payment. Over the last five years, the Department for Work and Pensions has undertaken a series of ambitious reforms to the welfare system against a backdrop of cuts to its administration and programme funding. Our concern is that the day-to-day delivery of accurate and timely benefits should not be neglected in drives for efficiency and change.

Available data

We have been unable fully to scrutinise some benefit delays because of a lack of available data. We are particularly concerned about the absence of ESA Work Capability Assessment and Mandatory Reconsideration clearance time statistics, and Short-Term Benefit Advance application statistics. If DWP have these data, they should publish them. If they do not, then they are making policy decisions in the dark. The Department should address the lack of data immediately.

Processes and guidance

The processes and guidance designed to help particularly vulnerable claimants are not working as effectively as they should. Guidance around Alternative Payment Arrangements and money advice is not always being followed and the related processes are not enough to prevent claimants falling into debt. DWP’s recent guidance for refugees has been welcomed and the Department should now look to build on it using local transition guides. In addition, DWP should investigate the “move-on period” for refugees, as their own research suggests 28 days is insufficient.

Errors in payment

The Department has set no target for reducing underpayments to claimants, despite having a target for reducing overpayments since 2010. This should be remedied immediately as underpayments can have an enormous impact on claimants and their ability to pay for essentials.

Universal credit

The DWP expects Universal Credit, its flagship reform, to simplify the benefit system and make it less open to mistakes. We believe there are further opportunities in it for the Department to exploit. However, during this inquiry we have been made aware of the limitations to Universal Credit improving benefit delivery, including the impact of “built-in delays” to a claimant’s initial payment. Furthermore, Universal Credit will not be fully implemented for several years and it has already been subject to repeated delays. Until it is fully implemented, DWP must not neglect the delivery of “legacy benefits”, which some claimants will receive for at least another 6 years.




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Prepared 18 December 2015