Benefit delivery Contents


88.The last five years have seen substantial change to the welfare system. The DWP described the period as “most fundamental change to the social security system in 60 years”. The NAO noted an “unprecedented number of major programmes and reforms”, including “some change to almost every benefit”.148 This change is set to continue, most notably with UC, the Department’s flagship reform, scheduled to be rolled out over the next five years.

89.At the same time, significant real cuts have been made to the DWP’s administration and programme funding. Since 2010–11, such spending has fallen by 24% even before accounting for inflation.149 The November 2015 Spending Review announced additional cuts of 14% by 2019–20, including 22% less on administration alone.150

90.Many parts of the welfare system work well for many people and we wish to record our thanks to those frontline staff whose efforts ensure a proper service to claimants. In the course of this inquiry, however, we have encountered evidence of too many errors and too many delays. While we are concerned at the lack of monitoring in many cases, these should not be seen as mere statistical and administrative concerns; errors and delays can leave vulnerable people in desperate situations.

91.Universal Credit is an ambitious scheme with laudable objectives of simplifying and streamlining much of the working-age welfare system. Its dissemination, and therefore those potential benefits, has repeatedly been delayed. This is a concern. So too, at a time of administrative cuts, is the potential for valuable resources to be consumed by the programme. It is imperative that the business-as-usual delivery of benefits is not sacrificed in pursuit of reform.

149 Departmental Expenditure Limit,

150 HM Treasury, Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015, November 2015, p.89

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Prepared 18 December 2015