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Social Security Benefits

Question for Department for Work and Pensions

UIN HL3743, tabled on 15 December 2014

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 8 December (HC Deb, col 633), what specific new steps they are taking to raise awareness of short-term benefit advances.

Answered on

17 December 2014

I refer the Noble Baroness to the oral answer given by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt.Hon. Iain Duncan Smith, Official Report, 8 December 2014, column 633. He set out how the Department for Work and Pensions will be doing much more to raise awareness of Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs) as recommended by the All-Party Parliamentary inquiry and others, including the Social Security Advisory Committee. This will include providing more information to claimants about STBAs online and in Jobcentres. Staff guidance on STBAs will also be updated and staff reminded of the process for considering an STBA.

A key part of the STBA process is a discussion between the claimant and the Decision Maker to consider the circumstances of the request and make an informed discretionary decision about the claimant’s needs. Such a discussion needs to be had with the claimant and cannot be done online or with a third party.

Benefits are normally paid in arrears and where the Department can pay any benefit due to the claimant it does. Where an STBA can be paid it is usually paid the day after it is first requested by the claimant.

The Government believes the current system for claiming STBAs is simple. All claimants need to do is mention to staff that they will not be able to manage until their payment is due and the STBA process will start. However, the Government has accepted the need to raise awareness of STBAs as set out above.

The Government has made improvements to the hardship process. In July 2014 it strengthened guidance for work coaches so that all claimants are informed about how and when they can make an application for hardship payment and processing times have also been improved.