To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the National Audit Office Rolling out Universal Credit, published 15 June, which states that of those transferred onto Universal Credit (1) 40 per cent are experiencing financial difficulties, (2) 25 per cent are unable to make online claims, and (3) 20 per cent are not paid in full on time; and what steps they intend to take to meet their legal obligations to those receiving in-work benefits.
19 July 2018
The National Audit Office (NAO) report recognised that the Department’s agile approach allows it to adjust its plans based on what it learns and that some elements are working well. The report also recognised that payment timeliness has improved. We have already implemented policy changes to address many of the concerns raised in the report.
(1) The DWP Claimant Survey (which the NAO Report quoted) says that nearly seven out of ten claimants said they were confident managing their payments. We are investing up to £200 million into budgeting and digital support, to help claimants with the transition to Universal Credit and work coaches work closely with claimants, ensuring they can identify any vulnerabilities or specific needs, such as financial difficulties, at an early stage. We have listened to concerns and invested £1.5 billion in a package of measures to support claimants financially in the first assessment period, and recently announced we would be introducing further protection for people who receive the Severe Disability Premium.
(2) The Claimant Survey research also states that 98 per cent of claims are made online, and that nearly half of claimants had help from others or from their jobcentre adviser to do so. This shows that people get the support they need to make their claim. We knew that people would require digital support with the transition to Universal Credit, that is why, as above, we are investing up to £200 million. All jobcentres across the country have free Wi-Fi, and there are more than 8,000 computers available to support customers who need help with making their claim digitally and applying for jobs online. Work coaches will also assist anyone who needs assistance. If people cannot get online we have also a freephone helpline available.
(3) Around 80 per cent of new claims are paid in full and on time. In many cases, where full payment is not made on time by the end of the first assessment period, this is as a result of unresolved issues: some claimants have not signed their Claimant Commitment or passed identity checks, others have outstanding verification issues, such as for housing and self-employed earnings. Whilst their verification is on-going, many of these claimants receive a part payment. We know that, within five weeks of the payment due date, 95% of the claims are paid in full. As the NAO report acknowledges, we have taken steps to improve the verification processes (Paragraph 2.18). For example we have listened to feedback and built processes into the system to make it easier and quicker for people to verify their housing costs.