Welfare reform

One of the key drivers of food bank use are delays, changes and problems with welfare and benefits. We are working to identify and pilot constructive solutions to address those issues within the welfare system that risk pushing people into food crisis.

Through our local pilots we work with organisations on the frontline of supporting people at risk of hunger. We are committed to listening to them, and to the people they work with, to understand the key issues that need to be addressed. Based on this we are:

  • Identifying specific issues with the welfare system that are causing people to experience food crises, building evidence to show the impact, and putting forward concrete policy changes that would help to address the issue
  • Developing a prototype for information on people’s rights and the emergency support available, as part of an amended Claimant Commitment
  • Identifying opportunities for anti-hunger projects to be supported through statutory funding

The feelings in the support sector is of great apprehension … The pressure on Foodbanks will shoot up and we are preparing for a bleak Christmas for those that are going to be affected in December if the feedback is correct…A very worrying time” (Food bank manager, Cornwall)

Universal Credit

Most recently, we have been working on the issue of Universal Credit, as full roll-out begins across many of our local pilot areas. We submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, drawing on the experiences of our local pilots (you can read our submission here). We also recently attended a drop in event to tell MPs about the challenges facing organisations on the ground who are supporting people at risk of hunger. We will continue to share evidence on the impacts of the implementation of this policy, and the reforms that are needed.

Reformed welfare contract

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that Ofcom better target relevant information on special offers and deals to new claimants of social security benefits as part of a reformed Claimant Commitment. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that, alongside this contract, a claimant should be provided with a leaflet produced by the voluntary sector or their Local Authority, listing the charges that the mobile phone companies have, hopefully, agreed and the claimant’s rights against rip-off utility charges. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

As a second part of a reformed welfare contract, each local network of food banks and other charitable providers of food should seek permission from their Regional Jobcentre Plus Director to share information through Jobcentre Plus from gas, electricity, water, and communications providers outlining ‘help to make your money go further’. This information should be distributed to new claimants when they sign their Claimant Commitment (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Completed

Ofcam has implemented the recommendation.

Since September 2015, Feeding Britain has been piloting a Reformed Welfare Contract in Birkenhead Jobcentre Plus. This includes distributing literature outlining various sources of help. Other pilots are developing similar leaflets, including Bristol, and Feeding Britain will shortly make a template available that can be customized to include different local schemes.

This informed a factsheet produced by DWP which covers saving money on household bills, advice on debt and bank accounts, further help and a range of websites. It also contains advice for claimants to discuss with Work Coaches about local sources of support available, including the Flexible Support Fund and Budgeting Loans. The DWP factsheet is available to all Work Coaches across the Jobcentre Plus Network.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the welfare contract be a genuine two-way contract between claimants and Jobcentre Plus, outlining a claimant’s duties as well as their rights. In making this a properly balanced exercise the new contract should make clear what sources of additional support claimants are entitled to, as a way of enhancing their chances of finding their work. It should be made clearer, for example, that help is available to cover travel expenses for job interviews. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

The Government has rejected this recommendation.

APPG Recommendation

We strongly recommended the pursuit within Jobcentre Plus of a reformed welfare contract, in which claimants’ duties are properly buttressed by a package of support to which they might be entitled. As a first reform, the DWP should roll over the £64 million that was unspent from last year’s Flexible Support Fund and allocate it to a ring-fenced ‘First Month in Work’ pot. Jobcentre Plus officials should automatically offer weekly payments from this pot to all claimants entering work, or to cover the costs of all journeys over a certain distance to their new place of work (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

An update was sought from DWP on how any underspends are used. They clarified that the budget for the Flexible Support Fund is not ring-fenced and any underspends or overspends are integrated into the Department’s overall financial position. They also clarified that The Flexible Support Fund budget is subject to review and change, based on claimant needs and volumes and as new policies are agreed and old policies are withdrawn. Discretionary expenditure it is also dependent upon overall Departmental financial state.

IT systems and communicating with Jobcentre Plus

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions investigates the IT systems used in Jobcentre Plus and make necessary improvements to ensure all claims can be processed through one system which can be accessed on a single screen, so Jobcentre Plus staff are able to calculate and process entitlements within five working days. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Completed

In September 2017, the APPG on Hunger submitted a Parliamentary Question asking the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether it is possible for all new claims for existing legacy benefits excluding universal credit to be processed through one single computer screen without needing to use more than one computer.

The DWP responded that: “It is possible for all new claims for existing legacy benefits excluding universal credit to be processed through one single computer screen without needing to use more than one computer. DWP benefit processing agents normally only have one monitor and one PC each.”

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions provides claimants with an email address to which personal documents can be scanned and sent, and if this is currently viewed as impossible, the Department should work to overcome the barriers. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that the DWP sets itself a target for reducing and then eliminating the likelihood of delays in the processing and payment of new benefit claims. An initial step in pursuit of this target must be to make available as soon as possible an online channel through which claimants can submit scanned copies of important documents required to support a benefit claim (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

In April 2018, the DWP confirmed that, where it can be done securely, the uploading of documents is encouraged for certain benefit systems. DWP does not currently enable citizens to upload documents to all of our legacy benefit systems but we are looking at ways to improve. There is some evidence to show that other Departments, including HMRC have been successful.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that HMRC establishes a reliable mechanism which clarifies the whereabouts of important documentation relating to tax credit claims, acknowledges the submission of online renewals, and does not suspend payments until it can be proved that claimants have received and then failed to respond appropriately to the necessary paperwork. A first step should be to initiate a phone call to claimants if the receipt of a claim renewal form has not been acknowledged within a reasonable period of time (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

The HMRC provides acknowledgement of receipt of tax credit renewals through SMS where possible and has also begun offering e-mail acknowledgements. The Treasury also confirmed that HMRC has processes in place for handling and scanning important documents, and that they endeavor to return items but cannot legislate for documentation that is not accompanied by a covering letter that can identify the sender.

HMRC also introduced an online service that enables customers to track the progress of their tax credits renewal online. They send a series of reminders and have an extensive advertising and social media campaign to encourage customers to renew on time.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions reconsiders its decision to remove such a vast number of telephones from Jobcentre Plus offices, as we have received evidence suggesting that claimants are struggling to afford the cost of telephone calls they are required to make to apply for jobs. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

The Government has rejected this recommendation. Feeding Britain has identified anecdotal evidence that voluntary organisations are filling the gap at their own cost.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions immediately phases out the use of higher-rate telephone numbers. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Completed

The Government has accepted this recommendation, with many of its main benefit lines now listed as 0800 numbers. In October 2017, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced to the Work and Pensions Select Committee that all benefit lines would be transferred to Freephone numbers within the next month.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the DWP should guarantee within each Jobcentre Plus the means through which claimants can speak to a member of staff, either via telephone or in person, about a new or existing benefit claim (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

The shift to online processing suggests that this recommendation has not been adopted.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that DWP should establish a dedicated telephone line for representatives from nominated charities to call on behalf of a claimant. (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

In September 2017, the APPG on Hunger submitted a Parliamentary Question asking the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department will set up a dedicated telephone line for representatives from nominated charities to call on behalf of benefits claimants. He responded that there are no plans to introduce a dedicated line for charities/external partners. Following this, the Chair of the APPG has put down an amendment to the Data Protection Bill which would automatically allow authorized third parties to make contact with the DWP on behalf of new and and existing claimants, though still through the existing channels.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions monitors the Jobcentre Plus network closely for parts of the country where access to computer facilities is inadequate. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

We are still not aware of this recommendation being enacted. Feedback from local pilots shows that a lack of digital access is a significant barrier with the roll out of Universal Credit, which requires people to submit applications online.

APPG Recommendation

The Department for Work and Pensions should reconsider its decision not to accept electronic requests from advice workers for their clients to be paid a Short Term Benefit Advance, nor to consider automatically paying a Short Term Benefit Advance to those claimants whose benefit payment hasn’t arrived after a certain period of time.

Progress to Date Pending

The Government has rejected this recommendation. We are awaiting a response from the DWP’s Director General for Digital Transformation, to identify progress on this, and other recommendations relating to IT issues.

APPG Recommendation

The APPG received evidence of some families having to use food banks because of the delays in the processing of Child Benefit which resulted from documents, including birth certificates, being lost.

Progress to Date Completed

Following the APPG’s campaign for HMRC to eradicate delays in the application process for Child Benefit, a new digital service was piloted where claims can be processed without birth certificates. In 2017, 7,673 Child Benefit claims were successfully processed without birth certificates being provided.

Transport costs

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions should consider as part of the new welfare contract making upfront payments from the Flexible Support Fund to cover eligible claimants’ travel expenses, rather than in arrears, as we believe this could ease considerably the hardship faced by claimants looking for work. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

Payment in arrears remains the preferred payment method for the Flexible Support Fund, including for travel costs. However,
payments in some cases can be made in advance where the claimant cannot afford to make up-front payments. We remain very much concerned that although the need for this support is evident, almost half the Flexible Support Fund remains unspent. An update on this has been requested.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that regional Jobcentre Plus offices be given the opportunity to attempt to negotiate discounted or free return journeys on public transport to Jobcentre Plus, from day one of a Jobseeker’s Allowance claim, and that Ministers look at making this concession part of any new negotiations on large taxpayer subsidies to bus and train operators. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

Department for Work and Pensions Regional Offices are able to negotiate with Travel Operators on travel subsidies and can utilise the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card to assist this. However, in practice, funding is not available to support wide scale travel to Jobcentres for normal attendance purposes (signing on), although attendance outside of normal attendance is fully reimbursed to claimants.

APPG Recommendation

As an immediate step, we recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions should assess whether some claimants, particularly those in rural areas, or with caring responsibilities, could be given the right to sign on and report regularly on job search activity without always having to travel to a Jobcentre Plus office. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

The Government is offering postal ‘signing’ in some circumstances. The Department confirmed the specific circumstances where a claimant is eligible to sign on by post. If no public transport is available, eligibility for postal signing is determined by whether or not the claimant can reasonably be expected to walk from home to the Jobcentre in one hour. In response to a further Written Parliamentary Question in April 2018, the DWP clarified that there is no mechanism for postal signing in Universal Credit.

Short Term Benefit Advances

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions should simplify the application process for Hardship Payments and Short Term Benefit Advances. Information on this emergency support, along with other emergency measures such as Discretionary Housing Payments, should be clearly publicised within Jobcentre Plus offices, and introduced into Jobcentre Plus advisers’ standard scripts for benefit claims. The Department should review its existing trigger mechanism that prompts staff to discuss support, and consider whether it could be improved. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that DWP builds on its existing efforts to make new claimants aware of their option to apply for a Short Term Benefit Advance while their claim is being processed……We have written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions asking him to undertake a short review of the reformed Hardship Payments system, in particular its ability to prevent hunger amongst those claimants who have had a sanction applied to their benefit claim (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

The APPG welcome the progress the Government has made to improve the system of emergency payments, but remain concerned that in some areas people in desperate need are not made aware of these payments. Data is also not available for unsuccessful applications and the difference between ‘received’ and ‘awarded’ applications does not equate to unsuccessful applications. This is because there are a large proportion of applications in which the primary benefit is paid, which negates the need for a STBA.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions should automatically consider paying Short Term Benefit Advance if a benefit claim has not been paid within five working days. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that DWP should automatically offer new claimants a Short Term Benefit Advance if their benefit claim has not been processed and paid within five days (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

The Government has rejected this recommendation.

APPG Recommendation

We urge the Department for Work and Pensions to examine the possibility of allowing advice workers to request automatically Short Term Benefit Advances electronically for their clients. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

The APPG submitted a Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in January 2018, asking if he will permit dedicated representatives to submit applications for short term benefit advances on behalf of claimants who are awaiting their first payment of jobseeker's allowance or employment and support allowance. The Department responded that, once the claimant has confirmed that they are willing to let the third party speak on their behalf, the Department will accept information from the third party.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Work and Pensions monitors closely the impact of changes designed to speed up Hardship Payments, and if necessary, consider further action to ensure a decision on Hardship Payments is made at the same point as a sanction decision. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

The APPG have written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions asking him to publish the results of a short review of the Hardship Payments system, in particular its ability to meet and prevent need.

The DWP has published information on the number of hardship applications and awards for Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance, which can be accessed via the link below. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jsa-and-esa-hardship-applications-and-awards-apr-2012-to-jun-2015

The Department is unable to provide data on the timeliness and effectiveness of processing of hardship payments for sanctioned clients specifically as this information is not currently collected and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Benefits delays

APPG Recommendation

We believe the Government must urgently reform the benefits system so it is able to deliver payments quickly within five working days. We fully understand this will take time to achieve. But the Department forWork and Pensions must begin this process of reform by ensuring it has the data to measure the time between a claim being made and the claimant receiving their first payment. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that the DWP sets itself a target for reducing and then eliminating the likelihood of delays in the processing and payment of new benefit claims. An initial step in pursuit of this target must be to make available as soon as possible an online channel through which claimants can submit scanned copies of important documents required to support a benefit claim (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

When the APPG first raised this issue, the DWP recorded how many new claims were processed within either 10 or 16 days only. Following the APPG’s campaign, the Department now records how many new claims are processed within 5 days. At present, approximately one quarter of JSA claims and one half of ESA claims are processed within this timeframe. The APPG is pressing for further reforms to help minimise the risk of claims taking longer than five days to process.

The APPG would welcome similar evidence on roll out of Universal Credit. The Department responded that: “The assessment period and payment structure of Universal Credit creates a fixed period between date of entitlement and the first payment. Advances are available for people who are in financial need during the initial period before their first payment [...] The target for processing a claim ready for payment is 10 days and, every day, the computer automatically produces a list of cases that are approaching that target to help ensure cases are put in payment on time.”

APPG Recommendation

We urge the Department for Work and Pensions to consider introducing a time limit for the Mandatory Reconsideration period, as well as continuing the payment of Employment and Support Allowance, at the lower assessment rate if necessary, for the duration of claimants’ Mandatory Reconsideration period to avoid a sudden loss of income for claimants. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We would welcome confirmation from the DWP on the level of the formal time limit, due to be implemented from April 2016, on the Mandatory Reconsideration period during which ESA claimants may challenge their fit for work decision (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

The Government has yet to introduce a formal time limit for the Mandatory Reconsideration period, although we understand it has begun operating to an internal target and this was scheduled to be formalised in April 2016. The Secretary of State has acknowledged that claimants should expect this process to be conducted within a ‘reasonable’ timeframe. We would welcome information on the form this ‘reasonable’ timeframe might take.

In September 2017, the APPG on Hunger submitted a Parliamentary Question asking the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress his Department has made in reducing the time taken to process mandatory reconsiderations; and at what level the target is set for the time taken to process such reconsiderations.

The Department responded that: “The median monthly clearance time for employment and support allowance mandatory reconsiderations in July 2017 was 13 days, 1 day less than in April 2017. However it is important that sufficient time is allowed for customers to provide any additional evidence that will help to support their case. Accordingly there is no target time for clearing mandatory reconsiderations – each is done without delay, but based on its merits”

APPG Recommendation

We reiterate our call for claimants to be paid a minimum rate of ESA for the duration of their Mandatory Reconsideration period, again so as to avoid a total loss of income (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

This issue was raised in the APPG submission to the Green Paper on Improving Lives. The APPG requested an update from the DWP in January 2018 on payment of ESA during Mandatory Reconsideration periods.

The DWP responded that: “Employment and Support Allowance, in common with all other benefits, is not paid during the Mandatory Reconsideration period as there are no legal grounds to make a payment of Employment and Support Allowance at this time. There are currently no plans to review this approach."

Charges for medical information

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Secretary of State for Health makes it a part of a GPs role to provide evidence in relation to benefit claims, and make it unlawful for the National Health Service to charge for medical documents in connection with benefit claims. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

While we regret that this practice remains lawful and to the detriment of some of our poorer constituents, the Secretary of State for Health has asked officials to encourage GPs to ensure patients know they can access their medical records online for free. The Department for Health has also announced that it will undertake a formal review of the mental health debt form, working with Money and Mental Health. An update has been sought.

Tax credits

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions both introduce and proceed with the continuous payment of a minimum tariff whilst a change of household circumstances is processed for tax credits and benefits, with adjustments being made later if necessary. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We reiterate our call for HMRC to guarantee continuity of income for those existing claimants who report a change in household circumstances, by implementing a minimum tax credit payment while it recalculates their entitlement (Route Map, Dec 2015)

The Treasury should consider introducing a continuous payment of a minimum tax credit tariff whilst a change of household circumstances is processed, with adjustments being made to later entitlements if necessary to recoup these monies. (6 months on)

Progress to Date Completed

Following the APPG’s campaign for HMRC to improve the transition between different kinds of tax credit claim, a new telephone service was piloted.

The full service allowing a tax credit claimant to convert a single claim to a joint claim over the telephone is now in operation. A claimant who rings the HMRC tax credit helpline should in all cases be put through to a team who can process this. HMRC is now using this method to convert 2,500 claims per month. This method is getting joint claims into payment in an average of 9 days. Feedback has been very positive. In 2017, 55,000 tax credit claims were successfully switched via the new telephone service, rather than the time-consuming conventional method.

Regarding automatic acknowledgement to tax credit claimants who submit their renewals online, the DWP confirmed in September 2017 that “HMRC use SMS to provide acknowledgment of receipt for all tax credit renewals where there is a valid mobile phone number held. In addition, this year HMRC offered email acknowledgments to all customers submitting their renewal online through the digital service. Only after making significant efforts to obtain a reply from the customer would HMRC seek to stop tax credit payments.”

Sanctions

APPG Recommendation

We strongly welcome the Government’s decision to accept in full the recommendations made by Matthew Oakley’s independent review into sanctions for claimants failing to take part in back to work schemes. We accordingly call on the Government to extend these measures to cover all Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

The APPG received evidence of some particularly vulnerable individuals and families having to use food banks because their benefit claim had been sanctioned or suspended. Between November 2015 and October 2016, 273,479 sanctions were applied. Between November 2016 and October 2817 309,836 sanctions were applied. The APPG called on the Department for Work and Pensions to introduce a Yellow Card warning system to protect people at risk of being wrongly sanctioned.

The Department piloted a Yellow Card system between March and September 2016. The scheme covered three districts in Scotland. During the trial around 13% of claimants who were given the Yellow Card provided evidence to
challenge their potential sanction. Half of those claimants successfully avoided being sanctioned, due to the reasons given in the evidence they submitted. The Department estimates that around 6,500 claimants were given the Yellow Card (of whom 455 avoided being sanctioned). Were this to be replicated across the country, potentially thousands of people could avoid being wrongly sanctioned. The APPG has urged the Department to extend the Yellow Card to
every Jobcentre Plus across the country, and to consider building in non-financial penalties for a first “offence”.

In October 2017, and again in February 2018, the DWP confirmed they were in the process of agreeing the final draft of the evaluation. There is a standard 12 week clearance and formatting period from the time the final draft is agreed to publication. The Department said they will make the publication date available once it has been confirmed. There has to date been no announcement of the publication date.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Government make clear in guidance that a sanction decision is only lawful if letters are sent, and can be proven to have been received, to the claimant explaining the reason that a sanction is being imposed, the period the sanction will apply for, and whether Hardship Payments may be granted, and if not, why not. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

As far as we are aware, this recommendation has yet to be enacted in full. We remain concerned by evidence suggesting that claimants are not informed of the reason for the sanction being applied to their claim until after their payments have been suspended.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that, in cases where sanctions are applied, the Department for Work and Pensions should require that claimants be immediately informs of their right to appeal the decision, and provided with the necessary documentation to do so. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

The Government has informed us that it expects Jobcentre Plus advisors to make claimants aware of their right to appeal before any sanction is imposed. Depending on the benefit and nature of the decision, such advice should be issued either in person, or by post. We would welcome input from voluntary organisations confirming whether this chimes with their experiences of the system.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that Jobcentre Plus staff should be able to exercise their own discretion as to whether a requirement was missed through error or circumstances beyond the claimant’s control, and should be able to recommend that sanctions are not implemented on these occasions. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

The Government has rejected this recommendation. It believes there are a number of steps taken to ensure decisions are correct, and says that independent specialist decision makers consider each case as well as any evidence of good reason put forward by a claimant.

Sanctions

APPG Recommendation

We recommend the DWP introduces a ‘grace period’ for vulnerable claimants of JSA or ESA, during which the requirements placed on them are eased at times of transition or acute difficulty. It might with to focus this pilot initially on homeless claimants (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

In April 2018, the DWP confirmed that there are already a range of circumstances where work-related requirements should be switched off temporarily because people claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support
Allowance (ESA) are experiencing difficult personal circumstances. This includes claimants experiencing a domestic emergency and claimant who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

For people claiming JSA with a physical or mental impairment (including those with cognitive or learning difficulties), work coaches may agree to tailor the number of hours, type or location of work depending on the claimants’ impairment. In addition, work search and availability requirements should be switched off to account for a period of sickness. Outside of these set periods, work coaches have the discretion to tailor requirements depending on what is reasonable based on the claimant’s health condition.

Sanctions

APPG Recommendation

We recommend the DWP pilots a monitoring exercise in which it tracks and records the destinations of claimants who have been sanctioned. The results of this exercise should be laid before both Houses of Parliament so we can discover how many claimants find work, for example, and how many others run the risk of being exposed to destitution (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

This recommendation has not been enacted. An update has been sought.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that ‘disentitled’ as well as ‘sanctioned’ claimants of JSA and ESA should retain their entitlement to Housing Benefit, so as to avoid a total loss of income and possible homelessness (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

This recommendation has not been enacted. An update has been sought.

Universal Credit

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the DWP reviews the impact on claimants’ financial circumstances of the six-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

Feeding Britain and local pilot areas submitted evidence on the impact of Universal Credit to the Work and Pensions Select Committee in 2017. The Government has since reduced the wait period to a maximum of 5 weeks. We continue to see problems with the waiting period, and with the emergency loans offered to see people through this time, and are
continuing to raise these with the DWP and relevant APPGs.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the DWP immediately revokes the requirement for new UC claimants may only apply for an emergency payment within the first 21 days of what might be a 42 day wait for their first UC payment. We believe claimants should be entitled to apply for emergency support at any point while they are waiting for their claim to be processed and then paid (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Completed

This recommendation has been adopted.

Universal Credit

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the DWP communicates with each new UC claimants’ landlord to inform them when the claimant is expected to receive their first housing component of UC, so the landlord can plan accordingly. Alternatively, the DWP might consider awarding an interim claim consisting only of the housing component while the remainder of the claim is calculated. (Route Map Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

The DWP has made it easier for landlords to apply to have Universal credit paid directly to the landlord, in cases where vulnerable applicants may struggle to pay rent themselves. An updated has been requested on the latest data.

APPG Recommendation

Accuracy of Universal Credit payments

Progress to Date Pending

In response to a written Parliamentary Question on under and overpayments to universal credit payments, the DWP confirmed that they do not gather data on every Universal Credit claimant that has been over or under paid. However, the annual Fraud and Error estimates for 2016-2017, based on a sample of 1100 cases randomly selected from the universal credit caseload, show that:

£90m of Universal Credit was overpaid with overpayments due to fraud on Universal Credit accounted for 3.2%, accounting for approx £50m.

£20m of Universal Credit was underpaid, with a median underpayment of £30 per month (smallest 1p and largest £600).
The rate of underpayments on Universal Credit due to official error was 0.9% and underpayments due to claimant error was 0.4%. Underpayments on UC are largely caused by errors relating to housing costs, with a total value of underpayments at £31million.

Universal Credit

APPG Recommendation

Real time information system, through which employers submit information on earnings, which is used to calculate UC entitlement

Progress to Date Pending

In April 2018 a written parliamentary question was submitted, asking the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many in-work universal credit claimants have received an incorrect award for reasons involving the real time information system. The response was that the information requested is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.

Local welfare safety net

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Government sets out a provisional funding settlement for the local welfare safety net for each year until 2020, and given the evidence of some vulnerable people falling through the net, consider whether this funding should be ring fenced (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

No further updates received to date. The APPG is following up with the Department for Communities and Local Government regarding monitoring and trends on local welfare safety net budgets across local authorities.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the standard script given to Jobcentre Plus advisors be updated so new and existing claimants are told they can seek temporary advances towards emergency costs from the local welfare safety net (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

As above

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that LAs should not restrict eligibility to the local welfare safety net to people in receipt of means-tested benefits, for some people in desperate need may actually find themselves waiting for a decision on a new benefit claim, and working families in persistently low-paid work must not be barred from assistance in a crisis (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

As above

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that each LA consults every year with local voluntary organisations who work with our very poorest citizens, on the types of costs that should be covered by the local welfare safety net and from whom claims should be invited (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

As above

APPG Recommendation

The Inquiry understands that the Government recently consulted on the future of the Local Welfare Assistance fund from April 2015, and is considering whether to incorporate local welfare funding into the local government finance settlement. We recommend the Government considers the potential impact of this decision on the level of, and eligibility for financial support available to households who might face sudden crises in income, and to publish its findings. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

We are not aware of this recommendation being enacted.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Government continues to protect Local Welfare Assistance funding. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

This recommendation was enacted for 2015-16.

APPG Recommendation

We similarly recommend that the Department for Communities and Local Government should monitor take-up rates for Local Welfare Assistance within each Local Authority and work with those where registration is uncharacteristically low. One way of doing this might be to issue a ‘best practice’ application form used by those Local authorities with the highest rates of take-up. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

We are not aware of this recommendation being enacted.