An undercover Universal Credit adviser was ordered not to inform claimants about vital hardship payments, the Daily Mirror has reported.
The undercover adviser, working for Channel 4 Dispatches, was told not to advise claimants about the existence of emergency cash funds available to jobseekers struggling to make ends-meet.
He was also instructed not to inform claimants about the availability of advance payments, which can be paid while their Universal Credit claim is being processed by decision makers.
Claimants can apply for a one-off grant from the ‘Flexible Support Fund’, which can be used to help them move into employment.
However, a trainer told the undercover report not to inform claimants about the fund unless they specifically asked about it.
When he questioned the motives behind this stance, he was told:
“If we did, everybody would want one, yeah, and it’s a very small budget, so we don’t talk about it.
“It’s a bit like Fight Club – we don’t discuss what happens in Fight Club. So you don’t talk about flexible support fund either… so the work coaches usually bring this up…”
New Universal Credit claimants often have to wait several weeks for a decision to be made on their claim. During this time they are typically expected to support themselves.
However, advance payments and other hardship funds are available to people who may experience financial difficulties during this time.
Universal Credit merges a number of existing benefit into one single monthly payment. The flagship scheme has been dogged by delays and software problems since its conception.
The reporter, who was working in a DWP service centre, was also told not to tell claimants about hardship funds in the event of their benefit payments being ‘sanctioned’.
“You don’t offer it unless you think they’re in dire straits”, the trainer said
“The whole idea is the punishment, that’s what you’ve got to suffer but if you can’t manage, we’ll consider doing something for you.
“So they’ve got to say, ‘well I can’t manage without my standard allowance, so I need some help’ and you go ‘right, there is a hardship possibility’.
“You don’t advertise it but if they say, ‘I can’t manage’, they don’t have to say, ‘I need a hardship payment’, they say ‘I can’t manage’ and you say, ‘well I can’.”
A spokesperson for the DWP said:
“Service centre workers are there to provide administrative support over the phone, not to build the close relationship with the claimant that our work coaches in Jobcentres do.
“At a new claim interview our work coaches inform claimants that budgeting advances are available ”
“Work coaches can identify if the locally-administered flexible support fund can help someone overcome barriers to work – not service centre workers.”
Defending Universal Credit, the spokesperson said:
“Universal Credit replaces the complex myriad of means-tested benefits to simplify the system and make work pay.
“It is already transforming lives with claimants on Universal Credit moving into work faster and earning more.
“When fully rolled out it will make three million people better off with a £7 billion boost to the economy every year.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 12 Mar 2015
Out of respect for you, I APOLOGISE in advance for my language because I’m LIVID
The ever excellent Benefits and Work website reveal welfare rights workers are experiencing DWP Decision-Makers calling up benefit claimants “‘in tears’ or ‘sobbing’“, pleading with them Not to appeal following a Mandatory Reconsideration !! HOW THE FUCK DARE THEY??
These unqualified low grade civil servants may well be genuinely feeling sorry for themselves, worried at how their bosses will react at their figures.. but, borrowing the much quoted line Frankly..I DON’T GIVE A DAMN.
If the Decision Maker truly feels sympathy for the vulnerable person who’s life they’re ruining, then they should do the decent thing and RESIGN and join the ever growing list of ‘Whistleblowers’, otherwise they have no right to attempt to push their agenda onto you or I. This behaviour is is keeping with the actions of their Bosses –…
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The quality of decision making for personal independence payment (PIP), is being called into question following the revelation that hundreds of staff without the proper experience and training are being temporarily promoted to the rank of PIP decision maker.
The promotions are being made because Atos and Capita have taken on many more health professionals to clear the backlog of PIP applications. Without hundreds more decision makers the bottleneck would simply move from the assessors to the decision makers.
According to the Public and Commercial Services union:
“Pressure of work continues to affect PIP members in other ways. There are high numbers of staff on temporary promotion: at one site 50 staff are on TDA [Temporary Duties Addition for staff acting up to a higher grade]. There is an expectation that even more Decision Makers will be needed as reassessment ramps up. Despite this, there are no permanent promotion opportunities. Transfers out of PIP are being blocked. There are reports of a harsh Managing Attendance regime at some sites.”
The mass promotions appear to be having an effect throughout the DWP:
“PCS were recently informed that the training for new apprentices has been very poor: they have been given just two weeks’ classroom training. When the apprentices start their consolidation there are very few Band B staff available to help them because so many staff are on TDA as Decision Makers.
“Training for all grades was reported as poor.”
With poorly trained and under qualified staff being drafted in as temporary decision makers, it is even more vital that the difficulties you face are spelt out as plainly and in as much detail as possible in your PIP application and backed up with supporting evidence where this is available.
Source – Benefits & Work, 02 Dec 2014