Case Study: Universal Credit and administrative errors

dwpUniversal Credits continues to slowly creep through the boroughs of London. The introduction of the new system is not without its difficulties. A persons’ claim is administered by two people – their Jobcentre Advisor and an Online Claim Administer. Although greater responsibility is handed to the Jobcentre staff, training has not caught up and full entitlements have not been added to claimant’s benefits. The following case highlights the difficulties faced by claimants at Hounslow Job Centre.

Mr X had failed his work capability assessment in January 2016 and his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was stopped. The full Universal Credit service started in Hounslow shortly after. When Mr X visited our offices we informed him that we could assist him to complete a mandatory reconsideration. We also advised him that he could claim Universal Credits whilst his claim was being made. His claim was put in payment.  Om April 2016 Mr X was placed in the Support Group at a tribunal for two years. Mr X expected that his support component would then be added to his Universal Credits claim paying him an extra £315.60 a month. After a month he went to his Job Centre advisor and passed over his tribunal decision notice. He continued to hear nothing. Our organisation followed up and left a message in August on the journal entry of his online UC Account asking for the Support Group element to be added to his Universal Credit Claim. A message came back saying that it would be worked on and that our advisor would be updated. We heard nothing.

In September 2016 Mr X received a message on his online account stating that he need to provide a FIT note. Under ESA regulations he was already in the support group and therefore there was no need for him to provide one. The Support Group component was finally added to his UC claim a few weeks later. However he received the following message.

“Dear Mr X

Backdating of LCWEA can only be considered once you have had your work capability assessment. I have emailed Bolton Service Centre to look into getting you this.”

Under Universal Credit Regulations 28 (1) a claimant who is transferred from ESA, does not need to be assessed and can continue to get the support element of ESA. Mr X finally got paid in November 2016 after we left a message on his journal stating that a work capability assessment was not required to provide backdated arrears payments.

The above example has been repeated on more than one occasion and emphasizes the need to train Jobcentre and DWP staff to ensure that these mistakes are not repeated. Where more than one person is dealing with a case, there needs to be clearly defined roles for all staff, so that a consistent, unconfused system can develop.  In the above case Mr X was left without his support element for five months. Our Universal Credit cases are passing through the complaint processes and we are currently seeking assurances from Hounslow Job Centre that all staff will be trained to be familiar with both old and new benefit rules so that delays and misinformation will not continue to be a problem.

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